An Advocate to the End: a Conversation With Judy Erdahl

It’s May, the month that Firefly celebrates it’s “Birthday,” when women diagnosed with breast cancer were able to request the support of a Firefly Guide.

In our previous podcast, a Firefly board member shared her birthday wish for Firefly’s future – a wish that is as grandiose as it is necessary: “When I think about the future of Firefly Sisterhood the goal that comes to my mind is that we will know a point in time where an organization like Firefly doesn’t actually even need to exist any longer because breast cancer will have been cured.”

Yes, it is Firefly’s birthday this month. Yes, we are celebrating. But we can’t wait for the celebration that will happen when this wish comes true!

Today, we are sharing the story of Judy Erdahl, whose Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) diagnosis led her to embrace this goal and do everything in her power to find a cure through advocacy and fundraising. We want to honor her dedicated work, inspire you with her amazing wisdom and courage, and begin an end-of-life conversation in a three-part series: An Advocate to the End. Today, we share Judy’s story two ways:

  1. Listen to Judy and her friend Kate share their story and advocacy in our podcast episode, An Advocate to the End. Our podcast (Breast Cancer 1 to 1 with Firefly Sisterhood) is available on iTunesStitcher, Google Play, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts and subscribe to get monthly episodes as they become available.

2. Read excerpts from one of Judy’s final “Pink is Complicated” blogs:

Early Evening

I went to see the “Wizard” (my oncologist) for my next dose of chemo and he walked in and said it was time to stop treatment. The chemo drugs, and every other form of deterrent we had tried had stopped working. I stared at the Wizard for a moment, my heart beating and that pit of helplessness forming in my stomach, oddly enough, I began to feel a bit of relief. The Wizard had kept his promise. Way back in the beginning of this metastatic treatment plan, I had asked the Wizard to let me know when he thought I should stop treatment. I had seen too many others keep treating until they were frail and very sick. I didn’t want to do this. I would feel like I had missed the time to say good-bye. To talk to each other about what we really meant to one another. I wanted time at the end to say good-bye. Many others make other choices. This is a horrific disease. It takes away so much and we should all honor each other’s decisions. I could not be more proud and happy—yes , happy—about the way my medical team had treated me for the last 13 years. They had become family. I knew they really cared about me and did their best to keep helping me achieve my goals while living with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). We’ve made almost all of them, with one left to conquer this May.

This has been hard and scary. Thankfully I also have an amazing hospice team. They are phenomenal and I really mean that. I have the fierce and protective love of a friend who is determined to keep me safe, comfortable, and rested. Everyone should have someone going to bat for them like this. Beyond my friend, there is my wonderful husband and family, and a group of amazing friends and caring community.

I feel my medical care has been beyond exceptional. Did I get a second opinion? Yes, I did. Did I try every nutty suggested cure out there? Well, within reason. I grasped at straws as much as the next person. I will say that I think exercise and nutrition did support me.

It’s a shocker to change your way of thinking from “What can I do to get better?” to one of finding peace with those I love and getting my soul ready for what comes next. There are so many things to talk about and explain. It’s impossibly hard for me to watch how much pain I am placing my family and friends in as they watch me deteriorate. I’m even surprised by that. Most of the time it’s hard to imagine I’m in hospice (at least my vanity likes me to think so). But as more and more medical equipment begins to fill my bedroom, I’m starting to think it might be true.

I feel overwhelmed when I try and think about what I should leave for the boys to remember me by. I freeze when I think of the enormity of the task. How can I put all of my love into some kind of momento? My heart breaks when I see my husband break down. My sons, 2 amazing human beings, have been living within the all-consuming grip of cancer since 8th and 5th grade. They are now 27 and almost 25.

But, as they have said, they appreciate how this has taught them to appreciate and make time for those they love and they like how hospice actually gives them time to say goodbye. They’ve taken turns in small ways of taking care of me. Luke and Jacqueline were phenomenal when they were here last week. Ranen does small things to show he cares and is noticing.

If there is anything I’ve learned about this disease it’s how fast things change. I test my will and we’ll see how far my body will take me. Each week there are small changes I hate to see. But I focus on the present as much as I can. I continue to advocate for MBC.

The entire blog and Judy’s Metastatic Breast Cancer story can be found at Pink Is Complicated.

Written by Judy Erdahl, wife, mother, friend, advocate. Her message of hope, compassion, and encouragement reminds us that each of us can make a difference when it comes to finding a cure, no matter how small your effort may be. Judy, we hold you and your family in the light.  


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