Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mountain Climber Who Survived Two Disasters on Mount Everest Succumbs to Mesothelioma at Age 56

Lincoln Hall, a world renowned mountain climber, adventurer, author and philanthropist lost his battle with malignant mesothelioma last Tuesday, March 20, 2012. He was 56. Lincoln developed the rare disease from exposure to asbestos as a child when he and his dad built cubby houses using asbestos cement flat sheet.

In 1984, Mr. Hall was part of the first Australian expedition to ascend Everest as it traced a new path for climbers not carrying oxygen. The expedition survived an avalanche, and two of his companions achieved the summit, but Lincoln did not, turning back a few hours short of the top when it became clear that to continue would have put him in grave physical danger.

In 2006 Lincoln did reach the summit, but collapsed from altitude sickness and was believed to have died, his companions in a Russian-led expedition were forced to leave him on the mountain. The following morning a group of climbers found him alive and were able to help him down to rescue and safety.

Lincoln helped found and was also director for the Australian Himalayan Foundation, whose aim is to help impoverished communities and set up schools in the Himalayas. He was committed to that work until his death.

Lincoln is survived by his wife Barbara and their two sons Dylan and Dorje. Friends will remember him for his intellect and his determination.

As a mountain climber who had summited the world's tallest peaks without supplemental oxygen, Lincoln clearly possessed an extraordinary level of cardiovascular fitness. Lincoln's story reminds us that, without much-needed advancements treatment and prevention strategies, no one is immune from the ravages of asbestos-related disease.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Michael Johnson Repudiates Suffering, Dedicates Redlands Criterium to Dad and Meso Patients

REDLANDS, CA. Michael Johnson thought he knew a few things about suffering.  As a former professional motocrosser and cyclist, he knew first hand what it felt like to push the body so hard that the mind nearly shut down in a dizzying fog of immeasurable pain.
The Spirit is Strong
Michael Johnson kisses his
Dad's dog tags as he
wins the Redlands Criterium
in epic fashion.  "When I
came out of the corners,
the dog tags would jingle
jangle against my jersey,
reminding me to push harder."

And then Michael’s Dad, John Johnson, died from malignant mesothelioma. MJ watched as his Dad went from a robust and wiry mountain biker to a cancer patient curled up in a lounge chair desperately struggling to breathe, like a fish out of water.  MJ learned about a new kind of suffering, the stupid kind, the kind that takes but doesn't give, and begets only more misery.

After mesothelioma took his Dad, MJ didn’t feel normal. Normally, he loved to race his bike. He loved the training, the intervals, the climbing, the sprinting, the prospect of a personal best or, better yet, the exhilaration of beating the best in the peloton. For seven weeks, MJ couldn't muster the energy to get back on his bike.

On Saturday, MJ returned to the field of battle.  Wearing his “Breakaway from Cancer” kit, in a tough pro race, he had made the breakaway, and his chances for winning looked very good. But bad luck struck. He flatted. Game over.  Dejected, but not defeated, he suited up the next day for one of the grittiest criteriums in the country at the Redlands Classic.

“No excuses,” he kept repeating, mantra like, as MJ lined up under forboding grey skies for the start of a technical, 50 minute criterium in downtown Redlands. Fittingly, the greatest criterium rider in U.S. cycling history, Davis Phinney, gave a send-off speech in which he celebrated the primal joys of watching his son carry the family torch.  Davis has progressive Parkinson’s disease. His son, Tyler, is one of the fastest time trialists in the world with a very bright future.

The gun went off.  The pack bolted.  The winds picked up as the skies grew darker. A storm was coming. Ten minutes into the race, bad luck again struck MJ. He broke a spoke on his front wheel. Frustrated, but determined, MJ pulled into the pit and grabbed a new wheel. When he re-entered the race, MJ’s focus took on an all new intensity.

“I wasn’t racing for myself,” he recalls. “I was racing for my Dad. What I’d normally call ‘pain’ – the fatigued legs, the gasping lungs – were no longer painful. They were simply a reminder that I was going for it, pushing myself, going bigger.”

MJ attacked. Against all odds. One man against 90. By his own accounts, not a textbook move. “I still had 40 minutes to go,” said MJ. “Normally it would make no sense. But today was different. I went into that sort of out of body ‘zone’ that people dream about. ”

Zone indeed. MJ pounded off the front, pedaling through each sharp turn, stomping out of the saddle to regain speed, carefully monitoring his gap on the hard charging field. With five laps to go, the crowd of 3,500 was on it’s feet, sensing that this move was no fluke. It wasn’t for show, or fleeting glory. This was real.

“I kept asking for strength. Asking myself. The skies above. The crowd. Even the trees.,” MJ revealed, in a whisper. “There’s a spirit out there. I know my Dad’s apart of that, and I was tapping into it, like I never have before, and may never again.”

The spirit moved him and kept MJ in full gallop all the way to the line. He crossed the finish line, raised his fist, and kissed his Dad’s dogtags that had been dangling from his neck.  Twenty seconds later, the peloton sputtered in, spent, as the skies opened up and the gutters filled with rain.

MJ had pulled off the unthinkable – against the odds, if not better judgment, he attacked, opened a gap, and held it for more than half the race against a field of raging chasers to whom both “gifts” and “giving up” were sacrilegious.

