ABOUT 20 months ago Pat Rogan was enjoying a winter holiday with his wife in the warmth of north Queensland when his usually robust health began to fail.
He was taking antibiotics for a minor infection but that did not explain the sudden decline.
Mr Rogan, of Alfords Point, cut short his holiday and returned to Sydney to discover his left lung had collapsed. More tests showed he had mesothelioma, the asbestos disease.
Mr Rogan's mind immediately went back 50 years to that oil refinery at Silverwater where he worked as an electrician and technician for several years and where he was in daily contact with asbestos products.
"That asbestos dust was in the back of my mind when mesothelioma became wellknown," he said. "I knew I had been exposed to it but after 50 years I thought I had missed that bullet."
In the five decades between exposure and diagnosis Mr Rogan, 77, became an engineer, followed by a political career as the Labor MP for East Hills until his retirement in 1999.
After politics he went on to be chairman of ClubsNSW and president of Revesby Workers, but has had to put a stop to all his community work to focus on getting well.
Chemotherapy has worked wonders, but the next six months will "make or break" Mr Rogan's health.
"There is no cure at this stage — half the people diagnosed in 2012 are no longer with us," he said.
"I try to adopt a positive attitude because the cavalry could be over the next hill and riding closer."
He expects that the cavalry carrying a cure will ride out of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI), whose mission is education, prevention, treatment and research of asbestos-related diseases.
While waiting, Mr Rogan is keen to promote education and awareness.
He is concerned for the "second wave" of mesothelioma sufferers — the home renovators, who according to an ADRI campaign, are playing "renovation roulette" by inhaling dangerous asbestos fibres while renovating or maintaining homes.
Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related illness in the world, and unless homeowners start taking warnings seriously, numbers will continue to rise.
Asbestos can be found under floor coverings such as carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings, eaves, garages, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, extensions to homes, outdoor toilets, backyard and farm sheds, chook sheds and dog kennels.
The message is that it is essential people don't cut asbestos, don't drill it, don't sand it, don't saw it, don't scrape it, don't scrub it, don't dismantle it, don't tip it, don't water blast it and don't dump it.
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