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Benefit planned for Feldman family: Mother and daughter battle ovarian cancer for past three years

Posted: Monday, Dec 24th, 2012

Jan Feldman, left, and her daughter, Laura, are shown next to a Christmas tree in the Girl Scouts Dakota Horizon office in Huron. Both mother and daughter are undergoing treatments for ovarian cancer. A benefit baked potato luncheon and auction begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 30, at the Elks Club, 460 Dakota Ave. S. PHOTO BY CRYSTAL PUGSLEY/PLAINSMAN

Each day is a gift for Jan and Laura Feldman, a mother-daughter duo from Huron who are both fighting ovarian cancer.

Laura’s cancer was diagnosed in September 2009, while her mother, also a breast cancer survivor, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May 2012.

To help the family with medical expenses, a baked potato luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Huron Elks, 460 Dakota Ave. S., with a silent and live auction beginning at 1 p.m. The auction will feature themed baskets.

Modern Woodmen will provide matching funds. For more information or to make donations, contact Sarah May at 350-5518.

“Mine is terminal,” said Laura, who is 36 and raising two sons, Payne, 11, and Cody, 4. She has stage 3 platinum-resistant ovarian adenocarcinoma. “Up until now I’ve been completely healthy. I never missed work.”

Looking back, if she had been more aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer it might have been diagnosed earlier, Laura said.

“That’s what took so long for me to be diagnosed,” she said. “I had bloating — I looked like I was pregnant, and constipation. Those were the huge ones for me.”

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer include abnormal bleeding or discharge, pelvic pain or pressure, back pain, loss of appetite or quickly feeling full and changes in bathroom habits.

Jan, who moved in with Laura last November to help her take care of the boys, said she had been feeling poorly for several months before her doctor ordered a CAT scan in May.

“That’s when they found it,” Jan said. “They thought mine was gall bladder at first.

“I am right now cancer free,” said Jan, who heard the same good news following her treatment for breast cancer in 2000. Her breast cancer went in remission in 2001. “I’ll be doing a year’s worth of maintenance chemo just to make sure.”

Once a month, mother and daughter travel to Sioux Falls for their monthly chemo treatments.

Genetic testing after Jan’s cancer was discovered in May reveal that both women have a BRCA gene, which means there is ovarian cancer in their family line.

Laura, whose cancer had already spread to the diaphragm and liver before it was diagnosed in 2009, said it has now moved into her spleen.

Since she was diagnosed three years ago, the longest she has been off chemo has been 45 days. While chemo may slow down the progression of the disease, the effects of those treatments carry a hefty price, Laura said.

One side effect is the development of pulmonary embolisms or blood clots in her lungs. In September she was airlifted to Sioux Falls with both lungs full of clots.

“The decision I’m facing now is if the side effects of chemo would kill me before the actual cancer,” Laura said. “We had to wonder if quality of life isn’t more important than quantity.”

“It’s really hard,” Jan added. “A parent isn’t supposed to watch their child die,” Jan added. “We’re thankful for the time we have.”

Dr. Luis Rojas in Sioux Falls has been treating both mother and daughter since Laura’s cancer was discovered three years ago.

“He’s like a member of the family,” Laura said. “My youngest was 13 months old when I was diagnosed. He was raised in the hospital.”

On good days, Laura is still able to work at her job as a dispatcher for People’s Transit.

“I have a really good boss who works with me,” she said. People’s Transit is managed by Ron Baumgart through River City Transit in Pierre.

Jan, who works for Girl Scouts Dakota Horizon in Huron, has also been able to continue working through her treatments as well.

Laura said her goal is to be around for her children for as long as possible.

“I’m in counseling, grief counseling,” she said. “Leaving my children is hardest; I can’t even fathom it.

“I bargain, I say you can have me the day after he (Payne) graduates,” Laura added. “My oldest says if I can make it until he’s 18 then he can take care of his brother.”

“They’re pretty close,” added Jan.

Making the most of each day is important, Laura believes.

“I’m still here and I’m still able to work,” she said. “Every day counts.”

For the complete article see the 12-23-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-23-2012 paper.

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