I was at the office when I got the phone call that changed my life.
It was a windy day in San Francisco - and sunny. Slivers of mid-morning sunlight sliced through my cubicle's lofty window blinds and beat down on my back, triggering a feverish sweat as I ransacked my oversized purse for the ringing cell phone.
Silencing the phone, I flipped it over to check the screen.
The muted phone blinked over and over in my palm.
MOM CELL. MOM CELL.
After a quick scan of the room, I snuck the phone to my ear, pressing the green talk button with my thumb.
"Hey, Mom," I whispered hurriedly into the mouthpiece, eyes darting around the room. "I can't really talk right now - I'm at work."
On any other day I would have been annoyed - she knew I wasn't allowed to use my cell phone at work. But this day was different.
This day, I was met with cold desperation on the other end of the line.
"It's cancer." Her voice quivered. "Your father has cancer."
In the days and weeks to come, I would learn that my father had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer resulting from asbestos exposure decades earlier. And he likely had no more than two years to live.
Public health experts agree that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. However, supporters of the asbestos industry counter that, when handled according to regulation, asbestos is completely safe. Nonetheless, many industrial nations have banned the substance due to its high health risks. In the U.S., however, attempts at legislating the substance continuously fail.