The San Jose Mercury News recently ran the inspiring story of Tom Kaisersatt, a 68-year-old runner in the 26.2-mile Silicon Valley Marathon, who finished the race in spite of the fact that he is currently undergoing treatment for mesothelioma.
Kaisersatt, a software developer for NASA-Ames, is also a well-known running coach in California. As a veteran of over 150 marathons himself, Kaiseratt had dedicated years of life to helping others finish the race by founding San Jose Fit a program that trains runners and walkers for marathons and long-distance events. Kaiseratt is noted by his past trainees as being the ideal coach and continually supportive of each trainee, no matter how long it took to get to the finish line.
Diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a terminal cancer generally caused by exposure to airborne asbestos, Kaisersatt was undergoing chemotherapy at the time of the race, but was determined to run the race even with his diminished lung capacity. Former trainees and friends made special arrangements with race organizers to allow Kaiseratt to perform portions of the race during the weeks prior and then complete the last 5 miles during the official race with runners from his own San Jose Fit organization.
Kaisersatt was proud to finish what may be his final race, as the next step in his mesothelioma treatment will be one final round of chemotherapy and then a possible extra-pleural pneumonectomy, which will mean the removal of his right lung. Kaisersatt is upbeat about his condition and feels confident that he will continue to live well even with the lung removal, but probably not be running in the next marathon.
The greatest blessing in this story is the number of yellow-shirted balloons toting “Team Tom” fans that lined the streets where the marathon was run and cheered in support of Kaisersatt’s inspirational story. Consisting of colleagues and former trainees, Kaisersatt was moved by the outstanding showing and overwhelmed by the support. The struggle with mesothelioma is far from over for Tom Kaisersatt, but the love and support will probably stay with him through these trying times.