Taken Too Soon: A Mother Recounts Losing Her Daughter to Mesothelioma

Gladys and Tina

Gladys Edwards always wanted to be a mother, and when her daughter, Tina, was born, she considered it an answer to her prayers.

​“If you wrote down everything you’d want in a perfect child, it’s what I got with Tina,” Gladys said. “She was absolutely perfect.”

As a small child, Tina Schicke had a work ethic that rivaled any adult’s. She took joy in tending to the animals on the family farm in Bonne Terre, MO, and even looked forward to helping her mother with chores.

“She’d pull up a chair to the sink and help me with dishes without being asked,” Gladys said. “She was my little helper, and we did everything together.”

As close as Tina was to her mother, she was equally close to her father, Gary. The two would often take long rides through the country in his pick-up truck when he got off work – a memory both of them cherished.

“We had a simple life, but we were very happy,” Gladys said. “I wish we could have stayed that happy forever, but God had other plans.”

A Dream Realized

Tina’s childhood was full of love, and she knew from a young age that she wanted to share that love with a family of her own.

“She always dreamed of being a mom and having a family,” Gladys said. “It was her biggest dream, and I knew one day she would make it happen.”

When Tina got married, she moved to St. Louis where her dream was finally realized. She had three sons – Chad, John Jr., and Jared.

“Tina loved every person and animal she ever met, and they loved her right back,” Gladys said. “But when she had her boys, that was a love I hadn’t seen before. They were her whole life.”

After Tina’s marriage ended, she moved back to Bonne Terre to be closer to her friends and family – and most importantly, to be closer to her mother.

“It was just like when she was a little girl – we talked every single day and did everything together,” Gladys said. “She had a smile that lit up every room she walked into, and she was always doing everything she could to make sure people felt loved. I was so proud of her. She wasn’t just my daughter, she was my best friend.”

Tina’s love for those around her was made readily apparent when her father fell ill. He developed Alzheimer’s, and without hesitation, Tina gave up every free second she had to take care of him.

“She was the reason we were able to keep him home and comfortable,” Gladys said. “She didn’t just take care of her boys, she took care of us, too.”

Despite their best efforts to take care of him, Tina’s father succumbed to his illness and died in 2014. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time the family would experience heartbreak.

A Dream Taken Away

In 2016, Tina started experiencing pain in her chest and developed a cough that wouldn’t quit. Not long after her symptoms began, her oldest son, Chad, unexpectedly passed away at only 24-years-old.

“It absolutely devastated her,” Gladys said. “Heartbreak doesn’t even come close to describing it.”

As the years passed, Tina’s symptoms grew worse, and doctors told her they thought she had COPD from years of smoking. She and her sons moved in with Gladys when her illness worsened, and Gladys took her to all her doctors’ appointments. When the pain became unbearable and she could no longer breathe, she went back to the hospital in March 2018. It was around Easter, and her sons went to the hospital’s gift shop and each bought her a stuffed rabbit.

After several days in the hospital, she learned she didn’t have COPD after all; she had a rare and incurable form of cancer – mesothelioma.

“I was with her when we got the news, and I just fell apart,” Gladys said. “All I could do was cry. I knew I was going to lose my best friend.”

At this point, the disease had progressed so far that treatment wasn’t an option, and Tina was sent home on hospice. They moved a hospital bed into Gladys’s home, and she tried to make Tina as comfortable as she could. The rabbits the boys bought for her never left her side.

“I could hear her from the other room crying and begging God to help her. I begged for God to help her, too,” Gladys continued. “She held those bunny rabbits close to her and made me promise to take care of her boys. She knew she didn’t have much time left, and she was right.”

Just three weeks after her diagnosis, Tina passed away on April 18, 2018, at 53-years-old. She was cremated along with the stuffed rabbits she cherished from her sons.

“We buried them in our family plot at the cemetery,” Gladys said. “She had two dogs that she loved, and when they passed, we buried them there with her. I got her a tombstone with her picture on it so everyone could see that smile she was known for. I miss that smile and I miss her. Every day, I miss her.”

Justice for Tina

Tina’s death was devastating, but as her family would find out later, so was its cause.

Tina’s father worked at General Motors in nearby Wentzville, MO, where he was regularly exposed to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is known to be the only cause of mesothelioma. Day in and day out, Tina’s father worked hard to provide for his family but was unknowingly bringing asbestos fibers home on his clothes, body, and the inside of his pick-up truck. The rides through the country that Tina loved so much and the chores she happily did as a child – including washing her father’s work clothes – had exposed her to the deadly fibers secondhand. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe – and Tina has been exposed repeatedly.

For decades, well-known companies used asbestos in thousands of products because of its fiber strength and heat-resistance – even though they knew it caused cancer.

“My husband had no idea he was working around something so dangerous,” Gladys said. “We had no idea what asbestos was before Tina got sick, and we had no idea how dangerous it was.”

Gladys contacted SWMW Law to get justice for her daughter.

“I made a promise to Tina to take care of her boys,” she said. “Filing a lawsuit with SWMW Law and the money we’ve received from it have helped me keep that promise. I don’t know what we would have done without them.”

Remembering Tina

Life hasn’t been the same without Tina, and while some days are more painful than others, Gladys takes comfort in knowing that her daughter lives on through her sons.

“Sometimes the emptiness without her is overwhelming,” she said. “But I still have a part of her with me through her boys. They’re so much like her, and I can see her in both of them. I know she would be proud of the men they’ve become.”

Gladys regularly places fresh flowers at Tina’s grave, and every year on Tina’s birthday, the family visits her favorite restaurant for dinner.

“We’re doing things together and making memories,” Gladys said. “I just wish Tina was here to be a part of them.

“She was my very best friend, and now she’s an angel,” she continued. “I hope one day I’m able to see her again. Until then, I will remember her smile, her heart, and what a blessing it was to be her mother.”