Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Mesothelioma Awareness Day holds special meaning for Texas family

23 Sep 2009 by under Events, News, People

George and Betty Elo for WEB1 100x100 Mesothelioma Awareness Day holds special meaning for Texas familyMesothelioma Awareness Day will always hold a special significance for Mary Elo. On August 15, 2009, her father passed away as a result of mesothelioma. That alone would mark the day for her, but even more significant, her Dad, George Elo, was just short of his 77th birthday – which is Sept. 26, the same day designated as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

Her father first started getting sick a couple of years ago, Mary recalls. He had a constant cough, and began losing weight and experiencing shortness of breath. He went to see his primary care physician, and was diagnosed with pneumonia. This happened several times, and always the story was the same. He even had fluid on his lungs, and he would have a short hospital stay, and even though the fluid was tested, there was no diagnosis and he would return home, Mary says.

“We had not heard of mesothelioma before he got his diagnosis,” Mary says. “The doctors didn’t seem to have any sense of urgency to find out what was going on. I began looking on the internet, and he had seven of the nine symptoms for mesothelioma.”

At that point, Mary insisted her father receive a biopsy to find out what was going on with the recurring fluid in his lungs. On June 2, 2009, they received the diagnosis – epithelioid pleural mesothelioma. By the time he was diagnosed, he was already in stage 4. Despite trying chemotherapy, he passed away by August 15.

“The system failed my father,” Mary says. “There was just no sense of urgency.”

A Navy veteran, her Dad was being treated at the VA medical center for an atrial fibrillation, and had been on coumadin for a few years. When he began having his bouts of pneumonia, the doctors at the VA called for an MRI / PET scan, and his May 12george elo with family1 300x264 Mesothelioma Awareness Day holds special meaning for Texas family test records indicated a suspicion for mesothelioma. But her parents couldn’t read the paperwork, and the primary care physicians somehow missed the notation, Mary says. He had several thoracenteses, yet never had a diagnosis for mesothelioma until Mary insisted on a biopsy nearly a month later after reading about online.

“I was the internet MD at this point,” she says. “It drove my father crazy,” she recalls. By the time he was diagnosed, her Dad, who was 6’1”, weighed only 132 pounds.

Despite the advanced state of his mesothelioma and the toll it had already taken on his body, Mary says her dad immediately began talking to the doctors about treatment options. “He went through this whole process wanting to fight it,” she says. “He did not give up until the very end, and was willing to do anything necessary. He was definitely a warrior.”

Even while his illness sapped his strength and breath, and his chemotherapy caused him physical pain, he barely let it show, Mary says. He was still the rock of the family, looking after his wife of 55 years, Betty, along with his five kids, Mary and her sisters Lisa, Linda and Midge, and their brother Billy; as well as 8 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, all of whom live in Texas, spread out in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.

“He put a strong face on it, even though he was struggling to breathe every day,” Mary says.

Now, the family is working to raise awareness, hoping to help other families make the diagnosis earlier, and to prevent exposure to in the first place.

“It seems like after we found out about my Dad’s diagnosis, we heard more about mesothelioma. I was watching the news after my father’s diagnosis and they were talking about Libby, Montana. Speaking to two of my friends, I found that their fathers had died from meso, and one girl’s grandmother died of mesothelioma. A contractor right here in our building, his mother is living with meso and his father passed away as a result of meso. It seems like it’s all around me.”

Mary and her family are working on awareness efforts in their cities. Mary got Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell to sign a petition declaring Mesothelioma Awareness Day in the city, george elo with family 2 300x172 Mesothelioma Awareness Day holds special meaning for Texas familyand she is working with Texas State Senator Mario Gallegos, Jr., whose father also died of mesothelioma, to create a proclamation in her father’s honor. Her goal is to get a permanent designation for Mesothelioma Awareness Day in the state of Texas.

Additionally, Mary is working with her local running clubs to establish a “Miles for Meso” event similar to the one that is taking place in Alton, Illinois, on Sept. 26 this year. She hopes to have that established and hold the inaugural race in time to celebrate Meso Awareness Day – and her Dad’s birthday – in 2010.

