Cam and Heather at the 2013 ADAO Conference

Cameron

This is the third time I have attended ADAO’s Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference. I still remember how I instantly felt like family when I attended my first conference in Atlanta, GA in April 2011. I found myself at home with others whose lives had been affected by mesothelioma and asbestos. It was wonderful sharing my experiences with others and hearing their stories as well.

This year the conference was held in Washington D.C. The theme was “The Asbestos Crisis: New Trends in Prevention and Treatment”. There were sessions on medical advancements, patients and caregivers, and prevention and advocacy. But for me, the conference is about so much more. Yes, I love to learn about new medical advances in the treatment of mesothelioma. It gives hope for all those who have been or will be diagnosed with mesothelioma. For me, the conference is about connections and people.

I love spending time sharing stories with others and making new friends. My wife has referred to this and other similar conferences as “cancer camp.” This is not intended as an insult, but a compliment. A way to say these are as exciting as going off to summer camp as a kid and getting to do all those cool fun things, but it’s for adults and centered around mesothelioma and asbestos. And the friends you make become friends for life!

This year, there were attendees from seven different nations. I found opportunities to connect with kindred spirits from across the globe. People who have had similar experiences and could relate to what my wife and I have been through since her mesothelioma diagnosis in 2005. I can see now why my wife calls it “cancer camp”.

Prevention Panel at the 2013 ADAO Conference

Heather

Where else can you sit in a room and have 7 countries represented and all be working for the same cause: asbestos awareness, education and disease prevention?

ADAO was started by Linda Reinstein and Doug Larkin after their lives were altered due to this deadly fiber. Since then, Linda and Doug have led the tireless effort to ban asbestos and, through her work, she has gained a truly global reputation as a warrior for us, the people affected by asbestos.

The conference was a gathering of industry experts, medical experts, Union members, government workers, and people whose lives have been touched by asbestos disease in one way or another.

We heard about the outrage of the countries still producing and using asbestos and the shameful fact that our country is still legally importing 100 million tons of asbestos yearly. The more I learn about asbestos and where its being used with little or no regulation, the more my stomach turns. The ADAO is a leading voice in this cause and has supporters from all over the world joining them-- Italy, France, U.K., and Australia, just to name a few.

With its worldwide outreach, the annual ADAO conference attracts people from the mesothelioma community and recognizes their efforts in awareness and education. My favorite part about the conference is meeting the warriors. Last year, I was lucky enough to meet Debbie Brewer from England. This year, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Lou Williams from Australia. This was such a bonus and such an amazing experience; I’m still on cloud nine. Karen Banton and the entire crew from Australia and the Bernie Banton Foundation was on hand to receive the Tribute of Inspiration award for Karen’s untiring efforts to protect workers rights and seek justice for asbestos workers and their families. My heart is so full of love and admiration for these people and their mission. It strengthens my resolve to continue my work here in the U.S. to bring about awareness.

Linda had contacted me a few months ago and asked me if I would share a little about my awareness efforts. I, along with my friend Jill Cagle, who lost her husband Robbie to meso in 2011, told of our fundraising efforts and how our lives have been forever changed because of asbestos. I shared this blog, our Lungleavin Day celebration, and all of the outreach we are doing. It was wonderful to be able to present to Linda and Doug our check for $3000, money that was raised through our Lungleavin Day celebration, and through the generous donations of our friends and family.

At the conference, reconnecting with friendships made in years past and forging new relationships are the things that I always hold dear. I’m so thankful for places like Facebook and the groups on there where these friendships can continue, no matter the miles or oceans between us. I consider myself so blessed to know so many mesothelioma warriors from all over the world working toward a common goal.

The chance meeting 4 years ago with this powerhouse woman named Linda Reinstein is what gave me the courage to speak up and gave me my voice. She inspires me with her passion, her loyalty and her love of this community, and I am proud to be part of the ADAO.

Thank you Linda, for letting so many of us share our story and for giving a voice to the asbestos victims worldwide.