But was MJ “alone?”  “It was a solo V,” the powerfully built former fullback said, carefully choosing his wordw, as if entering unchartered territory. “But I wasn’t alone. My Dad was with me. My family was with me. My Mom, who had always come to my races with Dad. All cancer survivors were with me. Heck, your brother [David Worthington] was on the corner giving me splits and cheering for me. Your Dad was with me, too.” 

Michael “MJ” Johnson dedicated the win to his Dad, all mesothelioma survivors, and their families. MJ is sponsored by Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer  initiative and the Pacific Meso Center, a non-profit medical foundation whose mission is to create new therapies that will convert meso into a chronic but not fatal disease.

Roger Worthington
Breakaway from Cancer

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brett Clare Powers Break Away to Victory: “Love ya Dad!”

Murietta, CA.  Brett Clare works hard, trains hard, and plays hard.  But when it comes to cancer survivors, he's understandably got a soft spot.

“I’m dedicating this win to my Dad,” Brett beamed, moments after winning the Tour of Murietta Criterium. “I know it sounds cliché but I wish my Dad could’ve been here to see it.”

Brett races for Breakaway from Cancer, the masters bicycling team co-sponsored by the Pacific Meso Center, a non-profit dedicated to converting fatal asbestos-caused lung cancer into a chronic and survivable diseases.  Breakaway from Cancer is an initiative of the biotech giant Amgen, Inc., which applauds PMC's clinical interest in immunotherapy. Three members of the BFC team have lost their Dads to asbestos cancer.

Brett’s Dad, Gene Otto Clare, a former US Marine and journeyman ironworker , passed away from asbestos lung cancer in 1995. “Dad died almost 17 years ago to the day,” said Brett, who speaks of his Dad as if he was still very much alive. “He took care of himself. He was an Eagle Scout. He played football. Enjoyed sports of all kinds. If it wasn't for working around asbestos for 30 years, he’d be alive today.”

This is Brett’s first year on the BfC team. “When the team offered me a spot,” said Brett, “I jumped on it. I’ve seen what cancer can do to even the strongest among us. I’ve always wanted to be part of the solution to this cruel disease.  Racing bikes has been fun, but I’ve never had an emotional connection to a sponsor like I have for Breakaway from Cancer and the Pacific Meso Center. I believe in what they do and it helps motivate me to go a little bit harder.”

Going hard is Brett’s trademark.  In the criterium, after his teammate and former Olympian Thurlow Rogers shattered the 100 man field after setting a blistering pace, Brett attacked with two other adversaries. The threesome stayed away despite a relentless chase by the field.

“Some days you just know you’ve got that little something special,” said Brett. “My legs felt strong, my lungs were relaxed, and I had this sort of zen tranquility as I approached the final turn at warp speed.  I felt lucky. Lucky to have the chance to race for cancer survivors… and my Dad...and win."

Luck, skill, dedication and teamwork all came together for Breakaway from Cancer, as the team dominated the three day stage race. Thurlow Rogers won the overall, while Brett took second, and teammate Steve Strickler scratched and clawed himself to  fourth place.  Well done Gents!

Roger Worthington

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Make Your Mark For Meso" - March 11, 2012

Rosemarie Ganoe already knows a thing or two about pulling together as a community for a worthy cause. Last year she was honored as a “Person of Distinction” by the Los Angeles Daily Breeze newspaper, receiving the female volunteer honor for her contributions to various fundraising committees and events. 
Rosemarie and Mark

This Sunday Rosemarie will be at it again when she hosts the first annual “Make Your Mark for Mesothelioma” fundraiser in honor of her beloved husband Mark, who passed away from mesothelioma almost exactly a year ago.

Rosemarie has organized a fabulous “Casino Night” of Roulette, Black Jack, great food and wine, entertainment, silent auction and raffle prizes.  All proceeds will benefit The Pacific Meso Center, an organization committed to finding innovative medical solutions for mesothelioma patients.

According to Clare Cameron, PMC’s executive director, “Rosemarie is the best negotiator I’ve ever seen. She has almost singlehandedly secured donations of services and prizes from countless individuals and businesses and in the process exceeded any preconceived expectations on how much they were willing to give. Her business acumen, prominence in the community, and infectious desire to help have given her church, clients, friends, family and community an exceptional opportunity to support her when she needs them most.”

According to Rosemarie, “I feel that no matter what I give to the community or what I volunteer, I could never give them back as much as they've given me. Never." Even tonight, Rosemarie will be joined by her dedicated group of volunteers, consisting of friends and family, to take part in an assembly line of sorts to organize and assemble all of the gift bags and auction and raffle prizes for the event.

Make Your Mark for Mesothelioma will be held at the Dalmatian American Club in San Pedro on Sunday March 11, 2012 from 6-11 pm. The event has completely sold out but if you still want to donate, please contact Clare Cameron at ccameron@phlbi.org or mail your donation to 1379 W Park Western Dr. #301, San Pedro CA 90732.

The Law Office of Roger G. Worthington is moved by Rosemarie’s commitment to mesothelioma research and support for Dr. Cameron’s mission to improve meso patients’ lives. We are donating $10,000 to support Rosemarie and are pleased to be part of the “Make Your Mark for Meso” event in memory of Mark Ganoe.