Meso widow donates $3000 for walking trail in memory of her husband

31 Aug 2009 by under News, People

It seems that I am surrounded by stories of strong women who are enduring the loss of their husbands as a result of . In the middle of last week, I had lunch with my friend Cheryl Cotton, in Anniston, Ala., who lost her dear husband, Virgil, to three years ago. She and I met at the Meso Symposium in Washington, D.C., in June and have been corresponding by email ever since, but it was a treat to get to visit her in person. I’ll be featuring her story on this site in September, during the week leading up to Awareness Day, on Sept. 26.

I was also contacted by a woman in Texas, who hoped that I could put her in touch with another woman who had lost her husband to mesothelioma. Her anniversary was approaching, and she needed to reach out to someone who would understand. Of course Cheryl willingly contacted her to lend an ear.

Then, on Friday I posted a story about a photographer in Australia, Chris Ireland, who has created an exhibition of stunning images of mesothelioma widows, called Breathe. The fourteen portraits capture the sadness and strength of these suffering ladies, and also hope to capture a bit of the men they loved. Ireland spent two years on the project, becoming closely acquainted with each of the ladies he photographed. I contacted Chris and was delighted to learn that he does have plans to bring the exhibit to the UK and to the U.S. in the coming months, and I hope that myMeso can be a part of that. I will keep you posted.

Next, I came across a story in the Morgan County Herald, a community newspaper based in McConnelsville, , which featured the story of Karen Huffman, who recently donated $3,000 to her area Kiwanis-Jaycees for the construction of a new walking trail at the community park in Malta in honor of her late husband, Danny, who passed away from mesothelioma on July 31, 2006, just four months after his diagnosis.

According to the report in the Herald, Mrs. Huffman says her husband most enjoyed his daily walks, not just for exercise, but as his quiet time to commune with God. She said he walked two or three miles each day except Sunday. It was during one of these walks that he became breathless, and unable to make it back to his home. At that point, she says, he couldn’t deny something was terribly wrong.

“Danny would have been the first walker on that trail,” the Herald quotes Mrs. Huffman as saying about the new park.

I wonder, as I read this latest news, why it seems there are so many stories of this kind around me now. Have they always been there, but my work with mesothelioma has made them more visible to me? I hope that it means that there is more awareness in the United States, and around the world, of mesothelioma, and the dangers of the asbestos that causes it.

I hope, somehow, that this site can make connections or provide the news that will bring some sort of ease, or at least a sense of community, of not being alone. It is a terrible sisterhood these women share. But perhaps just knowing there is someone else who understands will bring a small measure of comfort.

Please let us know about your mesothelioma events!

28 May 2009 by under Events

I’ve posted about several mesothelioma fund-raising and awareness events during the past month, happening in places like , New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. Activities have ranged from bike rides to walks and even a bowl-a-thon. Proceeds from these events have gone toward mesothelioma research, through the (MARF), or will benefit an individual, like Shanna Kurtz, in her personal battle against mesothelioma.

Today I heard from two people who are looking for ways to help raise awareness of mesothelioma and funds for research. One lives in California and the other in New York. If you know of any events in these areas in the coming weeks, please email us at myMeso – you can just click that green “Contact Us!” button on the home page, or you can email me directly at

Also, if you send us information about an event, please include information about where the proceeds will go (either to an individual or an organization) and let us know how people can donate even if they cannot attend the event. Many people in the meso community will still want to help, even if they aren’t able to travel to your area to participate.

I look forward to helping you get the word out about your mesothelioma awareness event!

Cooking for the Cure benefits mesothelioma patient

22 May 2009 by under Events, People, Research/Treatment

shanna kurtz 21 100x100 Cooking for the Cure benefits mesothelioma patientLast week I shared the story of Shanna Kurtz, a 30-year-old woman in Texas who was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1999. She is battling the disease, and recently underwent a surgery to remove some tumors from her abdomen and her liver. She was in the hospital in Washington, DC, for more than a month before finally returning home on May 7.

