Paul Kraus has a lot to celebrate these days. At 72, the Australian man has survived a terminal cancer, is a successful author of several books on cancer and healing, and is healthier and happier than many of his contemporaries. As the longest-living documented survivor of malignant mesothelioma, one of the world’s rarest and most aggressive malignancies, this year marks the 20-year anniversary of the day he was given just months to live.

On that day in 1997, Kraus’ doctors diagnosed him with metastatic peritoneal mesothelioma. The cancer, which was the result of asbestos exposure during a summer construction job in his youth, had spread throughout his abdomen, making surgical removal impossible.

Beating Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma starts on the membrane that surrounds and encases the abdominal organs. Like all forms of mesothelioma, it is usually caused by asbestos. When microscopic asbestos fibers are inadvertently swallowed, they can embed themselves deep in the tissues, causing irritation and inflammation at the cellular level. It can take decades to develop and, when it does, mesothelioma is usually fatal within a year. There is no cure and most standard cancer treatments have little impact.

Though he was well aware of the odds, Kraus elected not to accept his grim prognosis. Instead, with the inspiration of other survivors and books such as Carl Simonton’s “Getting Well Again”, he embarked on a remarkable healing journey to beat his mesothelioma with dramatic changes to his lifestyle, diet, and mindset.

“Survival from metastasized mesothelioma is indeed a rare event but I remember reading shortly after diagnosis that there are many remarkable recoveries from all types of so-called terminal cancers,” says Kraus. “There is no ‘magic bullet’ but rather taking a multi-faceted approach to healing that incorporates body, mind and spirit. We embarked on that approach with a positive mindset.”

In addition to the mesothelioma treatments his doctors recommended, Kraus began consuming large amount of fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and healing herbs. He implemented an intense daily exercise routine. And he relied heavily on practices that nurtured not just his body, but his mind and spirit. In 2005, Kraus published “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient’s Guide”, which has become the best-selling book on mesothelioma in the world.

“My main advice is not to concentrate purely on the physical level,” says Kraus. “In other words, while diet, vitamins and supplements, juicing and exercise all play a very important role in healing, the power of the mind harnessed through meditation, affirmations and prayer also play a vital role in recovery. Empower yourself because hope has physiological effects on the body.”

The Asbestos-Mesothelioma Connection

Kraus’ odds of contracting this deadly cancer may have been elevated by where he lived. At the time that he and his family immigrated to Australia in 1948, the country was one of the world’s top producer’s of asbestos, the primary cause of mesothelioma. It was being mined, exported, and used in multiple industries, including construction. Australia has since banned asbestos, but this action came too late for thousands of people like Kraus.

In the United States, asbestos is not banned but is, instead, some asbestos containing products are regulated by the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Despite these regulations, violations continue to occur and workers who fail to use adequate protection when renovating or demolishing older buildings still run the risk of receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis later in life.

”Continuing occurrence of malignant mesothelioma deaths in persons aged under 55 years suggests ongoing inhalation exposure to asbestos fibers…” states a 2016 CDC report.

In fact, it may be several more years before it becomes clear how much of an impact asbestos regulation in the US is actually having on incidence of the disease, if any. Because mesothelioma can take decades to develop, many of todays newly-diagnosed patients were exposed in the 1960s and 1970s. In the meantime, the CDC reports that the number of new mesothelioma cases was higher in 2015 (2,597) than in 1999 (2,479), even though that number was predicted to decrease.

Looking Toward the Future

As patients like Paul Kraus continue their own fight against mesothelioma, researchers around the globe are actively searching for a way to cure this devastating cancer. In addition to experimenting with new combinations of standard cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, scientists are testing , novel drug delivery systems, and investigational treatments like cryotherapy.

Though he is proud of his long-term mesothelioma survival, Kraus says he will celebrate the 20th anniversary of his diagnosis in reflection, rather than simply rejoicing.

“I have never been one to dwell on milestones,” says Kraus. “But I am grateful and happy to know that my enormous effort and perseverance has paid off giving me so much more time to see my family grow and to see them develop.”

Author's Bio: 

Torsi Utley is an avid sport lover and experienced blogger and educator.