A mum aged just 33 has become one of the youngest to be diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer – she fears was caused during school or her time as a barmaid.
Brave Kirsty List has just weeks to live but says the cause of her illness – which normally affects much older people – remains a mystery.
She believes she may have been exposed to asbestos either when she was a pupil at school or while working in pubs which were being renovated.
But surgeons only discovered her tumour when she went for an operation to remove gallbladder.
And she is now struggling with the prospect of leaving behind her five-year-old daughter Aimee who she lives with in Exeter, Devon.
She said: “My consultants said I was suffering from mesothelioma. I was incredibly shocked because it’s something you hear in older people, not younger people.
“I didn’t know anything about asbestos disease. The problem for me is there is very little information to parallel me with anyone and work out any prognosis.
“Most people with asbestos are old and are men.”
Kirsty first began feeling unwell in September 2015 and was treated for gallstones for six months.
But when they found her tumour around her gallbladder they instead carried out a tumour biopsy.
Six weeks later, Kirsty was given her devastating diagnosis, but said she never expected it to be related to asbestos – which was widely used within homes and other buildings until 1999.
She has tried five different types of chemotherapy without success and has been on end-of-life care since finishing her last course almost a year ago.
In December Kirsty was told she does not have long left and her condition is deteriorating all the time.
She added: “It was a conversation I asked to have with my consultant and I felt ready to know,.
“I said, ‘I don’t know if I will see next Christmas’, and my consultant said, ‘I think that’s about right’.
“At the age of 33 it’s kind of embarrassing. To look at me you would think there’s nothing wrong and it makes me feel like having a sign on my back saying, ‘I’m dying, leave me be!’.
“Knowing how you’re going to die and you’re just going to waste away is horrible. I will quite literally waste away. I have already gone from a size 16-18 to a size 8.”
Kirsty says she has resisted making a bucket list because her focus instead is on keeping life as normal as possible for her daughter.
She said: “Aimee knows everything and understands that I’m dying, and most of the time she is okay about it.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that she is likely to be six-years-old when I pass away.”
Kirsty is still trying to figure out the origins of her disease. She said she went to a primary school in Reading which was built in the ’80s and was “riddled with asbestos”.
She later went to secondary schools in Reading and North Devon, and the latter also has asbestos.
She also spend 13 years working in pubs throughout the south west – some of which were being renovated.
Kirsty said: “I don’t find it particularly frustrating that I don’t know where I picked up asbestos from because I choose not to focus on it.
“I can’t change what’s happened but I do feel a little bit angry because of my daughter.
“I feel a huge amount of guilt knowing I will leave her behind. That makes me sometimes want to stamp my feet and shout, ‘It’s not fair’.”
She added: “I would not necessarily want asbestos to be taken out of all buildings as I know that would be incredibly impractical.
“But I would like to see it become part of everyone’s induction process when people start a new job.
“If asbestos is in a building everyone should be aware of where it is and how it should be treated to keep themselves and other people safe. It has to be a group effort.
“The asbestos register should also be overhauled to make sure reviews are ongoing.”