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Action Mesothelioma Day 2020

On Action Mesothelioma Day 2020, asbestos lawyer Claire Spearpoint discusses how this year the current pandemic will not only change the way people will come together to remember those affected, but also how Coronavirus takes such a toll on those with the disease and how organisations are facing up to this challenge.

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Claire Spearpoint is an associate solicitor who works on asbestos and industrial disease claims. Claire qualified in September 2011, having joined Leigh Day in September 2009 as a trainee.

Each year, the first Friday of July is dedicated to remembering those who have lost their lives to the asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma, as well as to stand united in our desire to find ways to treat the condition and, ultimately, find a cure.

Today is Action Mesothelioma Day 2020. In previous years we have shown our collective commitment to Action Mesothelioma Day through shared services of remembrance, speeches and dove releases.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this has had to change alongside so many other aspects of our way of life. This year, a series of events will be held virtually around the country, a full list of these is available here.

The UK Mesothelioma Alliance (UKMA) is producing a national virtual Action Mesothelioma Day event that anyone affected by mesothelioma is encouraged to join. The national virtual event will include a mix of patient stories and clinical expert presentations. It will run from 10.40am to 12 noon with the observation of a minutes' silence at 11am. The event can be watched on YouTube and Facebook.

The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund annual Action Mesothelioma Day event is moving online as well, taking place between 1:00pm and 3:00pm the event promises a unique opportunity to discuss new and ongoing research in mesothelioma in a friendly and approachable way.

Especially pertinent, on this extraordinary Action Mesothelioma Day, will be consideration of the impact of the current pandemic on mesothelioma sufferers.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated what was already a difficult time for mesothelioma sufferers. They are clinically vulnerable and therefore are within the group of persons advised to shield which has created practical problems when they are reliant on others to provide care, or they are unable to go to the shops for food and essential medicine.

It has also created difficulties with having to attend hospital appointments or chemotherapy sessions alone, because only patients are allowed access to hospitals thus depriving sufferers of the support and comfort of loved ones. Added to that is the hardship of restricted family contact, such as seeing children and grandchildren, which our clients tell us provides a welcome distraction from the diagnosis and treatment, as well as emotional support.

The restrictions have created physical barriers which have impacted on sufferers and their families’ mental health and wellbeing, who are looking for emotional support and human contact more than ever at such a difficult time in their lives.

Mesothelioma sufferers are already in an extremely vulnerable and difficult position. Having to experience these drastic shielding measures on top of coming to terms with the diagnosis, or dealing with treatment, adds additional heartache and anxiety. Whilst the outlook was very bleak when the lockdown started, people and organisations have adapted to ensure as far as possible there is no gap in the services provided to mesothelioma sufferers.

Asbestos support groups and charities have risen to the task of continuing to provide such support since the virus emerged, which is vital for sufferers’ mental and emotional wellbeing. Virtual Zoom support groups and coffee mornings have replaced in-person group sessions, which will have provided a lifeline to those coming to terms to with the diagnosis in these strange, new times we find ourselves in.

Additionally, Mesothelioma UK have continued to provide support for sufferers as a point of contact for anyone unsure of the government guidance or who need support generally, through their information line.

Our clients report the NHS has strived to adapt despite the challenges they face in containing and treating the virus.

However, the situation regarding first line treatment appears to vary in different locations, with some clients continuing to receive chemotherapy during lockdown whereas other sufferers have had treatment delayed.

The feeling of not being proactive in managing what can be a very aggressive disease, is invariably difficult for patients and medics alike. However, when someone receives a diagnosis of mesothelioma, the prognosis is thankfully more hopeful than it was ten years ago due to advances in treatment options.

Whilst there remains no cure at present, the development of better treatments to help manage the disease continues to improve thanks to clinical trials and research. The development of immunotherapy and other treatment options is greatly welcomed by patients to give some hope for their future. And it is on this note of hope that we enter Action Mesothelioma Day 2020.

Whilst we cannot take comfort in rallying together in person, we all remain committed to the aims of Action Mesothelioma Day; namely remembering mesothelioma sufferers, as well as fighting for a more hopeful future for those living with the disease.

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