This week we say farewell to a friend. Larry Davis, father, husband, elite runner, activist, fundraiser and Mesothelioma cancer survivor is now at peace. His six-year struggle with this incurable disease, caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, ended on Monday morning, July 2nd, 2012. There has already been much written about Larry Davis. How could we not. Larry’s fight brought out the best in all of us who were fortunate to have crossed paths with him. We may have met him, heard about him or were moved by his web posts and interviews. Maybe we were impacted by his family, equally strong and active in the cause to ban asbestos and find a cure for the Mesothelioma cancer that has taken his life. Perhaps his efforts to explore reasonable, non-chemo/non-radiation treatment options got our attention. Or maybe it was simply his life-long passion for running and fitness that stoked our fire. As some of you know, I was lucky enough to team with Larry and his daughter Courtney back in 2010 on a special Standing Cyclist bicycle tour to raise awareness for the cause. I symbolically rode standing up without a saddle from Pittsburgh to Washington DC to encourage others to stand up against asbestos and to encourage donations to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation on Larry’s behalf. Although ill and weakened, Larry ran beside me during those last miles as I rolled into DC. It was truly a pleasure and privilege to tribute Larry’s efforts and help raise awareness for an often misunderstood disease. In my travels, I was surprised at how many people had never heard of Mesothelioma or didn’t know that it’s caused by asbestos. Asbestos, a known health hazard for almost a century, has been woven into various products such as building materials, textiles, automotive brakes, adhesives and fire proofing. Many businesses who had manufactured asbestos products failed to educate their employees on the dangers of this known carcinogen. Asbestos exposure has been a common occurrence, in various industrial settings for generations in the USA and abroad. From pipe fitters to shipyard workers to construction laborers - most often, the portion of our population responsible for building our country from the ground up. This cancer hits hard and takes no prisoners. It's not if it will take your life, it’s simply a matter of when. Among the many victims, the notable include actor Steve McQueen, musician Warren Zevon, NFL player and actor Merlin Olsen and US Congressman Bruce Vento. Even more disturbing, spouses and young people can be exposed to these dangerous fibers while working in factories, transferred from clothing, or inhaled during simple home renovations. As the time bomb ticks on, sometimes over 10 to 50 years, the disease sits quiet and slowly spreads until that day you receive a seemingly hopeless prognosis. My own late father welded boilers in NYC for over 20 years. For all we know, he could have been exposed 40 years back…along with my mother and me… The saddest part of this story is that it could all have been avoided and still can be. There is still not a 100% ban on the manufacturing and use of asbestos in the United States and the rest of the world. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. This fight remained one of Larry’s greatest until the time of his death earlier this week. If Larry was here today, I believe he would continue to tell his story and the story of other Meso victims. He would ask you to contact your local and federal government representatives. He would ask you to raise funds for Meso education, family support services, non-chemo treatment options and for a cure. He would not want others to suffer as he and his family have. We live in “busy” times with big responsibilities and economic uncertainty. I know it’s easy for us to read this and say, it’s very sad and Larry was amazing, but I have so many other concerns. There’s no time and money for a cause I can’t directly connect with. Maybe poisoning ourselves is not enough of a concern. We could almost take that risk and push it out of our heads, but let’s remember that children exposed today may not experience symptoms of this disease for many decades down the road. Let’s consider how our decision to disengage today may adversely affect them, tomorrow. Larry Davis remains a personal hero of mine and continues to inspire me to engage and make a difference in whatever way that I can. Thank you Larry for your strength, your voice, and your willingness to step out on a limb and buck the system. A system that, for various reasons, has failed us in this area and inevitably cost you and many others their lives. Rest easy Larry. Now it’s our turn to stand up and continue to make a difference.
For more information on how you can stand up and take action, while honoring Larry’s efforts, please visit:
- Study identifies new target in treating mesothelioma (medicalxpress.com)
- Guest post: Eating vegetarian (vegetarianandveganfrance.com)
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma and Receiving Social Security Disability (socialsecurityhome.com)
- Mesothelioma Survival May Hinge on Three Factors, According to Surviving Mesothelioma (prweb.com)
- Mesothelioma Victims Center Now Urges Mesothelioma Victims to Use Their Victims Initiative to Ensure They Get the Names of the Best Mesothelioma Attorneys (prweb.com)