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Exposure to Asbestos 50 Years Ago Linked to Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Mark enrolled in a clinical trial to treat peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to toxic asbestos

When 69-year-old Mark Daly first started experiencing stomach pain in November 2021, he didn’t immediately tie it to his first job mixing asbestos into building products. He knew the work he’d done as a teenager from the ages of 15 to 19 increased his chances of cancer, but he understood that risk dissipated after 20 years. Having already successfully fought colon cancer, he thought he was in the clear.

Lazarex Cancer Foundation patient Mark continues his recovery from peritoneal mesothelioma

A CT scan and other tests showed otherwise and soon he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to toxic asbestos after his oncologist asked if he’d ever been exposed to the toxic chemical.

“My job used raw asbestos. We literally scooped it into a hopper so it was always in the air,” Mark explains. “After 50 years I had stopped worrying about it. But those fibers get in your body and can lie dormant for a long time and clearly, it’s hard to flush them out.”

This type of cancer is most often found in the lung but for Mark it showed up in the lining of his abdomen. After three rounds of chemotherapy and surgery failed to remove some of the tumors, Mark sought help from specialists at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and they enrolled him in a clinical trial. The upside was the promise of immunotherapy to target his specific cancer. The downside was trial participation required him to travel to Houston every two to four weeks and he and his wife split their time between Phoenix and Alaska.

“My wife and I are both blue-collar. We don’t have college degrees but we saved well. I retired early after 37 years with the Postal Service and we both have pensions. Traveling to and from the trial was very expensive but we made a decision that we were willing to spend whatever it took,” Mark explains.

Still, the costs added up quickly for Mark and his wife of 42 years so when a social worker connected them to Lazarex Cancer Foundation in September 2022 for travel reimbursements, he was grateful. “Lazarex relieves a big burden for us. It makes our life so much easier. So while I’m receiving help from them, I’m also doing everything I can to give back to the organization so others can have access to Lazarex too.”

He and his wife Diane have made multiple financial donations to Lazarex and they fly to his trial appointments exclusively on Southwest Airlines because they take part in the airline’s program that allows him to earn miles and share an equal amount of miles with the non-profit of his choice – so he shares his to the Lazarex corporate account. “Every time we book a flight, I push a button on my reservation and whatever miles I earn, 180,000 so far, go to me and to Lazarex to help other patients, so I feel like I’m giving back with every clinical trial trip,” Mark explains.

He says the airline’s Companion Pass program is a bonus too. Qualifying earlier this year means he and his wife can travel two-for-the-price-of-one through the end of 2024, further reducing their reimbursement requests to Lazarex.  “I’m always trying to find ways to reduce my travel reimbursements from Lazarex,” Mark explains. “I want to make sure I’m not hogging the money. It makes me feel good that they’re helping so many people and I want to do what I can to encourage that and allow them to help others.”

The good news for Mark is the trial he started in January 2023 is working. In just four months, it shrunk his two measurable tumors by around 30% and he’s gained 25 needed pounds. He feels great and is living an active lifestyle that includes regular games of Pickleball, high-level senior softball including national-level tournaments, fishing and more. He’s chronicling it all on his blog where he focuses on active and grateful living, regardless of his diagnosis.

“My wife and I have been praying for the tumors to stop growing, so these shrinking tumors exceed our expectations,” he explains. “I am so grateful to be living a full life and to Lazarex for making it all a little bit easier.”

NOTE: Earn Free Flights for Our Patients When You Fly Southwest

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Link your Southwest Rapid Rewards account to the Lazarex corporate account #99035580 on, and help Lazarex earn miles when you fly on SWA – at no cost to you. You still earn all your miles. Lazarex Cancer Foundation can use the miles to book flights for our patients to and from their treatments. A very beneficial win-win!  Learn More.