Janelle and Erwin Bergquist
Jan and Erwin Bergquist are world travelers. Even though Erwin was diagnosed
with mesothelioma, he doesn't hesitate to packs his bags ready to
embark on an Asian cruise.
In October of 2005, Erwin exhibited the classic preliminary symptoms of
malignant mesothelioma including a shorness of breath and some chest pain.
He had to catch his breath when climbing stairs. This is unusual for Erwin
since he's been fit since his service in the Navy as a young man.
Weeks passed before Erwin decided to see his primary doctor and like many
other mesothelioma patients. When he did, chest films were taken which
after reviewing them his doctor diagnosed pneumonia. By December 2005,
Erwin was still exhibiting "pneumonia-like" symptoms so Dr.
Thomas Brugman, a pulmonologist in Ventura, California, ordered a PET/CT
scan to better evaluate Erwin's symptoms. Dr. Brugman found accumulated
fluid in Erwin's chest which he subsequently drained in a process
called a thoracentesis.
Dr. Brugman was concerned about the cause of the fluid and urged Jan and
Erwin to cancel their trip to South America in January 2006 to consult
with Dr. James Woodburn, a general surgeon also in Ventura. Soon after
meeting with the Bergquists, Dr. Woodburn performed a lung biopsy. Examination
of the removed tissue revealed a fibrous tumor growth.
The doctor visits were just beginning. On March 13, 2006, Erwin consulted
with Dr. Lamar Bushnell, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Ventura, who took
one more biopsy that finally revealed the source of Erwin's breathing
difficulties and fluid accumulation. Jan and Erwin were shocked to hear
that he had malignant pleural mesothelioma. While they were unsure about
what to do exactly, Jan and Erwin did understand that they needed to seek
Dr. Bushnell referred Erwin to oncologist Dr. Esmond Chan, a clinical oncologist
at Coastal Radiation Oncology Medical Group in Ventura, for chemotherapy
using Alimta and Cisplatin. Dr. Bushnell suggested that after chemotherapy
ended, Erwin should see Dr. Robert Cameron, Director of the
Mesothelioma Program at UCLA School of Medicine, for surgical resection.
After only one round of chemotherapy, Erwin decided to get a second opinion
from Dr. Robert Cameron before any more time passed. In May 2006, Dr.
Cameron explained that many mesothelioma patients have the opportunity
to undergo surgical resection of their tumor before undergoing chemotherapy.
Dr. Cameron explained the type of surgery he would perform for Erwin,
a procedure known as a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). In this treatment, Dr. Cameron removes the pleura, which is the lining
around the lung where the tumor is usually located. On average, this surgery
lasts between six to eight hours because Dr. Cameron removes the pleura
and any affected areas by hand.
Later in May, Jan and Erwin also decided to consult with a surgeon at USC
Norris where they offered to do a less abrasive treatment. While weighing
all their options, Erwin decided to undergo one more round of chemotherapy.
Ultimately, he decided on surgery with Dr. Cameron which was done on June 13, 2006.
Erwin recuperated in the hospital for the next eight days. He felt weak
initially but a few days of "stairway treatment" quickly got
him out of the hospital and back to his normal routine.
Two months after surgery in August 2006, Jan and Erwin traveled to Germany,
Normandy, and France for three weeks with their grandson. Erwin went along
with the group which included taking a barge trip and attending a concert
that required him to climb 200 stairs. Though it was difficult he climbed
the stairs slowly and made it to the top.
When they returned, Erwin began radiation with Dr. Robert Lum in September
2006. Midway through his daily radiation treatment, Erwin took a few days
off for a reunion with his old Navy buddies. After the reunion he resumed
In February of 2007, Erwin began immunotherapy treatment using interferon
alpha. He has felt "pretty good" since February but continues
to see Dr. Cameron for follow ups every three months.
Mesothelioma, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, none of this has kept the
Bergquists from doing what they love-travel. At the end of May 2007, Jan
and Erwin joined friends on a cruise to Asia, China, and Japan. In September
2007, after visiting family in Seattle, Washington, they took another
vacation to Italy touring Rome and Tuscany. This is the first vacation
Jan and Erwin have taken by themselves in decades.
*** POSTED ON NOVEMBER 15, 2007 ***
An Update - 5/4/2009
Erwin just finished a month long intense radiation therapy. He underwent
two treatments a day for five days a week. He said, " this set of
radiation treatments left me exhausted, unlike the treatments I had a
few years ago". Shortly after the treatments, Erwin had a fall at
home, but says his daughter has been there for him around the clock. "It
could be worse", he stated, "so many other people with Mesothelioma
don't live as long as I have".
Erwin's beautiful wife Janelle passed away in January of this year.
Erwin said it has been difficult few months since her passing.
Three years have passed since his surgery with Dr. Robert Cameron. He just
had an check-up with Dr. Cameron and really appreciates all he has done
for him. Erwin hopes there are no more radiation treatments in his future.
*** Mr. Erwin Bergquist passed away on August 27, 2009 ***