Mesothelioma Awareness Day at the Today Show

September happens to be one of my favorite times of the year-- not only because the weather is usually picture perfect and the leaves start turning, but every year my mom and I go to New York City for Mesothelioma Awareness Day. This was our 3rd trip and each year we love it more and more. It’s becoming a tradition for my mom and I to arrive a day early, enjoy a nice dinner and get ready for the bright and early wake up time of 4:00 am to get to the plaza of the Today Show by 5:30. We get there so early to secure a good place around the barriers to be seen by the hosts. NYC at 5 in the morning is amazing, it’s actually quiet with the occasional roar of a truck engine in the distance. By the time we are allowed onto the plaza for the taping of the show, there is a line down the block of people wanting to get noticed. All of us who were there for Mesothelioma Awareness Day were dressed in our bright yellow “Cure Meso” t-shirts and grouped together so we would be noticed when the hosts of the show came around. Strength in numbers!

The morning of September 26th is also a reunion when I get to meet up with people I‘ve met through my years volunteering with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the past 2 years in NYC. Its always a time for laughter and reflection. There is the noticeable absence of those we’ve lost to the disease in the last year and those we know are going through treatments and couldn’t make the trip. The seriousness of mesothelioma is not lost on us; the signs that some people had made in memory of their lost loved ones are all we need as a reminder.

Heather and her mom at the Today Show

During a segment of the 9:07 PM Today show, Kathie Lee and Hoda do ambush makeovers on 2 members of the audience. We happened to have one of our own chosen and they could not have chosen a better representative from our group. Marina lost her brother to mesothelioma years ago and her mother Hanne happens to be co-chair of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. Both Marina and Hanne had their bright yellow Cure Meso shirts on during the makeover and that alone got so much coverage. We were thrilled; and not to mention my friend getting a NY style makeover. To top off the morning, Al Roker talked briefly to Rich Mosca, who is also a board member of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, so we were able to let everyone know that September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

What made the day even more exciting for me was what was going on in social media that day. “Dying To Be Heard” is a campaign we started by asking people to donate their Facebook or Twitter status for the day to “Be a Voice for the Victims”. I can’t begin to describe the feeling to look at Twitter and see all of the people posting on behalf of mesothelioma awareness. To top that off, over 100 bloggers helped spread the word for the day, reaching more people than I dreamed we could. What a blessing to know that I have that sort of network that is willing to use their voice to help spread the word about a very unknown disease. I let the feeling of that carry me through a very busy and fun filled day.

Heather with friends for MAD

After the Today show, I did a video interview with a web magazine, which will be online soon! We also went to a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. We ended the day with a dinner with a large group of people who were in town for Mesothelioma Awareness Day and attending the New York Mesothelioma Conference hosted by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation that was scheduled for Friday.

The people who are with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation are some of the most down to earth and passionate people I have ever met. Every single one of them on the board have been affected by mesothelioma, by either having it or knowing a loved one who has had it. It is not just a job, it is a mission. They are truly working their hardest to find a cure and bring about awareness in so many ways. Through supporting fundraisers and funding research grants, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is such a valuable resource for everyone affected by this disease.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day was started in 2004 as a way to get the word about this deadly disease out. This disease is about more than commercials on TV. It’s about real people, innocent people who have been devastated by the effects of what this disease does. Young or old, mesothelioma does not discriminate. Our work together will make a difference and the success of Mesothelioma Awareness Day proves just that.