Moffat County Clerk Lila Herod’s battle against breast cancer | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County Clerk Lila Herod’s battle against breast cancer

Patrick Kelly

Lila Herod, Moffat County Clerk and Recorder, poses with her "big girl panties." As a motivational gesture while Herod was undergoing intense treatment for advanced breast cancer, employees at Yampa Valley Bank sent her the undergarment with a message stating it was time for Herod to put on her big girl panties and beat cancer.

Lila Herod was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in October 2011, about a year into her tenure as Moffat County Clerk and Recorder.

As a newly elected official, Herod faced not only the challenges of extensive medical treatment, she also had important work to do for Moffat County.

Herod was frightened, but not intimidated.

"Get through it and get back to work," she said. "That was how I went through the whole experience."

Starting at the end of 2011 and throughout the next year, Herod underwent chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery to battle the cancer.

Treatment began with chemo and a four-hour drive to a university hospital in Denver that specialized in treating her specific type of breast cancer. Herod made the drive back and fourth every three weeks that winter.

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"That was probably the hardest part, all the travel every three weeks," she said. "The treatment itself, it's so advanced now that even though it does make you sick they give you this mixture that helps you with your nausea."

Herod said the medicine helped her from feeling terribly ill, but she still had to have six blood transfusions to help rebuild her red blood cell count.

"The chemotherapy is really rough," she said. "It's emotional and it definitely is hard on your body, probably the hardest thing on your body."

In treating breast cancer, it is more common to do surgery or radiation therapy before chemo, but because her cancer was so advanced the doctors opted to go straight for chemo, Herod said.

After the first treatment, the cancer was shrinking.

"In the first three weeks there was evidence it was working," Herod said.

Herod endured six months of chemotherapy followed by a mastectomy before moving on to the next phase of her treatment — radiation therapy.

For the next seven weeks, Herod would come into the office for half a day on Monday morning, drive to Grand Junction for five days of treatment and return Friday afternoon.

"That was the worst part, because it was being gone from home, from work, the whole deal," she said, noting that despite the more intense physical toll of chemo, being away from home was much more challenging.

All the while, Herod was keeping up with her duties as county clerk, using a laptop computer to work remotely from Grand Junction.

Corrie and John Ponikvar, good friends of Herod, happened to have a small house less than a mile from the hospital where Herod was receiving treatment so they gave her the keys, setting her up with a place to stay.

Herod said with support from friends, family and coworkers she was able to keep her spirits up throughout the intense treatment. Her work as clerk also helped.

"You have to just keep your head in the game," she said.

After a year of treatment Herod's cancer regressed and by November 2012 she had completed treatment.

Today, there is still a fear that the cancer might return. But Herod said she has received great support from those around her and that makes all the difference.

"You feel loved," she said. "Some days when you think you can't do it, they're in the corner saying 'you can, and I'm here to help you.'"

Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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