Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor Enjoys Exciting New Chapter

Stories from Survivors

Written by Tim Povtak

Reading Time: 5 mins
Publication Date: 03/31/2020
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us


My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family.
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating

How to Cite’s Article


Povtak, T. (2022, December 19). Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor Enjoys Exciting New Chapter. Retrieved May 31, 2023, from


Povtak, Tim. "Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor Enjoys Exciting New Chapter.", 19 Dec 2022,


Povtak, Tim. "Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor Enjoys Exciting New Chapter." Last modified December 19, 2022.

Theresa and Joe Barna

Joe Barna married the love of his life 13 months after he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma cancer.

Today, life is good.

Barna is a mesothelioma survivor and a stunning reminder that not everyone given six months to live after a diagnosis has to give up on life. Quite the contrary. He just opened an exhilarating new chapter.

He recently went rollerblading alongside his bride.

“Initially, I was ready to start picking out my coffin. When I got the diagnosis, I felt like I’d been given a death sentence with this type of evil,” he said. “But now I feel like I’ve been blessed, in so many ways. We’re making wonderful new memories together.”

Barna, 56, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2018 after weeks of tests. The tests originally indicated pneumonia, then lung cancer and finally pleural mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive malignancy with no definitive cure.

Life-Changing Mesothelioma Surgery

In August 2018, after two months of chemotherapy, Barna underwent an aggressive pleurectomy and decortication surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It was performed by renowned thoracic surgeon Dr. Marcelo DaSilva.

Although DaSilva later moved his practice to Orlando, where he opened a new mesothelioma program, he left Barna with the confidence that he could overcome this challenging disease.

“I remember Dr. DaSilva going into surgery talking about my disease, in so many words saying, ‘We’re going to kick its ass.’ He just gave me such an incredibly positive feeling,” Barna said. “My last checkup with him he told me, ‘You don’t even need to be here.’ When he moved away, it was like someone stole my security blanket, but I’ve recovered.”

Barna’s checkups now are every six months at Brigham and Women’s. His latest CT scan was early in March, showing no sign of any recurrence, providing another boost in confidence.

Mesothelioma Survivor Embraces His Faith

Barna also credits his faith in God, the power of prayer and the support of those around him for how well he is feeling today.

He recalls kneeling before his Catholic priest at Saints Mary and Joseph Parish in Salem, New Hampshire. The priest laid a hand on Barna’s chest before saying a prayer for him.

Barna talks passionately about his religious beliefs and about surrounding himself with a church family that showers him with love and prayers.

He also talks at length about miracles.

“The initial news is a shocking, life-changing experience, just an overwhelming feeling and surreal moment of reality. Six months to live,” he said. “But I believe people with a strong faith and the love of God will do better. I’m on the bus, and God is driving it. He’s worked a miracle for me already, providing a future I might never have had.”

That future begins with wife Theresa, whom he met in 2017 at Saints Mary and Joseph. Barna was playing acoustic guitar in the praise band at morning Mass. When the service ended, it was love at first sight.

“It’s not like we met at a Metallica concert, or at a bar during happy hour, so it really was kind of special. We were putting our instruments away when she approached the alter to talk to the musical director, who had invited her,” Barna said. “I looked up, said hello, and just knew she was special.”

Theresa and Joe Barna
Mesothelioma survivor Joe Barna and his wife, Theresa, were married in 2019.

Planning a Long Life Together

Theresa was sitting alongside him in the doctor’s office the day he was diagnosed in 2018. Thirteen months later, nine months after the grueling surgery, they were married in the same church, and began a wonderful new life together.

“There is no gray area when it comes to love. She wanted to share this journey with me,” Barna said. “We’ve never let it [mesothelioma] become an obstacle or barrier. We don’t deny it, but we don’t let it dictate to us. We plan to make memories for years to come, sharing life together for a very long time.”

Those plans include refurbishing the older home they recently bought. It appeals to Barna’s handyman instincts and requires numerous trips to the hardware store for supplies.

“There is always something to do around here,” he said. “I’m replacing the old light fixtures with stainless steel ones because I know they will last. And we plan to be here for quite a while.”

Barna borrowed his neighbor’s truck for a trip to the dump, loading the old portable fire pit and the discolored bird bath left behind by the previous owners. He did it all himself.

Still Living an Active Life

Theresa works full time as an activities director at an assisted living facility. Barna expects to return to work soon for the construction company where he previously worked, but in a less physical role.

Although he lacks the stamina and respiratory strength he once had, he leads a relatively normal life, making few concessions to the disease.

“I still want to feel like a productive member of society. I put my head on the pillow each night wanting to know I did the most I could with each day,” he said. “I want people to know you can survive after the worst diagnosis possible. Miracles happen.”

Barna’s age — younger than most when first diagnosed — played a major role in his quicker-than-normal recovery after surgery. The expertise of his surgeon also helped considerably.

“They poison you with chemotherapy, then gut you like a fish. I compare the surgery I had to a controlled car accident,” he said. “But that’s modern medicine in the mesothelioma world. It worked for me, and it can work for others. I’m living proof that this thing can be beaten.”

Barna was represented in his mesothelioma lawsuit by Joe Belluck of the Law Firm of Belluck & Fox, LLP.

open book icon vector illustration
Free Mesothelioma Guide
Get Answers to All Your Mesothelioma Questions