The Alton Miles for Meso 5K course has earned a reputation among the St. Louis running community as being among the more difficult road courses in the area because of its brick streets and steep hills. Of all the hills on the course, the final sloping climb to the finish line is the most grueling.
For years, mesothelioma patient Forrest Wulfstood at the bottom of that hill, along with his attorney Brent Copple, cheering runners on as they rounded the corner of 4th and Henry streets and began the uphill dash to the finish line.
“It was important to Forrest to volunteer as a course marshal and cheer everyone on,” Brent said. “He wanted them to know he appreciated them raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos by running in the race, when he couldn’t.”
Forrest, an Alton resident, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2008. He developed chest pain and shortness of breath and went to the doctor. They discovered he had two inches of fluid in his lungs. A needle biopsy revealed he had cancer.
For the next seven years, Forrest not only fought in the doctor’s office – going through more than 70 rounds of chemotherapy – but he also spoke out on behalf of asbestos victims. He volunteered at multiple Alton Miles for Meso races and advocated against the FACT Act by sharing his story and writing letters to Congress.
In 2012, he bravely shared his fear of mesothelioma on camera.
“I fear the cancer,” he said, at the start of the 2012 Miles for Meso video. “Because I know someday it is going to take my life.”
The only known cause of mesothelioma is linked to asbestos exposure. Forrest, who grew up in Wood River, worked construction for 30 years in the Riverbend area. While on the job, he was exposed to asbestos-containing products like cement and dry wall compounds.
The average prognosis for a person diagnosed with mesothelioma is 6 to 18 months. Early on Forrest felt like giving up. His wife Rebecca set him straight, he remembered.
“I’m going to say this once,” she told him. “You’ve got me, you’ve got your daughter, your son, and your grandchildren. Don’t give up.”
Forrest got up and continued to fight for seven more years. He passed away on June 23, 2015, but not before inspiring many others.
This year, as runners and walkers tackle the final hill on the Alton course, we hope they will remember Forrest’s story and keep running miles for mesothelioma.