Terry and Mary Latham
As a teen in Oxfordshire, England, 70 year-old Terry Latham excelled in
sports. “I was tall and tough,” he recalls with a grin. “I
played rugby. I was fast. I set all kinds of records. Looking back, sports
From 1948 to 1959, Terry lived and attended school at the Kingham Hill
School Orphanage, a place that valued basic survival skills. He both avoided
and ended many a scrape, thanks in part to his strength and cunning. He
learned that bullys were simply cowards with brawn and once he overcame
his fears they were just another bump in the road.
Since childhood Terry has honed his mind and body to deal with external
threats. Through his 60s and 70s, he continued to exercise with near religious
devotion. Recently, Terry was introduced to a bully of another kind. One
not so easy to duck, dodge or knock down.
On March 22, 2010, with a simple, yet profound, “I’m sorry”
from his pulmonologist, Terry and his lovely wife, Mary, were told that
he had malignant pleural mesothelioma. What began as an annoying cough
worsened until it was affecting him all the time, “I sing deeply
(and “beautifully” added Mary!), but started coughing on the
high notes,” explained Terry. “I began feeling a lot of pressure
in my chest.”
Terry initially sought treatment from his family doctor. During this time,
Terry tested positive for tuberculosis. Terry’s mother had tuberculosis
and spent most of her adult years living in a sanitarium. Several courses
of antibiotics were prescribed, but when the cough continued to worsen,
chest X-rays and CT scans lead him to consult with the pulmonologist.
Ultimately, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an internal bully that
quite frankly is unphased by reason, compasssion or firepower. The Lathams
fell into a state of low-grade shock. “You go totally numb, and
your body doesn’t even respond,” observed Mary. Terry, however,
after a brief stumble, descided to get back on his feet and into the ring.
Your proverbial self made man, Terry was no stranger to hard work and
mental discipline. When he came to the US in 1970, he buckled down. He
wanted a car and a home. He worked 12 to 14 hours a day (mostly in construction)
and he got both that car and that home in two years.
Terry was referred to oncologist, Dr. L. Stuart Nagasawa. Dr. Nagasawa
advised the options which included chemotherapy and surgery. Terry had
vowed, however, to never take chemotherapy. “My impression was that
the treatment was worse than the disease.” He decided to explore surgery.
Dr. Nagasawa referred thoracic surgeon, Dr. Kemp Kernstine, at the City
of Hope Medical Center in Duarte. Dr. Kernstine’s initial testing
indicated that Terry’s cancer was confined to one area and had not
spread to the lymph nodes, and that would make him a candidate for the
radical lung removal surgery.
Dr. Kernstine candidly discussed Terry’s options, and per Terry’s
recollection, said something along the lines of “If this was me
and I am who I am, I would not do what I do – I would not remove
a lung.” Dr. Kernstine then referred Terry to see Dr. Robert Cameron
at UCLA Medical Center.
With renewed optimism, Terry consulted with Dr. Robert Cameron at UCLA
Medical Center. Dr. Cameron is the innovator of the lung-saving Pleurectomy/Decortication,
a less radical surgical option that removes all visible tumors while sparing
the underlying lung. Terry and Mary were both taken with Dr. Cameron’s
thoroughness and passion. “He is amazing,” crowed Terry, “He
seems to work 20 hours a day!”
The Latham’s have also appreciated Dr. Cameron’s leadership
in mapping and managing Terry’s pre-surgery and post surgery care,
“Dr. Cameron insisted on UCLA for surgery, and only allowed us to
go to Hoag for the post radiation treatments, because the technician was
trained by Dr. Cameron’s department at UCLA.
On his darkest day, Terry with uncharacteristic melancholy beseeched one
of his doctors to tell him how, precisely, in anatomic terms, how he was
going to die. He hasn’t dwelled on the darkness since. Instead,
he finds himself imbued with a new sense of optimism, a newfound joie
de vivre, which he credits to the loving care of his wife, the skill of
his doctors, and his own sense of resiliency.
But mainly he credits Mary. She’s been by his side from the start,
like a rib. “A nurse will give you sympathy,” he mused, “but
a wife will give you love and encouragement.” The Latham’s
devotion to each other has made this equally hard on Mary, but she continues
to be so proud of her husband. “Terry is a person who always sees
the good in people, always gives them the benefit of the doubt, and always
finds something good in them.”
Bully for you Terry Latham.
March 19, 2011