Toronto—A man who has died from mesothelioma, the rare asbestos cancer that usually results in a grim prognosis for its patients, has left a legacy of generosity. Maurizio (Moe) Korcynski, a retired teacher, asked that donations made in his name go to the Toronto Star’s Santa Claus Fund, a yearly effort which provides warm clothes, toys and other gifts to needy children. Korcynski, who emigrated from Italy to Canada as a displaced person after World War II, understood the strain of poverty and hard times. He worked factory jobs to support his family, including his wife, who suffered from leukemia, in the 1950s. It is believed that Korcynski was exposed to asbestos during a summer job he held as a teenager. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of the rare variety of cancer known as mesothelioma, which attacks the membrane which surrounds and protects the lungs, known as the mesothelium.
When asbestos particulate is inhaled, it can remain embedded in the body’s soft tissues, including the mesothelium, and cause the surrounding cells to replicate uncontrollably, leading to a tumor. Since mesothelioma has symptoms which are non-specific and difficult to distinguish from other respiratory disease symptoms, it may be years or even decades before the patient is correctly diagnosed. This often means that the cancer has reached an advanced stage, and is no longer treatable. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, and most patients die within two years of diagnosis. In the United States each year, approximately 3,000 people are newly diagnosed with this devastating form of cancer each year. When Korcynski received his diagnosis, he asked his wife to coordinate the donations to the Santa Claus Fund, which provided gift boxes to over 45,000 needy children last year. It’s a charity that he was active in when he worked as a teacher, and for which his son and family have vowed their continued support, in an effort to carry on Moe Korcynski’s legacy of holiday spirit.