Nearly eight years after learning that he had a rare form of cancer, Anthony Herrera has written a book about his battle with the disease. Recently, Mr. Herrera sat down with James Pylant for an exclusive interview to discuss his battle with cancer, his work on As the World Turns and the future.
In 1997, Anthony Herrera, the indestructible James Stenbeck ("As the World Turns") was told, "You have cancer. You are going to die." The diagnosis, mantle cell lymphoma, came after the discovery of a lump in the actor's neck. But the resilient Anthony Herrera did not agree that disease would end his life. He was treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and an autogolous bone marrow transplant. In the fall of 1998 Herrera relapsed. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. In April 1999, Herrera was admitted to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, a hospital that was pioneering a new technique in stem cell transplantation. He received a donor stem cell transplant from his brother. This procedure made medical history in the treatment of lymphoma and gave Anthony Herrera hope for a cancer-free life.
The actor's battle is told in a newly released book, The Cancer War, in his own words. In an exclusive interview Anthony Herrera shares his story.
JP: How long have you been in remission?
AH: Four years.
JP: You were at the gym when you first made the discovery of a lump on your neck. Had you any warning that something was not right?
AH: No. No warning at all. Everyone's case is different.
JP: After you found the lump, how much time lapsed before actually learning the diagnosis?
AH: After three days I found out it was lymphoma. . . A week later that it was mantle cell lymphoma.
JP: Anthony, you've had episodes of depression some years earlier. Your friend, Cleavon Little, died of cancer, and then another friend died shortly after. Both were 53. And you were 53 when you learned of your own diagnosis. The waiting time and the diagnosis had to very stressful, yet somehow you didn't fall back into severe depression.
AH: No, for some reason I didn't. It just went away. I think mentally I just focused so hard. Physically I was in very good health.
JP: The tests were positive for lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma, which is very rare. You were told -- bluntly -- that you were going to die.
AH: Yes, it was blunt, but he was a rude jackass, and I went to another hospital. . . you can quote me on that.
JP: What to you attribute to your success in fighting cancer?
AH: The success is due to brilliant doctors, finding the right hospital, and a positive attitude -- watching, questioning, and finding out.
JP: The Cancer War is the title of your new book, your own battle with lymphoma. How long did it take to write your story?
AH: Off and on for three years.
JP: Proceeds of the book sale are aiding Poetry Theatre. Tell me about this project.
AH: Willie Nelson gave me the idea to put my one man show -- performing poetry -- on the web (www.poetrytheatre.org). The website gives poetry to everyone to inspire, to enjoy and to learn.
JP: It's been a long journey from a small Mississippi town. Since childhood, you always secretly wanted to be an actor but you didn't share that dream until you're an adult?
AH: In Mississippi in those days it wasn't "cool" to be in the arts.
JP: You began your role as super villain James Stenbeck on "As the World Turns" 25 years ago. When you first began this role, did you ever dream it would be so popular with the show's fans?
AH: No, I just wanted out of California. My plan was to get back to New York. Stella Adler -- the great Stella Adler -- told me it would take 12 to 14 years for me to get a grip on my craft . . . This happened about the time I started Stenbeck. The real actor works a lifetime improving his or her craft.
JP: Everyone wants to know: Is James Stenbeck returning anytime soon?
AH: On the air this week.
For details about buying Anthony Herrera's The Cancer War, visit www.thecancerwar.com. Purchases are tax-deductible and support Poetry Theatre, Inc.
James Pylant, Research Director and Editor, wrote a genealogy column for seven Texas newspapers, edited American Genealogy Magazine, worked full-time as a professional genealogist in Salt Lake City, served on the board of directors of Central Texas Historical Preservation, Inc., and now serves on the advisory board of Tarleton State University's Cross Timbers Historical Images Project. A member of the National Genealogical Society and a graduate of its educational program, American Genealogy: A Basic Course, he is a former contest judge for the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors.