Dinah and Cliff's Story

Hi Deidre,

I found your site by searching the internet.
I keep coming back to it to read and
re-read the stories, poems, etc.
On April 20th it will be one year since
I lost my husband Cliff (age 56) to,
The doctors said was
asbestos related lung cancer.
On November 29, 2001 he had a
"clean bill of health",
nothing showed up on an abdominal Cat Scan,
(he had other health issues)
and nothing was ever seen
on his chest x-rays.
He was told "you're cancer free,
so you don't have that to worry about".
On March 18,th.2002,
I took him to the emergency room
because of severe back pain
(which he had been having for
about 3 months and the doctor related it to
the several surgeries he'd had)
and it was there that they told us
he had lesions on his liver.

One week later they told him that
he had right pleural effusion,
pleural plaques, and LUNG CANCER,
consistent with asbestos exposure.
He died less than a month later.
I was with him 24/7 from March 28th
through April 20th when he died at home.
We brought him home on April 19th,
he knew he was coming home to die
and it is where he wanted to be.

He died at the exact time our two
daughters' flight in from Texas
was scheduled to land.
He was a wonderful father and
an exceptional husband,
there was much love and life and
happiness and what we had together
I know is a once in a lifetime fantastic gift.
(even working on cars,
cutting grass, etc.) together.
I cannot go anywhere or do anything
where he isn't there (driving down the road,
the mall, the grocery store, nowhere).


He was a Navy Veteran,
having served two tours in Viet Nam,
a Sr. Engineman,
exposed to asbestos and Agent Orange.
He was also an auto mechanic
prior to and after his military service,
again being exposed to asbestos
(brake shoes, etc.).
But, this is not the sole reason I am writing.
My husband was buried at
Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery
in Maryland with FULL honours.
After his funeral, I, of course,
have been back to visit.
(I also visit my brother,
a Navy Veteran (age 47)
who died 6 weeks after my husband.

Anyway, on one visit I began walking up and down the
rows of graves in the section
my husband was buried
a new section just being utilized)
and I got about 5 rows down and
went back to the first row
and started over again,
this time taking note of how many of the markers
said "Viet Nam" and how many of the dates
of birth were between 1940 and 1950
and then how many of the dates
of death were from January 1st 2002
up to the time my husband died.
I was shocked to say the least.
Of course I don't know what each one
died from but the number was about
1 in 4 that fit into this category
(Viet Nam, born 1940-1950).
So, no one can tell me that there
wasn't something going on in Viet Nam.

My husband also had symptoms of having
been exposed to Agent Orange
(Diabetes II, peripheral neuropathy, etc.)
which we had started checking into before
he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
My heart goes out to all of those
who have lost loved ones,
I know only too well their pain.
I also know their financial struggle
I have contacted the VA regarding the
possibility of filing a survivors
claim on his behalf for the Agent Orange
and get referred to this place or
that place and referred again,
and again. And God forbid
you mention asbestos.
I have also contacted an Attorney
regarding the asbestos exposure
and even though its on his death certificate,
referred to in his medical records, etc.
I am not hopeful there either.


Why am I doing this?,
Because my husband, while in the hospital,
took my hand and said "Honey,
I'm not going to be here to take care of you,
please don't let them get away with this",
"I love you, please forgive me for failing you".
thought my heart was going to break right in half.
For failing me?
I told him "I love you too,
and you have never failed me,
our 22 years together were
more than I could have dreamed for
so don't you ever think that you failed me".
And then I laid beside him,
we held each other and cried together,
each trying to give strength to the other,
to find the "right" words to say to
lessen each others fears and pain.
Anyway Deidre,
I am emailing you for my husband.
To tell his story.
Let others know how quickly exposure
to asbestos can take a life.
Thank you for your time and
letting me vent a little.
and so others know about asbestos and the military.
God Bless you.

Hello Deidre. Well, below is Cliff's story.
I am not a writer,
but I did my best.
Let me know what you think, ok?
God Bless and take care.

CLIFFORD EBERLE 9/20/1945 - 4/20/2002

Before I tell you Cliff's story,
I want to share with you a
little bit about the man he was.
He was a father, a husband,a grandfather,
a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend,
a mechanic, a handy-man, a gardener,
a boater, a carpenter, a builder,
an electrician, a dreamer, a talker,
a listener, a jokester, a comedian,
a yarn teller, a hard worker, a provider
and he was the love of my life.

