Posted on August 10, 2014
David Dioguardi has been battling Mesothelioma cancer since September of 2011. Through his inspiring hope and optimism in the face of extreme hardship, he has nicknamed himself the “Superdad” with his family. Today, David heroically tries to instill this same hope and optimism in others through the Mesothelioma Heroes Foundation – a foundation started by him and his family that focuses on asbestos and mesothelioma. On September 20th, they will host the “I Know A Superhero Family Fun Festival” in Chicago, IL. The festival will feature an array of family entertainment including live music, food trucks, raffle, art, competitions, games and of course a superhero costume contest! In January 2013, David and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Click here to read David’s ADAO Share your story – “Finding hope with Mesothelioma.” The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization is so proud of David and their family’s efforts and is honored to present his interview.
Linda: How did you earn your special nickname of SuperDad?
David: I am lucky enough to have raised nine wonderful children consisting of 8 daughters and 1 son. I had the misfortune of losing my 35 year old son to a massive heart attack in 2007, but with the support of my wife, 8 daughters and 1 daughter-in-law, I have been able to handle this tragedy. In September 2011, I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma and was told the disease was going to be fatal, estimating I would only have 4 to 6 months to live.
I have been fighting and dealing with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since 1997. I conferred with my oncologist and he suggested that I contact the Mesothelioma Experts at the University of Chicago. I contacted Dr. Wickii Vigneswaran and Dr. Hedy Kindler. They scheduled me for numerous tests to see if I would physically qualify for an extensive regimen of Surgery, Chemo and Physical Therapy. My family and I were so impressed with this Medical Staff we agreed to treatments immediately upon meeting the medical qualifications. My children were so impressed with my attitude and what I went through being tested and examined to meet the requirements for Surgery that I made a casual remark “wait until I get my cape”. We had scheduled a family photo for prior to the surgery and the day of the photo shoot my daughters produced a “Superman Cape” for me to wear.
On October 31, 2011, I had extensive Lung surgery removing tumors, my diaphragm and scraping the entire interior surface of my lung. When the children visited me after surgery they hung the “CAPE” on the wall of my room. This, of course, was Halloween and a staff member assisting me was dressed for the holiday as Superman. This was the beginning of the Superheroes theme and “Super Dad”.
Linda: Do you have superhero(es) in your life?
David: My family and friends have always been my heroes and this includes my siblings and extended family. Since this experience with the University of Chicago Hospital I have now found that I am including Dr. Kindler, Dr. Vigneswaran and and their entire medical staff as my superheroes as well as Dr. John Elser, my general practitioner, and Dr. Suby Rao, my original oncologist.
Linda: How has your life changed since you were diagnosed with mesothelioma?
David: Since my diagnosis with Mesothelioma I have attempted to face life as I always have, but of course, my health just does not allow that to happen. My wife and I have tried to participate in most family activities but on some occasions, my lack of a viable immune system, require that I avoid contact with crowds. We continue traveling, attending important family functions and enjoying various entertainment with friends and family. The major concern with all of this is possibility of contracting a virus, cold or Lung infection.
Linda: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting four of your wonderful daughter’s at our conference. How have the lives of your family members changed since you were diagnosed?
David: I cannot say enough about my lovely daughters, who have seen that my wife and I are never at a doctor visit, a medical test or a chemo treatment without at least one of them. The girls then issue updates on every occasion notifying all family members what has taken place and the prognosis of the disease status and future scheduling of medical events. My best friend and former police partner is my official chauffer and sees that pick up, delivery and return from all these events are handled with limited interference.
Linda: What advice would you give to someone that was diagnosed with mesothelioma?
David: My experience with 17 years of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the dreaded 3 years of Mesothelioma is that early detection and immediate medical attention has been responsible for whatever success I’ve had to date. My choice of physicians, including the choice of the Mesothelioma research and treatment group of the University of Chicago Hospital is the reason for the success. They have been unbelievable in their quality of care and success with the treatment regimen. I believe that the patient’s attitude is just as important. Once diagnosed one must look at their life and their family and be willing to face adversity and deal with the inconvenience of fighting any medical or physical programs one might come across. Never feel sorry for one self, attack the disease knowing that you can still have some quality of life.
Linda: What are you and your family doing now to raise awareness and help others affected by asbestos-related diseases?
David: My Family decided to make a donation to the University of Chicago Hospital and as a result learned that one of the main issues with Mesothelioma is awareness of the problems with asbestos and being aware of the numerous careers that have been directly linked to this fatal disease. Subsequent to making a donation to the University of Chicago, my family has started a nonprofit charity named “Mesothelioma Heroes” with a scheduled event for September 20, 2014, 3 years after my diagnosis. This event is entirely Family orientated, that will include extensive children activities as well as adult entertainment. The proceeds from this event will be targeting Mesothelioma awareness and research.
Our family has found Linda Reinstein and the ADAO as an amazing support organization to connect to others. Your extensive knowledge and connections has allowed us to grow in our understanding of the critical work regarding the deadly affects of asbestos and the resulting disease, Mesothelioma. We will continue to work through our newly formed nonprofit organization, Mesothelioma Heroes, and look forward to future association with ADAO in these efforts.
David, thank you for allowing me to interview you. I know you will be successful at your “I Know A Superhero Family Fun Festival” raising awareness and funds for the University of Chicago Medicine’s Mesothelioma Program. Please send us a photo of you with your personalized ADAO informational flyer too!
Together, change is possible.