Grandmother And Lawyers Seek Information On Working Conditions At Oil Refinery On Canvey Island
A former office worker is appealing to her ex-colleagues for information following her terminal asbestos cancer diagnosis.
Gillian Knowler, from Rayleigh, Essex, lives with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
Following her diagnosis, in August 2022, Gillian instructed expert asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her illness and whether it could be linked to her work history.
To mark Action Mesothelioma Day on 7 July, Gillian, 65, is now joining with her legal team in appealing to her former colleagues for information on the working conditions they faced. In particular, they are seeking details from anyone who worked alongside Gillian when she was employed by Kellogg International at the Occidental oil refinery on Canvey Island, Essex, where she was worked as a print room operator.
Expert Opinion“The past eleven months have been incredibly difficult for Gillian and her family as they attempt to come to terms with her mesothelioma diagnosis and what this means for the future.
“Understandably, they have many questions over where she could have been exposed to asbestos. Therefore we’d be grateful to hear from anyone who recalls working with Gillian and can provide information on the conditions they faced. Any detail could prove vital in our investigation.
“Gillian’s case is also a stark reminder of the terrible legacy left behind by asbestos. While we can’t change what she and her family are going through, we’re determined to help them obtain the answers they deserve.” Lacey St James, Asbestos-Related Disease lawyer
Gillian began her employment at the Occidental oil refinery in 1974 when she was 17. At the time, she was known by her maiden name Knowles. She worked as print room operator, printing and photocopying maps of the refinery.
She remained in the role for around six months and can recall that despite working in a “fairly modern” office, people from other areas on the site would come into the office with their overalls “covered in dust.” She told her legal team that she believed the dust contained asbestos fibres.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, Gillian began suffering from shortness of breath when out walking her dog Ozzy. She was seen by a GP who referred her for further tests.
She underwent a chest X-ray in June 2022, during which she also had her chest drained of fluid. A biopsy was taken in August, and she was diagnosed with mesothelioma later that month.
Gillian is currently undergoing immunotherapy.
She lives with her husband Mick, 70 She has two sons, Matthew, 35, and Billy, 30, and three grandchildren – Charlotte, four, Roman, three, and Maximus, six months.
Gillian previously worked at a train station kiosk, serving coffee and snacks to commuters. She enjoyed chatting and laughing with her customers but, due to her illness, she made the difficult decision to resign from the position in June this year.
She has also had to give up going to the gym.
Gillian said: “I’ve always enjoyed good health and had a spring in my step even as I got older. So when I fell ill and struggled with breathlessness, I knew something wasn’t right.
“However, nothing prepared me for being told I had cancer. I didn’t even bring anyone along to my appointment as I didn’t for one minute think it would be that serious, so it was a huge shock to be given the news and have to try and take it all in on my own.
“Just one month after my diagnosis, Mick and I went on holiday to Lanzarote and I really struggled with shortness of breath to the point that I couldn’t even enjoy myself.
“Since then, my condition has gradually deteriorated. I even had to sleep downstairs at one stage when I was too ill to get upstairs.
“I have a chest drain fitted now and nurses come round to empty it three days a week.
“I find it tough to accept that this is how my life is now, as I’ve always been into fitness; I was a dancer and a gymnast in my younger days. It also upsets me that I can’t run around with my grandchildren like I used to.
“Sadly, I know nothing will change what I’m going through. All I want now are some answers. While I worked in a fairly modern office, I remember other workers coming in with their overalls all dirty and covered in dust, and when I think about it now, I suspect it was asbestos. I would therefore really appreciate it if any of my former workmates at the oil refinery could help.”
Anyone with information that could assist with this case is asked to contact Lacey St James at Irwin Mitchell on 0203 040 3445 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Held every year, Action Mesothelioma Day brings together victims of the disease, those who have loved ones affected, healthcare professionals, support groups and those working to understand mesothelioma and find a cure. The day aims to ensure the public are also aware of the terrible impact mesothelioma can have on sufferers and their carers.