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Cyclist Riding To Raise Awareness Of A Rare Lung Cancer

August 26, 2010 1 comment

By PATRICK CLOONAN,  Daily News Staff Writer  pcloonan@dailynewsemail.com

It began with a new tradition for McKees Cafe.

It may end in new awareness for a rare lung cancer.

After breakfast Wednesday, Frank Cavaluzzi joined others who have taken a marker to the walls of the eatery in the Palisades to mark their visit to the Great Allegheny Passage.

“It’s very exciting that we’re having all this traffic go through,” said Joyce McGregor of the McKeesport Trail Commission.

Photo by Ben Filio for The Daily News

Cavaluzzi, a 42-year-old cyclist from the Milford area in the Poconos, then set off on a trip to Washington,

standing up on a bicycle that won’t let him coast.

“My body is adapted to it,” said Cavaluzzi, a project leader and trainer when he isn’t on the road.

“I ride standing six months of the year,” Cavaluzzi said. “The only time I sit (on a bicycle) is when the roads are icy.”

It’s an effort to call attention to one lung ailment, the rare cancer mesothelioma, by a man who survived another more common ailment.

“I started riding standing up to open my diaphragm up,” said Cavaluzzi, who was stricken six years ago with allergic asthma that sidelined him for a year and a half. “I started doing it for health. I use this to draw attention for special causes.”

He hopes to cycle 50 miles a day and reach the nation’s capital Tuesday, using a single-speed, fixed-gear bicycle that has the seat sawed off and the seat holder filled with steel wool and foam insulation.

“I can’t coast,” Cavaluzzi said. “When it moves, I move. So it’s a little bit like running.”

His personal best is 72 miles a day. He’s been able to stay on the cycle for more than three hours, but he usually will stop for two minutes every half-hour.

The weather was ideal for cycling Wednesday.

“With my asthma I do better in this weather,” Cavaluzzi said. “Heat and humidity make it harder for me.”

Backing Cavaluzzi is a survivor of mesothelioma who remembers Pittsburgh from its steelmaking days.

“I attended Duquesne University (from) 1964-67,” said Larry Davis of Pompano Beach, Fla. “The amount of asbestos (and) toxins in the air in those days gave Pittsburgh one of the highest rates of lung disease in the country.”

Davis said University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has become a leader in research to find a cure for mesothelioma.

“Larry Davis is the inspiration for this ride,” Cavaluzzi said. “He’s helping to sponsor and support it by being an activist.”

In a roundabout way, Cavaluzzi met Davis.

“I’ve been cycling since I was 7,” Cavaluzzi said. “I started long-distance stuff at about 12. I started touring at about 16.”

He started cycling anew to help recover from his asthma.

“I started getting back to touring,” Cavaluzzi said. “I did Ireland and then Iceland and various places in the United States.”

In 2009 he cycled around Lake Champlain in New York and Vermont, “standing up, fully loaded,” for the cause of Stand Up To Cancer.

There he met Courtney Davis, then a local TV news photographer, now in a private videography business in Raleigh, N.C. Davis introduced Cavaluzzi to her father Larry.

“In the weeks and months that followed, Frank and I continued to keep up with one another,” Larry Davis wrote on the actionagainstasbestos.com website that also will chronicle Cavaluzzi’s trek.

Larry Davis came to Pittsburgh after growing up in New Haven, Conn. He played Little League baseball with future Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman.

“My dad taught him how to throw strikes,” Davis said. “He actually struck out 15 batters in a six-inning game.”

“That was way, way back, probably 50 years ago,” said Cashman, who will turn 64 next month. “He was my next door neighbor growing up. I haven’t seen Larry in maybe 15 years. He was a salesman of different types of products and he would come through Pittsburgh.”

Cashman is aware of Davis’ efforts that include an annual South Florida Miles for Meso run scheduled for February.

“I feel pretty good for him now that he is doing well,” the judge said. “Larry was always an upbeat individual.”

Cavaluzzi also is promoting the run-and-walk events happening in various states, wearing milesformeso.org on his shirt.