Cliff was born on 9/20/1945.
He was a twin,
the first set of twins
his mother would have.
His twin sister was Connie.
Cliff had an older sister, Sonja,
a younger set of twin brothers,
Kenny and Keith, and finally the
youngest brother, Martin.
Cliff was in the US Navy from 1966 through 1969.
He was an Engineman.
My 2 1/2 year old daughter and I met
Cliff in January of 1980.
He was an automobile mechanic
(who over the years became an ASE
Certified Master Mechanic).
He was an attractive man who had a
smile that just lit up his whole face.
It was the smile of a man who was
happy with life.
And he did enjoy life,
especially being on the water.
Soon after we met we became a family.
Life was good.

He had a close relationship
with my (our) daughter.
He would never accept "I can't",
'cause you could,
and when he wanted it done he
wanted it done!
But let someone hurt her feelings
or break her heart,
oh yeah he was ready to kick butt.
He also accepted into his life and family
my daughter's half-sister from a previous marriage.
He was a loving, caring,
man who took pride in his job,
his home and his family.
He had a sense of humor that just wouldn't quit.
He was always willing to help others.
He worked everyday,
played on the weekends,
loved to share holidays with family and friends and
looked forward to growing old --- together.

I have decided to include the following
as part of Cliff's story to bring
awareness to the fact that veterans
during the Viet Nam era who were exposed to
agent orange may have health issues that
are directly related to this exposure.
It was around 1998 when we began to investigate
into the causes for Cliff's
health changes, i.e., peripheral neuropathy,
diabetes II, etc.
A fairly healthy, active man he had
developed multiple health issues
over the past couple of years.
His problems didn't fit his family history.
What was going on?

Well, over the course of time and
talking to different family and
friends it came to our attention that we
might want to look into illnesses
associated with agent orange.
So we contacted the VA and to our surprise a
number of health issues Cliff had
developed were related to agent orange
and connected to his service in Viet Nam.
By this time it was the year 2000
and we began to pursue
this avenue with the VA.
It was a lengthy process as we lived
in a very rural area and the VA
representatives only came to town
every couple of months.
Cliff passed away before we could complete
the process but I though this information
might be helpful to someone else.

During 2000 Cliff developed pain in his hips and
legs that continued to worsen.
In early 2001, an examination revealed
that Cliff had bi-femoral aorta blockage.
He needed a bi-femoral bypass.
Of course he had to have medical
clearance for the surgery.
When Cliff was 38 years old he'd had a heart attack
which damaged 1/3 of his heart so he had to
have a stress test for clearance.
In May 2001 during the test he had severe
chest pain and was sent to the hospital to
have an angiogram done.
The angiogram showed 3 blockages
of at least 90-98 percent.
He was immediately taken into
surgery for a triple bypass.
In July, after recovering from the heart bypass
he was scheduled for the bi-femoral bypass.
He did well during the surgery and felt great
for the first two weeks after the surgery.

Over the next two months the pain in
his legs came back and he began to
have numbness in his legs.
A trip back to the doctor revealed
that his body had apparently
rejected the synthetic material used
for the bypass and he would have to
have a second surgery but this time
they would use veins from his legs
for the bypass.
So in late September 2001 he had a second
successful bi-femoral bypass.
In late November 2001, he went in for
his last follow-up appointment and
was given a good clean bill of health.
Cliff had talked to the doctor about cancer and his
concerns and the doctor did a blood test
that supposedly could tell if one had cancer anywhere.
The clean bill of health included the doctor
telling Cliff that he was cancer free
While Cliff still had other health issues
he was ecstatic with all the results
of the surgeries and blood work.
He felt good for the first time in a long time and
had vowed to make changes in his life,
and he did. I was elated that all of the
surgeries were behind us and that
he was finally feeling good and we
could get back to a normal life.

