Five years ago when my dad said, “I have mesothelioma,” I sat in disbelief. What was this disease? I could barely even pronounce it. What did this mean, for my dad, for me, for our family? A flood of emotions ran through me and the panic set in as I read about this orphan disease on the web. Within weeks my dad and mom were flying to New York for treatment while I was in Florida caring for my newborn baby, who was just a few weeks old. Our lives were changed forever.
My dad underwent every treatment option available but lost his courageous battle to mesothelioma in just 12 months. Feeling sad, angry, and wanting answers, I flew to my first Symposium in Washington DC. Three days later, I left DC with a purpose and plan. Following the lead of Shelly Kozicki, who lost her husband to mesothelioma, I decided to fund a research grant. In my heart, I felt my dad suffered and died for no reason. This was my chance to give meaning and purpose to his death by helping others. My dad was the type of man who believed in “doing the right thing.” Now it was my time to follow in his footsteps. To date, with the help of my family, I have raised over $207,000.00 for mesothelioma research. Each time a dollar is raised, I think of my dad and how his life is helping someone else’s life.
Attending the Symposium four years ago was one of the best decisions I ever made. Connecting with the community and sharing stories made me realize two things. First, I am NOT alone. Second, we CANNOT give up. We have to keep fighting for not only those who are sick but also for ourselves. If we don’t do this, who will?
I encourage the mesothelioma community to attend the Symposium in Las Vegas on March 7th and 8th. It is undeniably the only Symposium to encompass all facets of mesothelioma through advocacy, community, and research. Whether you are a patient, caregiver, supporter, or have lost a loved one, the Symposium will touch your life. We all have an opportunity and a chance in life to help others. This is your chance to not only help yourself but to make a difference and leave your imprint on the mesothelioma community.