My oldest son Charlie is thirteen. For his entire life, I have been representing people with mesothelioma. It is hard for any child to understand the work of a parent outside the home. I have also found it difficult to explain to Charlie, and my other children, what mesothelioma is, the community of people that are affected, and why my work means so much to me. So, when my firm decided to commit again to being a sponsor of the Kayaking for Meso (www.kayaking4meso.org), I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity for my son to learn about mesothelioma and about the importance of getting beyond ourselves and giving to others.
The trip required a long drive starting in Friday rush-hour traffic from Brooklyn to a hotel in Clifton Park, NY where we would stay the night so we could get to the 8-mile kayak event starting early Saturday morning on the Hudson River. When went down to the hotel lobby for breakfast the next morning, there were four female mesothelioma survivors, wearing the orange shirts reserved especially for the survivors. One was a dear friend and client of our firm, Bonnie Anderson, who was with her husband John Anderson. I introduced Charlie to all of these wonderful women and I could see him connecting with his first human picture of the people living with this disease. He asked me questions about the women and we talked more about mesothelioma, asbestos, treatments, and the search for a cure. This was a unique chance – away from the IPads, the computer screens, the TVs – to raise awareness with my own son.
Charlie and I had really never kayaked before. I expected it to be easy and was surprised when it wasn’t. Charlie was one of only a handful of kids who participated and it proved to be a physical challenge for him. When things got tough, particularly in the last 3 miles when we paddled through a strong headwind, I reminded Charlie that we needed to fight hard for the people with mesothelioma, so that we could find a cure. I reminded him that several mesothelioma survivors were paddling with us and that those who were not able to paddle were on the pontoon boat behind us and we needed to “dig deep” for them. There were some moments that you would expect- a teenage son getting upset with his father for pushing him past his limits. But there were also the moments of Charlie finishing the race, proud of himself, for what he did – both for himself and for the mesothelioma community.
After eating lunch served by the local firemen, it was time to leave. We had a long drive back to New York City. We congratulated Mark Wells, whose daughter Linda Wells, a mesothelioma survivor, was able to paddle the whole 8 miles this year. Mark did another amazing job in organizing this annual event, which is now in its 6th year.
Kayaking for Meso was successful in fulfilling its mission of raising funds for mesothelioma and awareness of the disease. It was also a success in allowing me to teach my son about mesothelioma, the people that his dad fights for, and the strong community that is committed to a cure.