Mesothelioma Patient and Air Force Veteran Campaigning For Rick Perry

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Patrick Burke might not be around to see how the 2012 presidential election turns out in November, but he will know he did his part.

Mesothelioma may shorten his life, but it won’t stop him from trying to change the direction of his country, for as long as he possibly can.

Burke, 55, has spent the past week in Iowa, campaigning for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry before the much-anticipated Iowa caucus, according to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Burke, from the North, Texas town of Allen, is a former Air Force veteran and lawman who came to help the Texas governor try and keep his presidential hopes alive in the nation’s first vote of the election season.

Mesothelioma is the cancer caused by an exposure to asbestos. Burke’s mesothelioma likely stemmed from his service in the United States military, where asbestos use was so prevalent in the 20th century. Veterans account for an estimated one-third of all mesothelioma cases in the U.S. It can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years after first exposure to asbestos before mesothelioma is diagnosed.

And while the latency period is normally long, the prognosis after diagnosis is usually short, from six to 18 months.

Burke, Perry Are Both Air Force Veterans

Campaigning for Perry’s presidential bid was part of Burke’s “bucket list,” of things he wanted to do. He told the Star-Telegram he was diagnosed just over two years ago, and he “gets more and more tired now.” Doctors, he said, “gave me a 10 percent chance to live three years.”

Over the New Year’s Day Weekend, Burke logged more than 500 miles across Iowa roads to lobby potential voters in the caucus, despite his failing health. He is part of “Perry’s Posse,” that includes mostly Texans who came to help their governor in the Republican race to see who opposes Barack Obama in the general election this fall.

Like Burke, Perry also is an Air Force veteran. Burke spent an hour last week on Perry’s campaign bus, and they talked about the need to change the direction of the country.

Burke told the Star-Telegram that he believes all citizens have a responsibility to get involved in the political process.
“I tell everybody to put down their beer and stop watching The Simpsons,” he said.

Perry had been trailing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in the Iowa polls. Perry entered the campaign last fall with great anticipation, but he struggled nationally after a disappointing performance in at least one of the debates.

Burke, who is divorced and a father of seven children, told the Star-Telegram he is realistic about his own prognosis, yet encouraged by the enthusiasm he has seen in Iowa.


Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers.

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