Historically, mesothelioma cancer mostly affects older men exposed to asbestos while they served in the military or worked certain blue-collar jobs. But women now comprise nearly one-fourth of all cases, and mesothelioma incidence rates among women are on the rise, showing the gender gap is closing.

Raeleen Minchuk has inspirational sayings and mementos displayed throughout her new home in Calgary, Alberta.

One of those sayings, “a child is a mother’s anchor to life,” best defines the Canadian.

My kids are my anchors to this life. They are what make me fight so hard and never give up.

Raeleen Minchuk

Peritoneal mesothelioma survivor diagnosed in 2014

Minchuk was only 36 when she received her devastating stage III peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis in October 2014. She marks her two-year anniversary of remission on February 19.

Although she continues to deal with physical and mental hardships, Minchuk is once again able to focus on her true passion in life: Motherhood.

Minchuk is one of a growing number of women living with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer diagnosed in roughly 3,000 people in the U.S. annually. Women now represent a quarter of those diagnoses, according to the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database, which has tracked mesothelioma incidence rates since 1975.

Incidence rates among women are up 8 percent compared to SEER’s average male-to-female ratio.

Raeleen Minchuk with her sons Jaidyn and Tyce

Doctors are diagnosing many of these women at a younger age than men, too. And as more women develop the incurable asbestos-related disease, they face numerous challenges their male counterparts will likely not experience during their cancer journey.

“Many people don’t know what it’s like when someone looks you in the eyes and tells you you’re going to die,” Minchuk said. “You’ve got a fear you’ve never felt inside of you, but you try to remain positive, and I have to because I have children.”

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