Mesothelioma Survivor Credits His Health to Running

When Larry Davis was given a diagnosis of mesothelioma, the asbestos-related cancer, in 2007, doctors told him there wasn’t much hope. He could pursue one of several treatments—surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, or radiation—but none were likely to help, and Davis suspected that they might take a debilitating toll on his health.

Instead, he decided to take matters into his own hands—or, rather, his feet. Davis, 64, is an avid runner, so he turned to exercise to help him survive the cancer. Not only did he begin a regimen of running that made him stronger and more healthy, but he is now organizing a 5K run called Miles for Meso in the hopes of increasing awareness about the cancer and raising funds that will go towards treatment. The race, which was run February 14 in Boca Raton, is backed by the Boca Raton Road Runners and Wishing Well pub. It also featured a tribute to two South Florida notables—powerboat racer Lance Ruble and attorney Milton Ferrell Jr.–who both recently succumbed to the disease.

Mesothelioma is newly diagnosed in approximately 3,000 patients each year in the United States, making it one of the rarest forms of cancer. Although it is often confused with lung cancer because it can impair breathing function, it actually affects a membrane which surrounds and protects the lungs, called the mesothelium. Like Davis, most patients with this cancer are not good candidates for surgery; chemotherapy and radiation have such extreme side effects that many choose not to employ those treatments, either.

There is some evidence that alternative approaches, such as nutritional supplements, may be helpful in staving off tumor metastasis. Mesothelioma is closely associated with exposure to the minerals collectively known as asbestos, which have remarkable insulating and fireproofing properties and were therefore once widely used in construction and manufacturing. Although asbestos has not been entirely banned in the U.S.–contrary to popular belief—it has been tightly regulated and restricted since the 1980s.