On Saturday, Sept. 14, a Beef-n-Beer fundraiser will be held at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company to raise money for mesothelioma research.
According to the Mayo Clinic, mesothelioma “is a rare cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs … and is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer.”
Ocean View resident Denise Santa Barbara is organizing the event to raise funds for Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pa., where her husband, Paul, was treated for the disease.
“My husband passed away from mesothelioma a little over a year ago. It’s a very rare disease and it’s not curable,” she said. “It was a total shock when he got the diagnosis. When I came home, of course I was upset, and some of my family members came over and we started to do research about treatment options, and that’s when we found Penn Presbyterian for treatment.”
The event will run from 7 p.m. to midnight, and people of all ages may attend, with tickets being offered for a suggested $25 donation.
“One hundred percent of the proceeds is going to research,” she said. “Ideally, I’d like to raise $5,000. I don’t know if I’ll reach that or not, but that’s what I would like to do.”
Those who attend will get to enjoy roast beef sandwiches, sides, beer, wine and soft drinks. Attendees can enjoy local entertainment from 7 to 8 p.m., followed by DJ Donnie.
“We’ll also have some auction items that people can bid on. We’ll have different themed baskets, and a number of local salons have donated salon services,” Santa Barbara said. “A lot of people have been very helpful and supportive. They’ve taken tickets to sell to help support it. The community has been great.”
Santa Barbara has been working with the Millville Volunteer Fire Company on the fundraiser, as Paul Santa Barbara had been a member of the company before his passing.
“My husband was a career firefighter for the city of Wilmington, and then he was a volunteer in New Castle County, and when we moved down here, he joined Millville… The fire company was his passion.”
Santa Barbara said that the research team at Penn Presbyterian, under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Freidberg, needs the funding to continue its work to help those with the disease.
“We went to Penn Presbyterian because we had heard very good things about them. They are trying to make it more of a chronic disease, rather than a terminal disease. Because it is rare, funding doesn’t come as readily as it does for other things.”
Santa Barbara said there are only about 3,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year, but she believes that number will increase over time.
“I think you’re going to be seeing it more and more. It’s caused by exposure to asbestos. It’s a long dormant period. I know of four other people in this area who had it. Two passed within months of my husband.”
A known cause for the disease is exposure to asbestos, which, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is “is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals used in certain products, such as building materials and vehicle brakes, to resist heat and corrosion.”
“The bad thing about this disease — it’s not like a regular tumor in that you can remove the tumor and maybe some of the surrounding area. It covers the tissue covering the organs, so it’s a lot more difficult to contain,” Santa Barbara explained. “I hope it raises awareness,” she added of the fundraiser. “A lot of people, when I say ‘mesothelioma,’ don’t know what it is. I think awareness is a big thing.”
Santa Barbara said the team at Penn Presbyterian were fantastic and helped her family fight the disease for nearly a year.
“They were phenomenal. All the doctors and nurses there were fabulous. The patient advocates were incredible. My husband was in intensive care for two months. The people there were phenomenal in the way they treated us,” she said. “He was diagnosed on Aug. 10, 2011, and he died Aug. 9, 2012 — almost a year to the day.”
She added that she hopes people will attend the Saturday fundraiser to help support a wonderful research program that is working toward finding a way people can survive the disease.
“There are number of different surgeries and therapies, chemo — they’re trying to see if a combination of them would work,” she said. “We were going to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at the end of this month. We were going to have a big party.
“I just hope it will be a success,” she said of the Sept. 14 event. “It’s important to me. I can’t change what happened, but maybe I can make it better for somebody else. Part of my personal therapy — I can’t do anything to change what happened with us, but if I can do something to raise awareness and fund research, hopefully, other people won’t have to go through it.”
Tickets may be purchased in advance by contacting Denise Santa Barbara at (302) 228-9646. The Millville Volunteer Fire Company is located at 35554 Atlantic Avenue in Millville. For more information on mesothelioma and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center’s research, visit www.pennmedicine.org/Mesothelioma.