Well in early January 2002 Cliff began to complain
of pain under his right shoulder blade.
We went to our primary doctor and were told
you have been through a lot, you've had three
major surgeries in less than a year,
you body is healing, give it time.
The pain continued to worsen and radiate
and we were constantly going back
to the doctor (at least once a week to every other week).
Cliff was given pain medication and
medicine to help him sleep and
still told to give it time.
Every evening I came home from work
Cliff would come to the kitchen,
lean over the kitchen table and say
"baby please rub my back" and hand me
whatever cream he had
(Ben Gay, Asper cream, etc.)
I would rub his back and pray
that it would give him some relief.

On March 18th, 2002
I took Cliff to the emergency room.
His pain was so bad he could
hardly breath or stand.
An abdominal CAT scan was done.
Why? Because we had mentioned that
he had previously had kidney stones.
Well, the results of the CAT scan
showed that he didn't have any kidney stones
but he did have lesions on his liver
(that's all the doctor would say) and
Cliff was told to see his primary doctor right away.
He was given some pain medication
and sent home.
As we were leaving I walked over to the doctor
and said ever so softly, he has cancer doesn't he?
and the doctor nodded his head.
I was totally numb, I was going to throw up.
On the way home Cliff was going on about
doctors and they don't know what
they're doing, etc. and I just let him vent
and was basically silent with my own
thoughts running through my head.

March 19th I called our primary doctor
and insisted on an appointment that day
but you know how that goes.
I left a message for the doctor to
call me back thinking that she would
work him in sooner than the
receptionist could schedule him.
She saw him on the 20th and we told her
about our trip to the emergency room.
She scheduled Cliff to have some additional
tests done and to see a specialist the following week.
He had the tests done on the 22nd
and was to see the specialist on the 26th.
On the 25th the primary doctor called and
told Cliff the results of the tests and
that he needed to see the specialist
for further evaluation.

We went to see the specialist who
after looking at all the x-rays, etc.,
told Cliff he believed he had mesothelioma,
an asbestos related cancer and that
it was in the late stages.
He called our primary doctor and
sent us back to see her on the 27th.
On the 27th our primary doctor arranged
to have Cliff admitted to the hospital on the 28th.
Cliff was admitted on the 28th and
was seen by a barrage of doctors.
On the 29th Cliff was taken to
have more xrays, scans, etc.
He was treated by one of the
technicians with less respect than
you would give a piece of dirt.
The technician was insisting that
Cliff had to lay down on this table
until they were ready to do the scan
and he was trying to tell her
to please let him sit up
until they were ready because
he couldn't breath laying down
and the pain was unbearable.
The technician had the audacity to
tell him to "talk to the hand" and
told the admitting doctor that
he was uncooperative.
Then the admitting doctor had the
audacity to ask me why he was
being so uncooperative.
There were other hospital staff who were
witness to the whole thing and
took up for Cliff. Well I won't tell you
what I told the admitting doctor and
to make a long story short we
insisted he be discharged and
we left the hospital.

On March 31st, with all records in hand,
I took Cliff to another hospital emergency room.
He was immediately admitted.
He was treated with compassion and
great care by everyone.
His condition was progressing faster
than they could keep up with,
faster than they had ever seen.
X-rays, tubes, oxygen, biopsies, etc.,
everyday was worse than the day before.
Everyday he lost a little more of his
battle and a little more of his will to live.
He suffered terribly.
I was with him everyday, 24/7 from
March 28th until he passed away at home
on April 20th, 2002 surrounded by
family and friends and hospice.
His final diagnosis was adenocarcinoma
cause by asbestos.
Asbestos he was exposed to as an
Engineman in the US Navy.

I know I rambled on above but I
wanted you to know how quickly and
unexpectedly asbestos related diseases
can take a loved one away from you,
and perhaps provide you with
some additional information.
If someone you know has EVER been
exposed to asbestos
PLEASE advise your physician and REQUEST
that they do a special chest xray
that can detect very early signs
of asbestos exposure.
I know there is a special x-ray
because I have it done because Cliff
was also a mechanic and I would wash his
uniforms and could have second hand exposure.

I also want to let you know that there may
be help for you through the VA.
If you have lost a loved one or have
a loved one that was exposed to asbestos
while they served in the military or if
their illness can be service
connected you may be eligible.

