January 30, 2012 – Stop Mesothelioma names Erica Iacono and Janice Malkotsis Advocates of the Month for January 2012 for organizing the annual 5K Walk/Run for Hope, an event that raises money for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF).NEW YORK, New York, January 30, 2012 – On Sunday, April 15th, 2012, in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Long Island, hundreds of people are expected to gather for the 7th Annual 5K Walk/Run for Hope, an event that raises money for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a non-profit organization that funds research for treatment and – hopefully, one day – a cure for mesothelioma. Behind the event are two courageous women, Erica Iacono and Janice Malkotsis, who are trying to turn their family tragedies into a positive future for those who suffer from mesothelioma. For their tireless advocacy and extraordinary compassion, they are Stop Mesothelioma’s Advocates of the Month for January 2012.

In March 2000, after several years of misdiagnosis, Anthony Iacono, Erica’s father, was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The diagnosis was devastating to Erica and her family, but also puzzling. A career schoolteacher in New York City, Anthony’s exposure to asbestos was not as apparent as those in construction or plumbing, though he had often worked on home repairs and even had a side job installing burglar alarms. Because the disease was already well into the symptomatic phase, his treatment options were limited and his health deteriorated quickly. Ultimately, his doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital determined that the only course of action was pain management. He died at home on April 29, 2000 – just seven weeks after his diagnosis – surrounded by his wife and three young daughters. Following his death, Erica, the oldest, searched for some solace and found MARF. She began working with the organization as a volunteer, which was a modest first step toward what would be a much deeper and more dynamic role in servicing individuals affected by mesothelioma.

Janice’s involvement with MARF also began with the loss of her father. In 2003, Joseph Lombardo was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. Having been in the glass, mirror, and construction business for all of his adult life, he had unwittingly inhaled the poisonous fibers of asbestos-laden products for just as long. Typical of his strong, unwavering character, he chose to forgo the traditional treatment (radiation and chemotherapy) and instead went the naturopathic way – overhauling his diet and becoming vegan, while increasing his intake of vitamins. Unfortunately, the strength and persistence of the disease were too overwhelming, and eventually, it progressed to a point of no return. He died on March 19, 2005, at the age of 69. Stricken by this loss, Janice found empathy and comfort in the MARF community, where she met Erica. The two women connected over their harrowing mutual experience, and through this unique bond the idea of the 5K Walk/Run for Hope began to take shape.

The first 5K Walk/Run for Hope was held on April 23, 2006, in Eisenhower Park and had its own set of challenges: a severe rainstorm and veritable monsoon. Though Erica and Janice were worried that no one would show up, in a true demonstration of people’s determination to help a good cause, hundreds of people turned out and huddled under umbrellas and ponchos, raising more than $20,000 for the Meso Foundation.

Since that first year, the 5K Walk/Run for Hope has been an annual event, and increases in attendance each year, drawing participants from the New York area and beyond. With each year that passes, Erica and Janice become even more dedicated to the cause of mesothelioma research. With the help of Facebook and online donation tools, they are confident that this year’s event will be the biggest yet in terms of participation and money raised for the cause that is so close to both of their hearts.

Levy Konigsberg LLP (LK) is a proud supporter of Erica and Janice, and the 5K Walk/Run for Hope. LK partner and mesothelioma attorney Jerome H. Block, who learned about the run through MARF and has participated in the race, greatly admires the efforts of Erica and Janice: “For these two women to have channeled their grief from losing their fathers into an annual fundraiser that will help other families affected by mesothelioma shows extraordinary strength and commitment to finding a cure for this disease in a way that honors the lives of their fathers.”

LK is a law firm that has helped families affected by mesothelioma for more than 25 years. LK is the creator and sponsor of Stop Mesothelioma and is also a Diamond-Level supporter of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. For more information, please call LK at 1-800-637-6529.

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