Mary Hesdorffer

Mary Hesdorffer is a nurse practitioner working with The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. She oversees the various support groups that MARF has to offer for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, their family members, and people who have lost a loved one to this deadly disease. She can be reached at

The following is a discussion she and I had over the phone last week.


DH: What are some of the most common questions that individuals facing a mesothelioma diagnosis ask in support groups?


  1. The patient usually will ask if they are undergoing or about to start the appropriate treatment.
  2. Patients will often ask if the doctor that they are seeing, or are planning on seeing, is a specialist familiar with their specific diagnosis
  3. Patients often ask if the treatment they are receiving fails are there other options for treatment that may work.

DH: In What Ways can we support the work that you are doing in hopes that more and more people receive the services and support they need?

MH: Become and advocate for support groups and help encourage people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families to seek out a support group.

DH: Support Groups contain a lot of value to people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. What have you found to be valuable for a patient who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma in a support group?

MH: The most valuable thing is to hear information from both the practitioner and the patient’s perspective. Learning information and techniques from people who are going through mesothelioma or have already gone through mesothelioma is extremely valuable because they can let each other know of what has worked when trying to cope with treatment symptoms and also give a timeline on what to expect 3 months after surgery, 6 months after, etc.

DH: How Beneficial do you think support groups are not only for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, but also family members of those that have been diagnosed with cancer and people who have lost a loved one to cancer?

Support Group

MH: They are extremely beneficial to all who attend. It gives everyone a sense of camaraderie and empowerment that they can fight the disease with the help of others and gets rid of the lonely feelings that makes people think they are in the fight alone. Also, loved ones gain knowledge and information on how to best give care and support to the person that they are close to who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. This sense of community and knowledge is invaluable in the fight against cancer.


Mary has asked me to relay that she has now added a support group for young adults who have experienced loss and also does one-on-one support for those who do not wish to be a part of a group. Groups are also password protected for privacy. Mary’s office phone goes directly to her cell so people can reach her 7 days a week.

I’d like to thank Mary for her time and help.

    Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner
    Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
    1317 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 879-3820
    (877) 363-6376 (toll free)
    (703) 299-0399(fax)

For more information please visit Also, please contact Mary directly if you would like to participate in one of the Support Groups. Group calls are password protected to help maintain privacy among the members. You will receive the conference call number and passcode prior to the call. Please contact MARF for specific meeting times.