Belfast Telegraph

Cancer woman's fate was sealed by loving shipyard dad

A Glengormely woman has spoken of the unwitting harm her beloved father subjected to her after his career in the shipyard exposed her to the fatal effects of asbestos.

Margaret Thompson has revealed that for years her father Frank would return home from his work at Harland and Wolff, bringing back on his work clothes the deadly traces of asbestos used to insulate pipes in the yard.

But now after being diagnosed with breast cancer and a rare condition calleld pleural plaques on her lungs, she realised her father had unwittingly sealed her fate all those years ago. The 57-year-old, who is married with one daughter, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, four years after learning of the dangerous lung condition which prevents her from walking up steps or exhausting herself.

As a child little Margaret would sit on her father’s knee when he returned from work every night and diligently pick off every flake of the deadly material, not knowing that decades later she'd be fighting for breath because of it.

She told the Daily Mirror how she couldn’t wait for her dad to come home from work every night.

“As a child I used to sit on his knee before he got cleaned up and tell him about my day at school.

“And while I was sitting there I’d pick off the flakes with my finger nails. It was just a silly childish thing and I enjoyed it. But now I know I was dicing with death effectively.”

Frank sadly died of respiratory disease after years of lagging pipes used in the ship-building business.

Fifty years on, Margaret’s lungs are now pitted with holes and scars and causing her breathing difficulties which began to effect her about seven years ago when she found it nearly impossible to catch a breath after climbing stairs.

After a visit to the doctor, she learned the terrible news that she had pleural plaques, caused by the asbestos from all those years before.

“I suppose even if I hadn’t played with it, I’d still have this illness but I often wonder how it hit me and no one else was as seriously affected.

“These flakes must have been throughout the house and we were all breathing it in. My mother had no washing machine and washed all our clothes including his work clothes by hand,” she said.

Still able to work as a receptionist, Margaret’s life has been turned around by a new passion in her life, borne out of the other plague on her life, that of cancer.

Following the reconstructive surgery as part of her breast cancer treatment, Margaret began making natural soaps, initially for her its gentle benefit to her skin, but then as a new focus in life when “everything just fell into place”.

“Suddenly I had this focus outside work I was dealing with beautiful products and ingredients.

“After the last few years worrying about my health, my life has changed incredibly and now I’m helping other people feel good with something as simple as soap,” she said.

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