Mesothelioma has affected people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Some of the famous people who passed away as a result of asbestos exposure include:
- Steve McQueen. The famous actor likely contracted mesothelioma during his racing career, when he wore asbestos-lined race uniforms. He died in 1980, at the age of 50.
- Warren Zevon. The rock-and-roll legend was diagnosed in 2002, and spent the last year of his life writing and recording his swansong.
- Merlin Olsen. The Pro Football Hall-of-Famer was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and passed away in 2010.
- Malcolm McLaren. The punk-rock impresario was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October of 2009 and died at a Swiss clinic in April of 2010, highlighting how difficult the disease is to diagnose in time.
- Paul Gleason, best known for his role as Principal Richard Vernon in the Breakfast Club. While in his teenage years, Paul helped his father on construction sites, where he was exposed to asbestos. Gleason passed away in 2006.
- Terry McCann. The Olympic gold champion in wrestling in 1960, McCann went on to have a highly successful career as a philanthropist and leader of various service organizations. He was the executive director of Toastmasters International for 26 years and served as the chief financial officer for Lions International. After being diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2005, McCann became an avid advocate for mesothelioma victims and helped defeat a congressional bill that would have curbed lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers. McCann had additional mesothelioma advocacy projects planned, but the pain and nausea caused by his pleural effusion prevented him from achieving many of his goals.
- Steven Jay Gould. At age 40, while working as a prominent evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, Gould was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. After some research into the disease, he learned that the median life expectancy after diagnosis was 8 months. As a scientist, Gould was familiar with statistics’ limitation as a predictor, and he developed a belief that he would live significantly longer than the eight months. He wrote a thoughtful essay on this topic titled, “The Median Isn’t the Message.” His belief that he would survive longer and an accompanying positive attitude served him well. After an experimental treatment of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, Gould made a full recovery, and his column became a source of comfort for many cancer patients. He went on to work at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and wrote a number of influential books as well as hundreds of essays on evolution and science that bridged the gap between science and the general public.