Sister of mesothelioma sufferer urges others to act on their symptoms at the first opportunity
The sister of a tradesman who died from mesothelioma shortly before he was due to retire from work has urged others to act on their symptoms at the first opportunity, to give themselves the best chance of early diagnosis and life-prolonging treatment.
Mick Ormston died in July last year aged 64, having only been diagnosed with the industrial disease several months earlier. Investigations revealed he was exposed to asbestos while working as a carpenter joiner for Gateshead Council during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.
After saving all his life for his retirement and planning a holiday of a lifetime to Canada with his partner Karen once he left work, Mick passed away from his illness only three months before his 65th birthday.
Mick, who lived in Gateshead and most recently worked in stock control in the Asda depot in Washington, was a keen walker and in very good health before noticing breathlessness, problems with reflux and a loss of appetite around Christmas 2015, which he put down to a winter bug. Only later when he sought advice from his GP and then QE Hospital in Gateshead did he receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma, which was at an advanced stage.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer which is caused through historic exposure to asbestos. Symptoms can include shortage of breath, a persistent cough, loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss, reflux, fatigue and chest pain.
Mick’s sister, Margaret Mitchinson, has urged anyone who may have been exposed to asbestos who shows any of the early symptoms to seek medical advice, to give themselves the best possible chance of responding to treatment.
Margaret, 64, from Newcastle, said: “Mick was the fittest and most healthy man you could meet. He was a very keen walker and had planned to join some walking clubs in his retirement. When he first began to become breathless when he went walking, that was very unusual, but as it was around Christmas time, it’s easy to put these things down to winter bugs.
“When he did seek medical help, we couldn’t have asked for any more help or support from Mick’s GP or the hospital and he was very quickly referred for treatment and chemotherapy, but it was too late and the cancer was too advanced. It didn’t occur to any of us that it could be cancer, or especially an industrial disease.
“Mick was so very brave – he continued to work as long as was possible, he drove his car until about 10 days before he died, and fought his illness with everything he could. It was absolutely devastating for us all to see what was happening to Mick and it made me so angry that he had contracted this terrible cancer while doing his job with Gateshead Council. He never got to enjoy the retirement he had worked so hard for.
“I would encourage anyone who knows or suspects they have been exposed to asbestos during their career to seek medical advice at the first sign of any symptoms. While sadly there is no cure yet for mesothelioma, if you can get an early diagnosis, there may be more time for you to have treatment, more precious time for you to spend with your family.”
Mick secured a financial settlement from Gateshead Council before his death with the help of law firm Sintons and its specialist asbestos solicitor Raelene Lingam.
Margaret said: “I know it gave Mick a great deal of comfort to know that Karen would be looked after when he was gone, so it was very important to him that the settlement was agreed quickly while he was still here. Raelene was absolutely fantastic, her personal touch really helped to put us at ease in a process that was totally new to us, and we were impressed by how professional, approachable and efficient she was. We’re delighted with the service from Sintons and would recommend them to anyone.”
Raelene Lingam, who was the only specialist asbestos solicitor in the North of England to be recommended by Legal 500 2016, said: “While many people associate contracting mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases with working in heavy industry, we are seeing increasing numbers of cases from tradesmen like Mick as well as from office workers, who have been exposed to asbestos in their line of work.
“I am very pleased we were able to secure a timely settlement for Mick, so that he knew his partner and family would be provided for.”