*Special Thanks to Pat Cloonan, Ben Filio & the Daily News for this article & photograph.*

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Folo Frank

Day 1 & 45 Miles Down

Frank’s 1st day was a success! He’s ridden 45 miles from McKeesport, Pa to Adelaide. He says he’s met a lot of people along the way, no doubt spreading the word about the dangers of asbestos. So far he reports his legs are holding up … keep in mind he stands and pedals, his specialized bike has no seat or gears! As he stands up to ride he stands up for our cause.

Frank Carries His Gear While He Rides

Before dark and slightly due to the overcast weather, Frank has set up camp for the night.

He’ll be on his way again 1st thing Thursday. Folo Frank on his SPOT locator.

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And He’s Off

Frank Cavaluzzi is on the road promoting awareness for Mesothelioma!

He started his 300+ miles trip this Wednesday morning. After an interview with a McKeesport, PA reporter he was set to ride his 1st 60 miles. I’ll post updates from Frank here as I hear from him. You can follow Frank as he rides by clicking here.

All the best Frank!

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He Rides Again!!!!

Frank A Cavaluzzi is preparing for the ride of a lifetime, or more importantly, to ride for other people’s lifetimes.

Riding For Meso

One year ago I met Frank on his ambitious ride around Lake Champlain. I trailed him down Route 9 just outside of Plattsburgh, NY until he reached the Visitor’s Center where he stopped for a break … and to talk to the media.

He spoke about his issues with asthma and how his specialized bicycle was helping him overcome his debilitating allergy. He told us how he was riding in an effort to Stand Up to Cancer , about his mother’s struggle with the disease and about the difficulty of his trip.

After all that, what struck me most was not that he’d been standing on his bike for more than 400 miles but rather his determination and willingness to do for others.

In the weeks and months that followed, Frank and I continued to keep up with one another. I finally revealed my personal story of my father’s battle with Mesothelioma and the life-altering changes that have come with it. I told him of the race my father was planning that would help raise money and awareness for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. Frank immediately became a supporter.

Now let’s be honest, there are givers and ignorers. There are a lot of people who see or hear the call to help and a lot of folks who choose not to acknowledge it. Frank is not one of them. He hears the need and runs, or rather rides, straight for it. For this I am grateful. Not only was he an incredible supporter of my father’s 1st challenge as Race Director of the South Florida Miles For Meso event, but now Frank is at it again.

Frank will be riding from McKeesport, PA to Washington DC in what he’s calling The 2010 Standing Cyclist Pitt to DC Meso Challenge. Total mileage … 318 STANDING, no coasting, no sitting, miles. And all to bring awareness to this crazy disease caused by asbestos called Mesothelioma.

He is set to leave on Wednesday August 25th at 9:00 AM from the Great Allegheny Passage trailhead, just 10 miles south of Pittsburgh, PA.

Pittsburgh is a highly industrial city with all types of jobs exposing hundreds of thousands of people to asbestos throughout the last 60 years. Many of the occupations involving trades such as steel work, heating and cooling repair, automotive repair and steamfitting. It seems a perfect location to begin as it is also an area where my father lived while attending Duquesne University during the height of asbestos mining and use.

Frank’s journey will continue along the Great Allegheny Passage which boasts a number of historical sites including civil war battlefields and George Washington’s path through the Appalachian Mountains, now an abandoned railway. Once through this scenic tour of history, Frank will travel into Cumberland,  Maryland where he will meet with the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The C & O Canal, otherwise known as the “Grand Old Ditch”, was in operation from the mid 1800’s until about 1924. Now it is a commonly biked and hiked path known as the C & O  towpath trail. It connects Cumberland to DC and runs about 185 miles.

Frank is planning to ride about 60 miles a day, carrying all his gear along the way. He should complete his trip on the morning of Tuesday August 31st. I plan to meet Frank on the south side of Thompson’s Boat House at the mouth of Rock Creek. I hope to be accompanied by my father and members of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation which is in the process of relocating to DC as I write.

I encourage everyone along Frank’s path to come out in support of his ride. Please join us at the end of his journey in DC for a small welcome and congratulatory greeting.

Stay posted on his tour by going to his SPOT page. From here he will have regular updates.

And support him for his incredible sense of giving, compassion and accomplishment by going to his website and sending words of encouragement, donating to MARF, joining him on Facebook and meeting him along this trail of inspiration.

Thank you Frank and thank you to all my readers.

Sincerely,Mesothelioma IS everybody's problem

Courtney A Davis

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