An Australian woman who spent the last decade-and-a-half of her life fighting for the rights of those with asbestos disease and for a global ban of the toxic mineral has died.
Louise “Lou” Williams lost her battle with cancer last week after a long and valiant fight that resulted in her living longer than most others with her disease.
Louise lives in a country with one of the highest death rates from asbestos-caused cancer, which made her case especially intriguing and inspiring.
Lou was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2003, nearly 20 years after her father died of the disease, and then again with the peritoneal form of the disease in 2009.
From her first diagnosis on, she worked tirelessly with a number of organizations and agencies that endeavor to get the word out about the dangers of asbestos, both in her country and in others.
She rallied with the members of the Global Ban Asbestos Network, the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, and the U.S.-based Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), working with members of those organizations to lobby politicians and others of influence, aiming to convince them that asbestos has been allowed to ruin lives for far too long.
Lately, Lou was working with members of various Australian organizations to try to convince that government to add the immunotherapy drug Keytruda to the list of drugs that can be given to mesothelioma patients free of charge or for a very negligible amount of money.
Keytruda added about two years to Lou’s life; she began taking the drug in 2015 when she and her family were convinced that she only had weeks left to live.
Though Lou was too sick this year to make it to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s annual conference in the United States earlier this month, supporters say she sent a video greeting from her bed, wishing the conference attendees the best of luck as they kicked off the meeting.
ADAO co-founder and president, Linda Reinstein, was close friends with Lou Williams and issued this statement after her death: “Her legacy to raise awareness, embrace unity, support efforts to find a cure, and to ban asbestos will live on in each of us.”
For all intents and purposes, Lou lived a very full life despite her disease. When she wasn’t campaigning for an asbestos ban, she was spending time with her family, which included 13 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.
She was 62 years old when she died. Her father was only 54 when he passed away in 1985. He died within just months of his diagnosis.
Sadly, Lou is one of hundreds of women who likely developed mesothelioma due to secondhand exposure. The perky Australian noted that, as a child, she would help with the family laundry, shaking out the work clothes of her dad, who worked with asbestos in the plastering trade.
She also reports that she worked in an office in Melbourne that was “riddled with asbestos” and was exposed there on a daily basis.