Thank You to Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnellThe Meso Foundation would like to thank Tim McDonnell for his participation in the HITS Triathlon Series in Naples, Florida to raise funds for the Meso Foundation. Tim annually hosts fundraising events for the foundation, and his dedication to our mission is greatly appreciated. Below, read the article written about Tim’s participation in the triathlon from Naples Daily News.

NAPLES, Fla. – He had just swam 1,500 meters, biked about 25 miles, and ran close to a quarter marathon, but Timothy McDonnell still kept a brisk pace to greet her.

She was standing near the finish line having earlier completed a triathlon of her own, but still looked radiant in a bright yellow athletic tank top with short blonde hair. McDonnell hobbled over quickly, paused for an iPad photo, before embracing her with a hug and a kiss.

McDonnell and his wife, Andrea, had come a long way for this moment.

Part of the HITS Triathlon Series held in Naples this weekend, Timothy, 52, and Andrea McDonnell, 50, completed the Olympic and Sprint distance events, respectively.

But their accomplishments were really just another leg on a longer journey, one that expands beyond the miles they trekked Sunday.

It begins, with sickness and tragedy, in Michigan.

In 2009, Timothy McDonnell’s brother-in-law died of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer — he’d been diagnosed five years prior, right after his honeymoon.

That same year, Andrea McDonnell was living what she calls a “miserable” existence in Michigan. She, too, had been given a diagnosis — breast cancer, in 2008 — and her chemotherapy sessions were all but unbearable.

“You’re watching the nurses get into full protective gear, and they take a bag that has a bio-hazard label on it, and they’re dumping it into the vein that goes right into your heart,” Andrea McDonnell said Sunday. “They’re completely protected, but they’re dumping it into my heart.”

Andrea McDonnell, almost literally, stayed on the couch for five years.

“You sit down and you don’t move,” said McDonnell, whose chemotherapy ended in 2013. “You have no energy. You feel sick all the time. I had pain everywhere.”

Timothy McDonnell tried to keep his wife active. After Andrea was diagnosed, Timothy began participating in cancer fundraisers every year. He’s done nine breast cancer walks, five rides-for-the-cure, and scores of other events.

For the past three years, Timothy McDonnell has competed in triathlons, in part to honor his late brother-in-law and raise cancer research money.

Andrea, who gained 70 pounds during chemo, tried accompanying Timothy to his spin classes at the gym. Always in pain, she couldn’t get through the workouts without crying.

“It was so freaking hard,” Andrea said, tearing up.

But in August 2013, the family hired a trainer who got Andrea on a diet and a daily training regimen. She lost the 70 pounds she gained — plus five more pounds — and began competing in triathlons like her husband.

On Sunday, Andrea finished the Sprint distance event — a 750-meter swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run — in 1 hour, 42 minutes and 47 seconds, good for ninth place in her age group.

“It’s a good means to an end,” she said about triathlons. “I’m really proud to say that I’m now able to do it. Not everybody’s able to do one.”

The McDonnells were a couple of the estimated 2,000 visitors to the city this weekend for the HITS Triathlon Series, held in Naples for the fourth year. The event brought about $1 million in revenue, according to the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, and attracted international competition, including athletes from the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico.

Most of the weekend, intersections on Vanderbilt Beach Road were manned by traffic officers, allowing for participants in the triathlons’ bike portions to pedal through. But cars still were allowed on the roads, which caused some issues.

Mike Aubrey, an athlete competing in the half triathlon, said he was struck by a car while biking Saturday morning. He said he was making a turn on his route when a car pulled out in front of him, cutting off the bike lane, and sent him crashing between the car and the guardrail.

“People are clueless. Really it’s a shame,” said Aubrey, who was able to finish the race. “It was a fun race, but the drivers are just crazy.”

Timothy McDonnell didn’t have any issues with his bike portion. That part is probably his strength, he said. But he struggled during the final leg — his 6.2-mile run in the Florida sun.

“About mile four, the heat was starting to get to me,” McDonnell said. “We haven’t had this weather in Michigan in four months.”

At the finish line, McDonnell came huffing and puffing across. His run portion was more like a “walk/jog,” he would say later. He doubled over for a moment while receiving his medal, but he quickly lifted his head up to lock eyes with his wife, waiting for him several yards away.

Then he started moving again.

Do You Know an Outstanding Nurse? Nominate Them!

NursesWe are pleased to announce our second annual campaign to choose the recipient of the 2015 June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award.

If you know a nursing professional who fits the following criteria, click the link below to submit a nomination. Simply fill out the short nomination form and tell us how the nurse has positively impacted you or your loved ones.

The award will be given to a nursing professional who:

  • Positively impacted you or your loved ones throughout your fight with mesothelioma
  • Demonstrates a professional, positive, and caring attitude
  • Is passionate and goes above and beyond to care for patients and families
  • Ensures patients and families are informed and included during the care process
  • Is thoughtful and compassionate in every situation
  • Makes an impactful difference in the lives of patients and family members
  • No georgraphic restrictions apply. We accept nominations from within the United States, as well as anywhere else in the world.

