Posted on April 26, 2019
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Forgie, founder of the Mother’s Day Meso Run. In this interview, Julia shared her experience about her mother’s mesothelioma diagnosis and the experiences that come alongside it. She is a powerful and dedicated daughter who is making change happen, one step at a time. ~ Linda
Linda: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Julia. Please, share a bit about yourself.
Julia: Thank you so much for speaking with me and for the work that you do to eliminate asbestos exposure. I’m from Santa Barbara originally, but have come to love LA over the four years I’ve lived here. I am an environmental attorney by training and focus mostly on climate change in my day job. When I’m not working, I am outdoors as much as possible, running, playing ultimate Frisbee, hiking, or just exploring. I’ve always been a tree hugger at heart, but hadn’t really engaged with the risks of asbestos until my mom’s diagnosis.
Linda: I understand that your mother, Patty, was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. If I may ask, what was that experience like for you all?
Julia: My mom’s diagnosis in 2016 came as a shock to all of us. She was an incredible athlete and adventurer. She had recently climbed Kilimanjaro, backpacked into Machu Picchu, trekked in Nepal, and obtained her SCUBA certification. She also loved to run and instilled in my sister and me a love of nature and the outdoors. It was hard to believe someone like that could be so sick. We also knew next to nothing about mesothelioma when my mom was diagnosed. That necessarily changed quickly, as we started researching as much as possible to find the latest treatments and top doctors. Because mesothelioma, and particularly peritoneal mesothelioma, is so rare, there are few surgeons who specialize in treating this disease. After multiple rounds of chemotherapy, my mom had surgery in Pittsburgh. That was a harrowing experience, to say the least. Although we thought the surgery had left her cancer free, we found out just a few months later that it had returned and spread to her lungs. Although she did more chemotherapy and even tried immunotherapy, her health declined precipitously. My dad, my sister, and I said goodbye to her on May 4, 2017, a week before Mother’s Day. Since then, we have been learning to live without her daily wisdom and joyful presence.
Linda: How did you come to the decision to start Mother’s Day Meso Run last year?
Julia: I wanted to honor my mom and to increase awareness about mesothelioma. I also wanted to help support other families who would go through similar ordeals. Throughout my mom’s illness, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation helped us navigate various treatments and doctors. So I wanted to create an organization that could help organizations like the Meso Foundation continue to support patients into the future. Given my mom’s outdoorsy interests and her love of nature, a run/walk on trails in a park sounded like a perfect way to start.
Once I started organizing the inaugural run/walk, I was blown away by support from friends and family, Santa Barbara businesses that had known my mom, and also local businesses near me. Through their generosity, we raised over $13,000 last year for mesothelioma research. And our 115 runners and walkers enjoyed delicious croissants from my mom’s favorite bakery as well as amazing prizes like free shoes and gift cards.
Linda: What do you hope to accomplish with your event this year?
Julia: This year I hope to reach more people via the Mother’s Day Weekend Meso Run and to expand the event’s educational components. Specifically, I would like to incorporate more information about asbestos exposure and the treatments available and on the horizon for mesothelioma. Beyond that, I hope to reestablish and build on the positive energy and community we created last year to get more people engaging with these issues. The more people know, the more quickly we will see lasting solutions that reduce exposure to asbestos and improve prognoses for those diagnosed with Mesothelioma. Lastly, this event is supposed to be a celebration of good health and loved ones lost. This year, some participants are running in memory or honor of others. So I want to do more to honor their memories.
Linda: What do you think more people should know about asbestos?
Julia: Asbestos is present in so many places. Just because your job doesn’t bring you into direct and repeated contact with asbestos fibers, that does not protect you from exposure that could lead to mesothelioma or other deadly conditions. When I was looking to rent an apartment a few years ago, many of the places I visited had the tell-tale cottage cheese ceilings. While I knew that, if left undisturbed, any asbestos in those ceilings would be harmless, I did not want to take the risk that some event would leave the ceiling exposed. It’s disappointing that although the risks of asbestos exposure have been known for so long, it is still present in so many homes.
Linda: How can the ADAO community support the 2019 Mother’s Day Weekend Meso Run?
Julia: I’d love to get more people out to the run/walk on May 11 at 9:30! Since there will be a lot of participants who may know little about mesothelioma and asbestos, it would be great to have the ADAO community there to help spread awareness. I am pleased to include ADAO’s logo and educational information in our race materials too. From the home to the workplace, racers need prevention information. And of course, the more participants, the more energized the community becomes. Also, if folks aren’t up for running or walking, I’d love to have more volunteers. Griffith Park’s Old Zoo is a fantastic place to spend a Saturday morning. Finally, I would be grateful for help spreading the word about the event! You can register to run or walk or volunteer on our race website: www.mothersdaymesorun.org. And if you use promo code: ADAO, you’ll get $5 off registration. See you out there on the trails!
Cheers to Julia for raising asbestos awareness and funds to support mesothelioma patients.