Miraculous Mesothelioma Survivor Sets Tone for Fundraising Event
October 16, 2019
Mesothelioma survivor Tina Herford is a testament to a rare combination of positive thinking, excellence in specialized care and the power of prayer.
She is proof that miracles happen.
Herford is beating the longest of odds — overcoming both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma — to serve as a beacon of hope at the 8th Annual Walk/Hike for Mesothelioma fundraiser October 26 at the Will Rogers State Historic Park.
It is hosted by the Pacific Mesothelioma Center.
“I’m proud to just be a part of this great event that will help so many others,” she said. “Personally, I’m doing well today. I’ve been blessed. My road has just been a little bumpy. You could say it’s been a challenge.”
Herford, 63, may be the luckiest unlucky person there is, battling through a devastating string of medical nightmares and emerging as an inspiration to all.
Instead of lamenting her plight, she celebrates life.
“They always say, ‘Good comes out of bad.’ Maybe I’m an example of that. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this journey that I never would have found if I didn’t go through something like this,” she said. “I’m very fortunate.”
Surviving Both Deadly Cancers
Herford, a long-time breast cancer survivor, was diagnosed in 2016 with pleural mesothelioma, which began in the lining around her lungs. She underwent an 11-hour pleurectomy/decortication surgery and an aggressive chemotherapy regimen.
A year later, she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, the abdominal version of the same cancer. She underwent an eight-hour cytoreductive surgery with a hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) procedure.
Rarely does anyone undergo aggressive surgeries for both types of mesothelioma.
Complications from the second surgery later caused an eruption within the abdomen that required two more surgical procedures to correct.
Five months ago, she had hip replacement surgery, leaving her just enough time to prepare for the two-mile hike she is determined to make, intent on helping raise awareness and funding for mesothelioma research.
She has recruited almost three dozen friends and family members — Team Pinky — who will be making the hike alongside her, along with several others who are pledging financial support for the cause.
The team name stems from two decades ago when she lost most of her hair to chemotherapy during breast cancer treatment and her young daughters dyed the remaining strands of her hair pink.
“My family and friends have been invaluable through this,” she said. “I want to be there for them. They need me, too. I love those kids, and I love my life.”
Believing in Dr. Cameron and His Cause
This is the third consecutive year Herford has participated in the hike/walk, a feat in itself considering what she has endured.
It is a cause she strongly believes in, particularly because of thoracic surgeon Dr. Robert Cameron, who has orchestrated her care and is the driving force behind the Pacific Mesothelioma Center.
The center is a division of the Pacific Heart & Blood Institute at the UCLA Medical Center. Cameron has been a pioneer in mesothelioma treatment for more than 20 years.
“I’ve never seen anyone so devoted to a cause, his patients and the idea of finding a cure for this disease. His passion for what he does is incredible,” Herford said. “Dr. Cameron saved my life. He gave me hope after I got the worst prognosis anyone could receive. I want to help his research, not just for me, but for others who follow me.”
As part of her team, she will be hiking alongside family members of Joanne Anderson, a mesothelioma patient from Oregon she befriended a year ago. Anderson died in March, an eye-opening reminder of her own mortality. Herford will walk in her honor.
“Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring,” she said. “There are no guarantees for anyone. I’ll worry about dying tomorrow, not today.”
Faith, Family and Fighting Spirit
Herford’s confidence rarely has wavered through her battles, even in the face of mounting adversity and statistical data that stacks the odds of long-term survival against her.
“I pray a lot,” she said. “I believe that has played a big hand in what has happened. I pray every night that I will get to grow old. And I believe in the power of prayer.”
Patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma typically live only six to 18 months. There have been no studies regarding patients who have both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma.
“There have been people who survived way beyond what the statistics say,” Herford said. “I plan on being one of those. I have a lot of people counting on me being around. I’m not going to disappoint them.”
Herford still helps care for her 88-year-old mother. She also talks about her four children, six grandchildren and the loving husband who retired early to dedicate his life to her care.
Almost all of them will be at the fundraising event later this month.
“I’m a fighter. And this is the battle I’m in,” she said. “It’s me and mesothelioma, and I plan on winning this fight. I’ve been fighting since I had breast cancer long ago. I was fortunate to qualify for both of these surgeries. I’m like the cat with nine lives, and there is no giving up.”