All nominations must be submitted by January 14, 2015!

PLEASE NOTE: Nominations for Mary Hesdorffer, NP, the executive director of the Meso Foundation, will not be accepted. Mary does not wish to be nominated, and thusly is not eligible to receive this award.

Submit a Nomination

With the June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award, we wish to honor an individual in the nursing profession who exhibits an optimistic, determined, and generous spirit reflective of both June and Jocelyn. To learn more about June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar, visit curemeso.org/nurseaward.

The June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award will be presented at the Meso Foundation’s Awards Dinner on March 2, 2015 as part of the foundation’s International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma. The Symposium will be held from March 2nd through 4th in the Washington, DC metro region. For more details, visit our Symposium page.

Meso Warrior Heather Nash Makes Video to Raise Awareness

Heather NashThe Meso Foundation was recently featured in a video released by a mesothelioma warrior, Heather Nash, whose goal was to correct misconception about this deadly cancer and to request that viewers support the Meso Foundation.

In the video, Heather leafs through written cardboard sheets from which the viewer learns about her story. On them, she says, “My name is Heather. I am a daughter. I am a wife. I am a mom. I was a nurse. I was healthy. I have cancer. Mesothelioma. Average life expectancy: 9 to 18 months. I need your help to find a cure. Please give at curemeso.org.”

When asked about her reason for making the video, Heather explains that her goal was to show that the face of meso often isn’t the one seen on late night TV commercials.

“This cancer does not discriminate and I am an example of that,” says Heather.

“Also, being a relatively rare cancer, research into it gets little funding. I hope this video can help change that,” she added.

View the video below and visit curemeso.org/savelives to support the Meso Foundation’s life-saving programs and patient services.

Progress in Mesothelioma Research is Possible, Requires Collaboration

Researcherby Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director, Meso Foundation

Through our peer reviewed research grant program, the Meso Foundation supports the most promising research projects in the field of mesothelioma. Cutting edge research is crucial to the lives of those affected by mesothelioma, and it is the key to finding a cure for this cancer.

The Meso Foundation’s grant program has been ongoing for 14 years. Until the Foundation was founded and the program was developed, there was little movement in the field of mesothelioma research. In fact, there was no treatment yet approved for this disease. Pharmaceutical companies and Bio Tech companies were producing new agents every year, but in order for mesothelioma to be considered for these drugs, a better understanding of the disease was needed.

This year, I am pleased to announce that pharmaceutical companies have taken a big interest in mesothelioma. Companies are hosting global and national clinical trials based upon much of the groundwork that developed from the research funded through our grant program.

To date, the Meso Foundation has funded 94 projects and awarded $9 million. The funded research has taken place in 6 different countries and has resulted in 180 published pieces. We are taking mesothelioma research to the next level.

Among the research we have funded, there has been an interest in examining patients’ responses, or lack thereof, to therapies. Tumors are unique to the individual, and we know that some patients will have a very good response to a therapy and some will not. The goal is to understand why they differ in order to filter out those who will not benefit from a prescribed treatment and refer them to more appropriate therapy.

Over the past few years, I have attended a number of mesothelioma conferences, both here and abroad. I am proud to inform you that our funded researchers are the most recognized names in the field. They have made a personal commitment to both the Meso Foundation and the scientific community to continue this work.

Our current grant cycle recently ended, and we received applications from 39 research projects. After the peer review process, our Scientific Advisory Board submitted 10 projects to be considered for funding. In the current economic climate, we cannot fund all of these grants, and it is a shame that promising research will go unfunded this year. We are a small disease with little outside interest, and to remain a viable organization and continue funding research, we depend upon philanthropy.

Please consider donating to the Meso Foundation through our year-end fundraising campaign. Visit curemeso.org/savelives to support our research grant program, among our other vital programs and patient services. Your support saves lives!

Introducing Muriel Evans-Buck, Director of Development

Muriel Evans-BuckAiming to strengthen its major fundraising efforts, the Meso Foundation added Muriel Evans-Buck as the Director of Development. Muriel started on December 1, 2014 bringing with her extensive experience in professional fundraising.

Muriel’s career has included senior positions in development with several national organizations. She has worked for Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. She has also worked in the political arena as a policy analyst for the late Governor Bruce Sundlun of Rhode Island and is a former member of the Electoral College representing the State of Rhode Island.

“Funding mesothelioma research, education, support, and advocacy is our first priority. Muriel is here to help us mobilize the resources necessary to do just that,” said Melinda Kotzian, the chief executive officer of the Meso Foundation.

“I am committed to increasing visibility, awareness and revenue for the Meso Foundation. I look forward to working side by side with the meso community,” said Muriel.

The new Director of Development holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Nyack University. She is an avid runner and enjoys reading and listening to classical music. She is the proud mom of Kennedy, a high school student.