The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Breast Cancer

October 23, 2013

‘They keep me going’: 4 Welsh terriers help Indiana woman keep a positive attitude

INDIANA — A look at the past few years and Jane Erdman’s battle with cancer gives new meaning to the term roller coaster ride.  

The battle has been anything but fun, but it sure has had its up and downs.

“I had stage four cancer and I’m hanging in there, hopefully for a while,” said Erdman, 67, of Indiana.

A webpage designer with a passion for Welsh terriers, Erdman was first diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2010.

The discovery came after she felt a lump in her left breast and sought a mammogram.

She went through the full gamut of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and was looking forward to a full recovery when they found a second lump in the proximity of the first.

“It was so small they were positive it hadn’t spread,” she said.

But spread it had.

The cancer, though very small tumors, turned up in her lungs and while not impacting on her breathing, the discovery was significant enough to cancel a planned double mastectomy.

“Once it spread, it (double mastectomy) was no use,” she said.

As 2011 passed, the cancer turned up in her brain. While it was what she termed a “very small tumor,” it was enough to cause discomfort.

Located in the cerebellum, the tumor caused imbalance and similar side effects, she said.

The 28 radiation treatments on her brain were the worst she has had to go through.

They caused a host of side effects, treatments that were compounded by a case of shingles in the area of her eyes.

“It worked for a while. The cancer markers were dropping,” she said. “Then it flared up again.”

Last year was one that Erdman does not want to repeat.

“The year 2012 was not a good one. I basically could not leave the bathroom,” she said.

Then tests in January showed she was again out ahead in her race in what has turned into a four-year struggle.

Erdman has been able to get her treatments close to her home through a UPMC satellite facility at Indiana Regional Medical Center.

Her doctor there tells her there is one more drug available he can use, but for now, her current regimen seems to be keeping things under control.

“The cancer is so aggressive, it will mutate at some point,” she said.

Meanwhile, Erdman is keeping a positive mental attitude and taking every step she can to maintain a healthy body.

Helping with the attitude are her four Welsh terriers.

“I breed them and I show them. They keep me going,” Erdman said. “I don’t want to go before them.”

She’s changed her diet, getting rid of refined sugar, which she thinks helps the cancer grow, and is eating lots of blueberries and other fruits.

“I’m feeling good,” she said.

“I’ve told my doctor that as long as he keeps me feeling good and I’m able to get around and do what I want to do, I’m OK.”

Kathy Mellott is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.con.kathymellotttd.


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