Houston Woman Develops Lung Cancer Following Second-Hand Work-Related Asbestos Exposure

A Houston woman who miraculously recovered from lung cancer without treatment may have contracted the disease as a result of her father’s work-related asbestos exposure many years earlier.

Johnie Beth Matthews, who is now seventy-six-years-old, was diagnosed with lung cancer when she was just forty-four-years-old. Forty-four is the same age that her step-father was when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

While Matthew’s lung cancer hasn’t been officially linked to her own second-hand exposure to asbestos, the symptoms match. The fact that her step-father, who was of no blood-relation, developed the same form of cancer that she has now been diagnosed with, also seems to point to the possibility of work-related asbestos exposure being the cause.

Matthews’ step-father was a member of the United States Navy during World War II. After the end of the war, he moved with his family to Houston, where he began working in several of Houston’s shipyards. Years later, her step-father was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died soon after.

During his time in the shipyards, Matthew’s reports that her step-father would come home each day from work with asbestos particles clearly dotting his clothing. Matthew’s, who was young at this time, would often hug him as he got home.

This general exposure to asbestos could have been enough to cause asbestos exposure symptoms in Matthew’s, including mesothelioma, even though she did not become ill until many years after her father’s death. That’s because asbestos has a very long dormancy period in a victim’s body. It may take years, and even up to forty years, for symptoms to begin. Prior to that, a victim may have no idea that they have been exposed.

During World War II and even in the decades that followed it, the dangers of asbestos were not widely known. It wasn’t until years later that asbestos exposure symptoms, including the development of mesothelioma, were discovered and linked to the dangerous material. Despite knowledge of the dangers of work-related asbestos exposure, no ban has been placed on the use of asbestos in the United States at this time.

The development of mesothelioma and other asbestos exposure-related illnesses in veterans of the U.S. military remains a serious problem today. Mesothelioma has no known cure and only very limited treatment options. A diagnosis of mesothelioma is often followed by a very short life expectancy.

But that wasn’t the case for Matthews. She refused surgery and treatment for her lung cancer, and she ended up making an incredible, miraculous recovery. She is now cancer free. Unfortunately for most of those diagnosed with mesothelioma, this kind of case is certainly not the norm.

Matthew’s step-father did not pursue a lawsuit through Houston personal injury lawyers linking his cancer to his former employer. But that does not mean that Matthew’s could not reach out to Houston personal injury lawyers to begin her own lawsuit. There are still relatively few cases to set a precedent when it comes to second-hand work-related asbestos exposure.

Author: Tabitha Naylor


Tabitha Jean Naylor is an independent writer with over 6 years of experience crafting everything from articles to white papers and case studies. Tabitha holds a dual bachelor degree in Political Science and International Business from West Virginia University, where she graduated magna cum laude.