Mesothelioma Survivor Remains Strong 10 Years After Diagnosis

Mesothelioma Survivor Remains Strong 10 Years After Diagnosis. Virginia Beach (her name) spent four years researching and writing hundreds of pages of family history.

He started his memoirs with ancestral journey to America on the Mayflower in 1620, and then across generations, including the birth of children, grandchildren and grandchildren. His move to hospital care in 2014 because of the diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma is also part of the story.

But the story doesn't end there because mesothelioma doesn't win.

Beach, 88, recovered from cancer miraculously, left hospital care and returned to independent life at the Presbyterian Retirement Community near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now he eagerly awaits the birth of three more great grandchildren to add to his historical record and ever-increasing correspondence list.

Last month, he successfully passed the 10-year survival for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma - a rare moment - an amazing doctor with the ability to fight cancer is not curable.

He also returned to the church choir and his work as a librarian in the retirement community.

"My oncologist did not say that in forgiveness. He said it was under control," Beach said recently from his home. "I'm very fortunate. When I was first diagnosed, they gave me one and a half years to live. It was 10 years ago. Then last year, they said it was time for hospice. The tumor had doubled, but after six months, I graduated."

Miracles happen.

The power of pray
The beach is the daughter of a pastor and widower's wife of a priest. He strongly believes in the power of prayer. His faith was never lost. Every day begins and ends with the Bible section. He thanks God.

He mentioned mesothelioma only once in his 250-page autobiography. And that's just a cursory - no more.

"I live with many elderly people here. Everyone suffers from one thing or another. I just don't like hearing sad stories. I will not be one," he said. "This is not a big part of my life now, so I'm not talking about it. It's not how I want my grandson to remember me. I'm an optimistic person who sees the good side."

When Virginia was first diagnosed, they put their name in the church bulletin so that everyone could pray for him and other cancer patients. As much as he appreciates prayers, he asks church members to remove his name. He believes God will handle it well. And he has.

His father might die at the age of 54 from lung cancer, which was initially considered by doctors. But his mother lived to age 104 and gave a speech in his community throughout the 90s.

Virginia inherited her mother's strong gene.

Still Sharp and Connected
He had battled cancer of malignant melanoma in the late 1990s. Her husband, Roger, suffered from dementia in the last years of his life and died in 2009, leaving him with the best memories.

But there is clarity, purpose, and sharpness to him today who oppose his age.

The beach has 20 grandchildren and 13 grandchildren among his five daughters scattered throughout the country in Oregon, New York and Ohio. Some of his grandchildren lived as far as Japan, Thailand and Colombia.

One son-in-law is minister. One grandson is abroad in a church mission.

He keeps a spreadsheet with everyone's birthday, wedding anniversary and address. Every year, he sends every family member Christmas and birthday cards with personalized handwritten notes.

"This is a wonderful family," he said. "I have been blessed."

Sudden Health Scare

Beach underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy shortly after she was diagnosed a decade ago, and doctors were happy with the results. Since then, he has chosen not to undergo other aggressive treatments.

But last summer, he became afraid of sudden shortness of breath, prompting his oncologist to recommend home care and palliative care.

A nurse and social worker starts visiting him regularly. The primary care doctor also stopped by. Even the local pastor started making home calls. But his health improved, and he waved most of the help they offered.

"After a while, the doctor told me my lungs clear. I do not need them to do many things, but the nurse was helping me understand my iPad, and how to use it better," he laughed. "That really helped me."

Living an Active and Productive Life

The beach stays active today and takes classes with a balance of five days a week at the health center. He went to Oxford, Ohio, earlier this summer for his grandson's wedding and visited Portland the previous summer.

He uses the iPad to send emails to his daughters, grandchildren, and grandchildren. The organizational skills he learned over the years as a librarian proved today in his writing.

Family members help format, edit, and create graphics for his memoirs, but Beach maintains complete control, changing his story whenever other events occur in his life.

Despite its mesothelioma, Pantai has achieved many things in his life, and that is why he rightly gave the title of his memoir "Journey to Joy."

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