Shortly after her return, abdominal pain sent her back to the hospital. She was good enough to email me to let me know she had suffered from a condition called illeus, which is when the intestines become paralyzed. She stayed in the hospital in Texas for a few days until finally coming home again on May 13. She said she’s focusing on getting stronger and gaining weight, but is frustrated by the  setback after all her hard work to recover from her surgery.

You can check in on Shanna’s progress by reading her journal on the CaringBridge web site and email her some encouraging words at I know she’d really appreciate hearing from some folks in the community!

There was a in her honor last weekend, and there’s an ongoing effort in Texas called “Cooking for the Cure” to help raise money for Shanna’s treatments.  Cheri Travis, who is one of the organizers of Cooking for the Cure, reports Shanna is scheduled for another surgery in August, so fund raising efforts continue.

Cooking for a Cure was started by Cheri and two other friends who like cooking, and wanted to use their interests and talents in the kitchen to raise money for Shanna. They gather at one person’s house and prepare food, which they distribute in exchange for donations.

“It’s really spread by word of mouth of people who buy our food,” Cheri explained in an email to me. “Plus, we have fun doing it and helping raise funds for our friend.”

The group is based near Victoria, Texas, so if you live in that area, check out this unique project!

Cheri said there also is another fund raising benefit in Shanna’s honor planned for September 18 in Victoria. I’ll let you know the details when I have them.

In the meantime, if you live near Victoria and would like to purchase food from Cooking for the Cure, you can email Cheri at

Or, if you would still like to make a donation to help with Shanna’s treatment, you can send it to:

Cooking for the Cure
17114 Eagle Hollow Drive
San Antonio, TX 78248

Weekend benefit for Texas girl fighting peritoneal mesothelioma

14 May 2009 by under Events, News, People

shanna kurtz 100x100 Weekend benefit for Texas girl fighting peritoneal mesotheliomaToday I came across the story of a courageous young woman in Texas who is battling peritoneal mesothelioma, an extremely rare form of the cancer that affects the lining of the abdomen. More common is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs.

was diagnosed in 1999, at age 20, after suffering from several years of unexplained abdominal pain. Doctors who originally suspected a fibrosis tumor discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor in her abdomen, which was diagnosed as peritoneal mesothelioma.

Shanna’s journal on documents her experiences through the last several years as she has fought to keep this cancer at bay. It is heartbreaking to read about someone so young who has to face this experience. In one journal entry from October 2008, she reflects on how it feels when people tell her how strong she is, when she doesn’t have any other choice. She states frankly that she is jealous of people who have the option to choose what they will do with their lives, and reflects on so many doors that are closed to her.

Despite the inevitable depression, Shanna is remarkable. Upon her diagnosis told her only about 20 percent of patients survive beyond a couple of years. Determined to be in that 20 percent, she is beating the odds.

Most recently, Shanna’s journal chronicles a surgery on March 26 in Washington, DC, at the Center for Surgical Oncology at the Washington Cancer Institute, Washington Hospital Center.  Dr. Paul Sugarbaker removed a number of tumors, including one that had covered part of her liver. Following the surgery, the doctor filled her abdomen with chemotherapy medication in a process called postoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy. The solution comes into contact with areas the tumor has touched, in an effort to erradicate those cells and prevent recurrance.

Shanna was in the hospital for a little over a month, finally returning home to Cuero, Texas, on May 7.

This weekend, there will be a benefit in her honor, to help offset the medical expenses of the surgery. The event will feature a bike ride and barbecue. The bike ride will leave from Grace Lutheran Church in Victoria, Texas, on Saturday, May 16, at 2 p.m., and will be followed by an evening of dancing, an auction, food and music, which will start around 4 p.m. at Lindenau Dance Hall, which is about 33 miles from Victoria. Cost to participate is $30.

If you are in the area, please attend this event!

In addition to the weekend event, there is an ongoing project called “Cooking for the Cure,” in which three friends prepare food in exchange for a donation to help Shanna. In its first month, the project raised more than $1,100.