It was about a year after Cliff passed away
that a friend told me to check
with the VA about DIC
(Dependency and Indemnity Compensation).
I did and found out that as the
spouse of a veteran who might be considered 100%
disabled at the time of his death
due to a service connected illness
I might be eligible.
Well I did all the paperwork,
submitted all the information requested
and the VA conceded that Cliff was
100% disabled at the time of his death
due to a service connected illness
and I was eligible for DIC.
I get a monthly payment from the VA,
tax free, and will for the rest of my life.
I also get Champ VA medical coverage
and I get a military ID for exchange
and commisary privileges.

I'm telling you this because if you
don't know and don't ask they won't tell you.
Don't let them tell you no over the phone.
Get the forms, complete the forms and
submit everything they ask for.
As soon as you know someone is disabled
and it could be service connected
contact the VA immediately.
If someone has passed away and
you believe it was service connected
contact them NOW. Go to the
www.VA.gov website
and check out everything.
I am also eligible for other benefits
such as educational and home loan
guarantee but I wouldn't have known it if a
friend hadn't suggested I look into it.
Search the website, call all the numbers,
do whatever you have to do and
find out what you may be eligible for.
And don't forget to check into
illnesses that could be associated to
Agent Orange a chemical used during Viet Nam.
There are benefits out there
you just have to find them.
Thanks for reading Cliff's story and
I hope I've helped in some way
by sharing it with you.
In loving memory, Dee.

Hello Deidre!
Thank you for contacting me
after such a long time.
It has been seven years now since Cliff died.
The year following his death was quite a year.
Six weeks after Cliff died I lost my brother,
age 44, from a massive heart attack.
I got laid off from my job, of 19 years,
and ended up having to file bankruptcy.
One year and one day
after my brother died,
my sister's husband was killed in a jet ski accident.
Shortly after that I had to sell my home
and I moved in with my sister.
We banded together, she and I, to try and keep going.
Finally, in August of 2006
she sold her home and we moved to North Carolina to start over.
Both of us dealt with "memories".
Her husband and mine were very close
and we did a lot of things together.

Anyway Deidre, I did have positive results from the VA.
I filed a claim for widow's benefits
(DIC - dependency and indemnity compensation)
providing all the information
I could about his exposure to asbestos
(ships, dates, etc.)
and they conceded that his illness
was service connected
and that he was 100% disabled
at the time of his death
and awarded me a monthly DIC payment.
This is for the rest of my life and it is tax free!
Oh, in addition to the DIC payment
I also got a military ID
so I can shop at the commissary and the exchange,
And I also got Champ VA insurance coverage
- all at no cost.

Maybe this is something that could be
passed on to other widows.
Of course I didn't learn about these benefits
until about two years after Cliff died.

As far as the wrongful death claim
I filed against the asbestos manufacturers,
well, that is another story.
No million dollar settlements there.
The law firm has only sought compensation
from manufacturers of automotive parts,
as my husband was a mechanic.
The "awards" can be large (highest one was $95,000)
BUT because all of the companies are in bankruptcy the
settlements are only about 1 to 2 % of the award.
And of course, after legal fees
the actual amount received is even smaller.
I try to look at it positively
though when a settlement comes in
(which is few and far in between).
It's more than I would have had.
The law firm tells me they are working
to be able to file against
the asbestos manufacturers of the ships Cliff
was on but I think that is
new territory for them.
It seems that only the California law firms
know how to get those big $$$ .

Anyway, I am grateful for what the VA
has given me and for the settlements I do get.
I am now a grandmother!
I have a 4 year old grandson, Joseph Clifford,
and a 1 1/2 year old granddaughter, Hannah Grace.
Let me tell you,
when my grandson was born I was there and it was amazing.
I didn't think I would ever feel happy again
but when my grandson came into this world
I knew that God had given me a gift
because my heart just burst with this overwhelming joy.
My grief was gone, in an instant.
And let me tell you, I am a doting grandmother.
I cannot get enough of my grandchildren, lol.
My memories of Cliff are now stories
that I tell my grandchildren.
Some with tears but mostly without.
My sister and I are doing well.
We were always close and get along well.
We are the female version of the "Odd Couple,"
So what about yourself?
How are you doing?
Do you still have your website?
Send me a link if you do.
And, if any of the information
I have shared can help someone else,
please feel free to share it with them.
God Bless you.


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