THERE can be no doubt that Paul Kraus is a survivor.
The Hamilton South man was born in a Nazi labour camp in Austria in 1944.
His mother Clara was so malnourished she could not nurse and as an infant Paul developed rickets.
But the Hungarian family survived the war and emigrated to Australia in 1948.
While at university Paul took what turned out to be a fateful summer job in a chemical factory at Lane Cove.
The factory was undergoing extensions and it was Mr Kraus’s job to sweep up dust that would later to prove to be asbestos.
In 1997, the 52-year-old school teacher and author was diagnosed with a hernia that unearthed mesothelioma in his peritoneum.
‘‘It was such a shock,’’ he said.
The asbestos-related cancer is typically fatal within a year, but 16 years later Mr Kraus is still going strong.
In the past two years Mr Kraus has also been diagnosed with unrelated prostrate cancer and is undergoing experimental treatment for the disease.
In January he also had a similarly-unrelated benign brain tumour larger than an orange removed.
Doctors continue to see mesothelioma cells in Mr Kraus’s body but say the cells are stable.
He is thought to be the longest-known mesothelioma survivor in the world.
Mr Kraus has now been contacted by specialist Professor Nico van Zandwijk at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute who will speak with him tomorrow about writing up his case in medical journals.
Mr Kraus credits his long-term survival with a total lifestyle change.
Following his mesothelioma diagnosis Mr Kraus gave up his job, moved to the Hunter, converted to an almost vegan diet, started regular exercise, daily meditation and takes a long list of herbs and supplements each day.
He went 10 years without a coffee.
He does not eschew medical science but carefully chooses doctors who support his lifestyle.
Since his diagnosis he has written five books, which mainly focus on the power of healthy lifestyles and prayer to fight disease.
Mr Kraus said he has not so much cured himself of cancer, but controlled it.
‘‘It’s more or less a case of living with it,’’ he said.
He said his illness has been a gift and urged others with illness to take control of their treatment.
It included making tough changes to regain balance in life.
‘‘I was a stress-aholic,’’ he said.
‘‘Meso radically changed my life.’’
* Australia has the world’s highest incidence of malignant mesothelioma per capita.
* There are more than 700 new cases diagnosed each year.
* Cases are due to the widespread use of the known carcinogen, asbestos.
* Incidence is expected to continue to increase for the next 10 to 20 years.
Source: Asbestos Diseases Research Institute