For more information about Cooking for the Cure or the Shanna Kurtz Benefit Barbecue, or to make a donation to help Shanna, contact Cheri Travis at

$20 million verdict for Meso victim

12 Mar 2008 by under Legal, News

Mesothelioma Victim Wins $20 Million in Asbestos Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO –(BusinessWire)—A Dallas, Texas-based law firm today announced a $20 million civil verdict in an asbestos lawsuit on behalf of Joan Mahoney, 69-year-old victim of mesothelioma, a painful and debilitating form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, and Daniel Mahoney, her husband of 42 years. The jury attributed 30 percent of the $20 million liability to defendant Pacific Corp.

Attorneys represented Joan and Daniel Mahoney before Judge Thomas Mellon in San Francisco County Superior Court.

Mrs. Mahoney, a San Francisco native, spent much of her career in real estate and show business. Her singing career spanned 30 years and took her around the world seven times on USO tours. But it was her work in the part-time family construction business that exposed Mrs. Mahoney to Georgia Pacific’s asbestos-containing joint compound, the suit established. Together, Mrs. Mahoney and her husband, who was also a math teacher, built and remodeled over 200 houses in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The evidence at trial showed that Georgia Pacific knew from the moment it entered the asbestos business that asbestos exposure causes disease. Years before the Mahoneys first used Georgia Pacific’s asbestos-containing joint compound, Georgia Pacific knew that its product posed a substantial risk to workers.

Not until the government banned certain uses of asbestos in 1977, after the Consumer Product Safety Commission said that exposure to asbestos-containing joint compound for as little as six hours a day, four times per year could result in thousands of people developing cancer, did Georgia Pacific stop selling asbestos containing joint compound.

The damage caused by asbestos exposure can take decades to surface. Mrs. Mahoney was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2006—35 years after her first exposure to Georgia Pacific’s product. She continues to fight the painful disease that experts say will cause great suffering and eventually kill her.

Published March 12, 2008 in BusinessWire.

What is Mesothelioma?

27 Feb 2008 by under


New system for staging lung cancer

15 Feb 2008 by under News, Research/Treatment

As I was browsing some of the online news sites today, I came across an article on that was originally posted Aug. 31, 2007, attributed to The Associated Press. It talks about a new system of classifying tumors in cases that can help more people get access to aggressive therapy who might otherwise have been ruled out, and also to help prevent those who aggressive treatment wouldn’t particularly help avoid the stress of ineffective and physically draining treatment.

The new system was developed by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. I’m putting a link to the group in my blogroll, but it’s mainly full of professional development opportunities for doctors. But if you’re interested, it’s there.

Basically, the old system of “staging” a tumor (based on tumor size, how much it has spread, etc.) was developed from examining about 5,000 tumor samples gathered from the University of Texas , in Houston, DECADES ago. The new plan is based on 100,000 tumor samples from around the world, including Asia (predicted by, particularly Japan, to see increases in cases of Mesothelioma due to the heavy use of asbestos there in the 1970s).

Doctors predict that the expansion of tumors for study and comparison will greatly increase understanding of tumor characteristics and allow them to better identify specific stages of tumor development beyond the four basic groupings (which will remain in place). They estimate that as a result as many as 10,000 patients a year in the United States will be shifted from inoperable to operable classifcations!

Changing some groupings, like creating more sub-stages for tumor size, reclassifying tumors that have spread into the fluid surrounding the lung, recognizing that spread to certain lymph nodes is more dangerous than its spread to others, and additional factors will let patients be classified at an earlier stage, where they can be recommended for more aggressive treatments.

Right now, only about 20 percent of cases are diagnosed in stages 1 or 2.

The article quotes Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who says that staging for lung and other types of cancer should become even more precise in the near future, as biomarkers and gene tests are developed that will even better sort patients.

Expanding the base of study from 5,000 samples limited to the U.S. – and one cancer center in the U.S. – to a base of 100,000 samples that includes international elements has to be good for the future of treatment. Just think how much more doctors can learn, and how much more variety they will be able to access to help them make a more accurate diagnosis!