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For many people, a diagnosis with one of the world’s rarest, most aggressive, and lethal forms of cancer might be seen as a death sentence. But for Paul Kraus, the world’s longest-living documented survivor of malignant mesothelioma, it was just another challenge to overcome.

At 72, Kraus has been living with mesothelioma, an asbestos-linked cancer that is typically fatal within a year of diagnosis, for 20 years. His experience and his “secrets” to long-term mesothelioma survival are detailed in his popular book “Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers”, the best-selling book on asbestos cancer in the world.

Kraus’ Remarkable Survival

Paul Kraus came by his survivor’s mentality naturally, having survived both the his birth and his escape (with his mother and young brother) from a Nazi forced labor camp.  After WWII, his family then survived a harrowing ocean voyage to Australia. When he settled with his family in his new home country at the height of its booming asbestos industry, he had no idea that that material would one day present him with one of his greatest health challenges.

Like many people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma in mid-life, Kraus had unknowingly come in contact with asbestos at work. For him, the exposure happened during a summer construction job when he was a teenager. Many other patients encountered mesothelioma-causing asbestos on the job in factories that made asbestos products like insulation or construction sites that used asbestos-containing materials, or shipyards where asbestos-laden ships were built, serviced, or dismantled.

Regardless of where the asbestos exposure happened, the result was the same: 20 to 50 years after initial exposure, people with pleural mesothelioma would develop a chronic cough, shortness of breath, or intermittent chest pain. Those with peritoneal mesothelioma in their abdomens (the type Kraus had) would complain of stomach pain, distension, or bowel changes. By the time these symptoms developed, many patients were told it was already too late for effective treatment.

Paul’s peritoneal mesothelioma was so advanced when he was diagnosed in 1997, that his life expectancy was less than six months. But Kraus’ infectious positivity and dogged determination to beat that prognosis has become a survival story that has now inspired thousands of patients with mesothelioma and other intractable cancers.

Paul’s Shares His “Secret”

Although Kraus’ resolve to beat malignant mesothelioma is now legendary, turning his illness around took a lot more than a positive attitude. It also took the help of several open-minded doctors and major changes to his life, from his eating habits and fitness routines to his mental and spiritual health practices.

After attending a ten-day lifestyle retreat with his wife, Paul chose to work with his team of open-minded doctors to craft a treatment plan that included some radical, complementary approaches.

Paul began consuming large amounts of cancer-fighting fruits, vegetables, herbs, and supplements, exercising regularly, and meditating twice a day. He engaged in deep prayer and infused his life with positive emotion. Believing that “a diagnosis is not a destiny”, Kraus continued to embrace these lifestyle changes even 20 years after he was diagnosed. In addition to “Surviving Mesothelioma”, Kraus has written a number of other books on hope and healing.

Lessons From a Survivor

Kraus’ experience and that of others who have survived mesothelioma contains a message for patients facing devastating diagnoses: Survival is possible. While each patient’s situation and healing journey will be different, there are also lessons that can be universally applied.

Stay as positive as possible – Although it is unrealistic to imagine always feeling upbeat when facing cancer, survivors like Kraus consistently credit some of their survival to positive attitude and determination. Paul’s determination is what led him to reject his prognosis and find the treatments and lifestyle changes that saved his life.

Seek expert advice – Mesothelioma is an extremely rare cancer, affecting fewer than 3,000 people in the US each year and approximately 500 people in Australia, where Paul lives. Numerous studies have found that patients who are treated by providers and at institutions that have experience with asbestos cancer consistently have better mesothelioma outcomes.

Embrace alternatives – Although there is still no cure for mesothelioma, there are a growing number of studies on emerging therapies that may extend survival. From new immunotherapy drugs like Keytruda and avelumab to complementary therapies like medical marijuana and cancer-fighting diets, mesothelioma patients who are willing to explore all of their options have the best chance of finding what works.

Share the journey – Regardless of the outcome, mesothelioma and other cancers are easier to face with supportive loved ones to lean on. Paul relied heavily on his wife, who helped him overhaul his life. The love and support of family members and support groups has been shown ease pain, relieve stress, and even help improve the odds of a positive treatment outcome.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any health condition and is not a replacement for advice, recommendations or treatment by a professional healthcare provider. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to an existing treatment. You should not delay in seeking or disregard medical advice based on information in this article.