Meso Foundation Presentation at Labor College

The Center for Construction Research and Training, formerly known as The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights (CPWR), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Since the inception of research initiatives in 1990, CPWR has become an international leader in applied research, training, and service to the construction industry.

Terry Lynch, the International Vice President and Health Hazard Administrator for the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers and dedicated supporter of the Meso Foundation, recommended having the Meso Foundation talk at an annual asbestos training course.

This incredible opportunity to talk about our goal to “End the Suffering Caused by Mesothelioma” was too great to pass by, so the Foundation’s Executive Director, Kathy Wiedemer asked me to represent the Foundation as she and Mary Hesdorffer were unavailable for the December 6th date.

I arrived at the National Labor College around 8 a.m. and sat in the back of a classroom as 30 trade union members representing carpenters, insulators, painters, plumbers, and pipe fitters started their 3 day training seminar. They all had one thing in common, experience in asbestos exposure, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.

My 9:30 a.m.time slot was scheduled for 50 minutes. On their first break several members came up to me to thank me for coming and to share their stories about union brothers lost to mesothelioma. The bond was already established before I spoke a word about the Meso Foundation.

As my presentation time approached, the only fear I had was not filling the 50 minutes afforded me. I had been practicing the 13 slide presentation the last several days and it always seemed like I couldn’t make it past 15 minutes. What I didn’t take into account was the audience interaction and my tendency to talk a lot once I get started.

After being introduced by Ron Mahs, one of the asbestos trainers, I explained how I was going to be wearing 2 hats today, one as a recently elected Meso Foundation board member, and the other as a 4 year peritoneal mesothelioma survivor.

With the ice broken, I spent the next “90 minutes”, giving them my personal story and that of other warriors, explaining and fielding questions about the disease, and listening to their stories.  Reflecting back, my first impression was they were taken aback seeing a living breathing meso patient who has survived 4 years.  Pleural mesothelioma and asbestosis devastates their industry as one out of every 10 members who worked with asbestos in the 40s 50s 60s and 70s were diagnosed with mesothelioma.  Although I couldn’t offer them a cure yet I offered them hope explaining how the Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure through funding research grants. Hope explaining that through early detection there are treatments that slow the disease down giving us time to find a cure. Hope, telling them of the pleural warriors I have met through the Foundation that have fought or are still fighting well beyond their predicted mortality.

Their concerns extend beyond their union brothers to their families due to secondary exposure. One member instructs his union brothers to remove their work clothing in a secure area and triple wash them separately at home.  I fielded some questions and clarified the difference between asbestosis and mesothelioma and encouraged the audience to visit the Meso Foundation web site, and to contact us for literature to keep in their local offices. .

As a board member I explained one of our goals was to be the go to place for meso information, I then changed my hat and said as a patient I know we are.  I also explained that if this group collectively represented 10,000 union members and the Meso Foundation was able to help just one of them we had a successful day.

As I closed the presentation, I invited anyone in the area to visit our office in Alexandria Virginia, and to reach out to us for information, literature, and talks at their local offices.

Ironically, at lunch time as I was returning to the classroom to audit some of the asbestos training going on, Don Ellenberger, the Director of Environmental Hazard Training, approached me about a phone call he received from a union brother in Kansas City. He was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and was reaching out for help. Don and I spoke with him for about 10 minutes and from that conversation he contacted Mary Hesdorffer the same day for help and guidance.  Mission accomplished!!!

–Rich Mosca, Board of Directors
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation