One Mom’s Journey with Asbestos and Mesothelioma

This is a guest post.


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In 2006, Judy Gundlach, a then 35-year-old mother of a 3-year-old daughter, was diagnosed with the life-threatening disease, malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, a type of cancer that has been linked to prolonged exposure to asbestos, typically affects people who worked around asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) for prolonged periods of time. Yet, there are other dangers of asbestos that all families should be aware, including people who lived with loved ones who were exposed to asbestos at work.


While Gundlach was growing up, she used the family laundry as a playroom, and would often spend hours playing with her toys in the same area that her father’s asbestos-ridden clothing was thrown into, waiting to be washed. Gundlach’s father, a former electrician, worked in various regions across Illinois where he came into constant contact with asbestos. In addition to playing around her father’s dirty laundry, Gundlach also gave him a hug daily, usually after work, before he changed clothes. Although rare, loved ones are at risk of second-hand exposure to asbestos. Since Gundlach never worked around asbestos herself, the probable culprit is that she was exposed via her father’s work clothing.


Asbestos Dangers


Asbestos was once used in a multitude of industries including construction, engineering, manufacturing, construction, welding, shipbuilding, and more. Because of its extreme resistance to fire and heat, asbestos was thought of as a miracle mineral until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that ingestion of the small, thin fibers of asbestos caused a series of dangerous health conditions, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. Since these fibers aren’t detectable by the human eye, no one knows when or how much asbestos has been ingested. Once the fibers are in the body, it’s impossible to remove them all. Over time, the fibers attack the body, causing symptoms such as coughing, hacking, wheezing, and chest pain. Eventually, people who have asbestos fibers caught in their system run the risk of developing mesothelioma cancer, a disease that has no cure. Asbestosis, though not always fatal, can leave people with a lifetime of health issues.


Medical Help


In 2007, Gundlach began medical treatment for her mesothelioma. She was told right away by her physician that the treatments were meant to prolong her prognosis, not cure the disease. She went through two surgeries and several sessions of chemotherapy in New York, traveling back and forth from her home in St. Louis to Manhattan.


Although she still fights the cancer each, Gundlach has turned her fear into courage herself, her husband Dan, and her now 11-year-old daughter, Madeline. She says each day is a struggle, but keeping a positive attitude and laughing through the tough days has helped her and her family tremendously.


Gundlach’s Advice to Other Families


After living with a devastating disease at such a young for so many years, Gundlach decided to get involved. She attends annual asbestos awareness conferences and keeps abreast of all the current research and breakthroughs. Gundlach encourages all families to become aware of asbestos and to find out as much information as possible. In addition, she believes speaking out about the dangers of asbestos will help promote more awareness, and in turn more safety.


Even though asbestos is not used like it once was, the regulations came too late as millions of people across the world now suffer through dangerous health issues each and every day. In fact, there have been so many asbestos-related lawsuits in the past 20 years, that many companies were forced to set up mesothelioma trust funds in order to compensate those who are eligible for compensation in future cases. However, since the use of asbestos has declined dramatically, many families today are unaware of just how dangerous it can be.


For more information on asbestos and the risks of exposure, contact the EPA administrators in your state.





I'm a mother of 2 who likes to get involved in too much! Besides writing here I started a non-profit, I'm on the PTO board, very active in my community and volunteer in the school. I enjoy music, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with my family. We just adopted our 3rd cat and love them all!

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  1. Who would have thought you could get it from work clothing. It sounds like she has become a great advocate…

  2. My goodness, that is so scary! I hope and pray that she gets through this.


  1. […] types of lung disease linked to asbestos exposure are asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs from asbestos fibers, which makes breathing difficult), lung cancer and mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that affects […]