Still Defying the Odds after 20 Years
Longest Living Mesothelioma Survivor Still Defying the Odds after 20 Years
By Alex Strauss
Paul Kraus had already proven himself to be a survivor by the time he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in 1997.
Born in a Nazi labor camp in 1944, Paul survived a cross-country escape to Poland with his mother and older brother when he was just a few months old. Four years later, he survived the ocean voyage aboard a refugee ship to Australia where the family started a new life and where he has lived ever since.
Unfortunately, that emigration to one of world’s top producers of asbestos during the height of the mineral’s worldwide popularity probably also led to his unexpected diagnosis of mesothelioma almost 50 years later.
Understanding Malignant Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an extremely rare cancer, affecting fewer than 3,000 Americans each year and about 500 people in Australia. The most common form of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, starts on the lining around the lungs (the pleura). As mesothelioma tumors grow and spread, this membrane thickens and hardens and fluid may fill the space between it and the lungs. The result is that patients find it more and more difficult to breathe and may experience cough and chest pain.
Peritoneal mesothelioma, the type with which Paul was diagnosed that fateful summer, is even rarer than the pleural variety and grows on the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum). As tumors spread, the abdomen may become distended and the organs crowded. Fluid may also form around the lungs.
As it did in Paul’s case, mesothelioma often takes decades to develop. This period between asbestos exposure and the development of symptoms is known as the “latency period” and is one of the reasons that the so-called “asbestos cancer” can be so difficult to correctly diagnose. Once it is diagnosed, conventional cancer treatments usually do little to combat mesothelioma and many mesothelioma patients die within a year.
But as Paul Kraus’ case proves, there are notable exceptions. Paul was told he had fewer than six months to live because his mesothelioma had metastasized so extensively. Today, 20 years after that diagnosis, Paul is now the longest-living documented mesothelioma survivor in the world and the author of a popular book detailing his remarkable survival journey.
Where Does Mesothelioma Come From?
Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos and Paul’s case was no exception. Like many other mesothelioma patients, Paul came in contact with asbestos in the factory where he worked during summer vacation as a young man.
On-the-job exposure to asbestos was especially common during the 1960s and 1970s when the heat-resistant mineral was a popular additive to building products from cement and floor tiles to insulation and shingles. For decades, much of the world looked to Australia for its asbestos, where it was still being mined and exported until the 1980s.
In fact, even when other countries had begun to curtail their asbestos use because of rising concerns about malignant mesothelioma, the Australian asbestos industry was still growing, employing thousands of people and creating huge amounts of deadly asbestos dust. As a result, the country now has the highest rate of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers of any country outside of the UK.
Paul’s Survival Journey
Despite the odds, Paul Kraus refused to accept his dismal prognosis. Instead, with the help of his open-minded doctors, his supportive wife, and his unflagging survivor’s mindset, he completely overhauled his lifestyle, from his diet to his recreational habits. Although he is adamant about not foregoing conventional medical treatments, Paul also began consuming cancer-fighting fruits, vegetables, and herbs, exercising regularly, and meditating twice a day.
Even with radical changes in his life, Paul’s healing from mesothelioma took a number of years. Today, that healing and the changes that brought it about have become an inspiration to thousands of mesothelioma patients and their families. Paul’s mesothelioma survival strategy is the subject of “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient’s Guide,” the best-selling book on malignant mesothelioma in the world.
Survival Strategies for Malignant Mesothelioma
Paul is just one example of a patient who overcame advanced mesothelioma through a willingness to look beyond standard cancer therapies. Today, many mesothelioma patients are finding hope in investigational drugs, experimental therapies, alternative medicine, and mind-body approaches.
The KEYNOTE trial of the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda), which included 25 malignant pleural mesothelioma patients, found a 20 percent overall response rate and a median response duration of a year. Avelumab, another immunotherapy drug, produced a mesothelioma control rate of 56.6%. Studies are ongoing on these and a number of other immunotherapy drugs, making clinical trials an appealing option for many mesothelioma patients.
For patients who are candidates for mesothelioma surgery, treatment approaches that combine surgery with heated chemotherapy or radiation to kill residual cells have produced some encouraging survival results.
Other patients choose to take an alternative route, either as a stand-alone therapy or as a supplement to conventional treatments. A 2007 Harvard study found that THC, an active ingredient in cannabis oil from the marijuana plant, inhibits the migration of certain kinds of lung cancer cells. Four years later, a second Harvard study investigated the role of cannabinoid receptors in lung cancer cells and determined that cannabinoids can be used to treat lung cancer. Anecdotal evidence suggests they may do the same for mesothelioma.
Paul Kraus is a firm believer in the healing connection between the mind and the body and has been an avid meditator for years. Still unfailingly positive, Paul contends that, by driving him to focus more seriously on his own mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, his health challenges have enhanced his life and can do the same for anyone who chooses to embrace a similar survivor mentality. You can keep up to date with Mesothelioma News here on his site.
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