Cindy Zody grew up in Loudonville, a small town in the hills of North Central Ohio known as the state’s Camp and Canoe Capital. In fact, her family has a long history in the area.
“My parents were born and raised in this area as well,” Cindy recently told the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. “I have two brothers, Jeff who is 23 months older than me, and Mark who is 3 years younger. Family was always very important to us. We spent a lot of time with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. After I graduated from high school, I got married and had three kids: a daughter and two sons. They are all grown up and are now parents themselves. I have four grandchildren and another grandchild due in January.”
Given the closeness of her family, it is easy to understand how devastated they all were when Cindy learned some unbelievable news about her father: He had mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Seeing the Symptoms
It all started out with what seemed like little more than a severe cold. Then, things got worse.
“Last winter my dad ended up with bronchitis,” Cindy said. “His cough continued for two months, and in March the doctor took an X-ray of his chest. They found a small mass on the outside of his lung.”
The news was bad, but the doctors gave Cindy and her family some hope. “The doctor said it was operable and was confident that dad would be okay after they removed the mass and he went through radiation treatment. He referred dad to an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center.”
“Dad’s lung started filling up with fluid so the doctor at the Cleveland Clinic had to surgically put a tube in dad’s lung to keep the fluid drained,” Cindy explained. “It was at this time that the doctor did a biopsy of dads lung and we got the devastating news that dad had mesothelioma.”
As in many cases, the diagnosis came as an utter shock to Cindy and the rest of her family. Given the rarity of the disease, few people are familiar with mesothelioma and the link it has to asbestos. “Until my dad got sick, I never knew anyone who had mesothelioma. In fact, the only time I had ever heard of it was during a commercial. Even then, I didn’t know what it was or what caused it.”
Even though Cindy and her family knew what was wrong, there was little they could do by the time the mesothelioma was discovered. He returned home, and the family watched as he slowly became less and less of the man that they had known.
“While dad was sick, he lost his appetite, which caused him to lose weight and get real thin,” Cindy described her father’s condition. “We watched him go through so many different emotions, knowing he wasn’t going to get better. He didn’t have much energy and would tire easily.”
When the end came, the family was all there to support him. They had grown up together in Loudonville, Ohio, and they came there together again to be with him in those last few days and weeks of his life.
“On what would be his last birthday in May, my brothers and I got together to help my mom and dad celebrate,” Cindy remembered. “Dad was so happy we were all together as a family and he didn’t want to miss anything so he stayed awake all day. The next day he slept a lot but he said it was worth it. On June 12, 2016, Dad lost his battle with mesothelioma.”
The Asbestos Connection
Asbestos is the culprit behind mesothelioma in nearly every case, with a high percentage of mesothelioma patients having a known exposure to the toxic substance. Cindy’s father is no exception.
During high school, Cindy’s dad worked and saved money for college, but he was drafted into the U.S. Army before he could attend university. Cindy parent’s eloped and lived together on the Army base in Chicago where her father was stationed. When he was eventually discharged, they moved back to Loudonville and started their family.
“Dad got a job working in the maintenance department of a plumbing products manufacturer,” Cindy explained. “He worked his way up to becoming a tool and die maker. He was the only one who made tools to fit the machines.”
Cindy’s father retired in 1994, but the job didn’t leave him quite in the same way as he left it. The years of working in an industrial setting left his lungs laden with asbestos, which ultimately developed into mesothelioma cancer.
Now, Cindy wants to use her father’s story to press for an end to the disease. “My dad taught me to fight for what was right and what I believe in. He always said that when climbing the ladder to success, never use people to get there and always remember where you came from,” she added.
Cindy believes the only way to truly eradicate mesothelioma, and honor her father’s life, is to institute a complete ban on asbestos. “We need to make our government ban asbestos in everything here in the United States,” she asserted. “Making the companies who still use asbestos responsible for people who get sick and even die, who had mesothelioma, is one way. I think having tougher laws would be another way.”