As told to: Jennifer Friesen
Following the Thanksgiving long weekend in October 2021, Torey Erdman returned to the operating room at Rockyview General Hospital, where she worked as a registered nurse. She casually mentioned to her surgeon colleague that she must have “over-indulged” during the holiday as she still felt full. He suggested he give her a “quick exam just to be sure” and recommended she get a CT scan to be safe. She took his advice, and, within four days, doctors discovered a 26-centimetre mass in her abdomen. She was diagnosed with liposarcoma; sarcomas are rare cancers that develop in bones and soft tissue and liposarcoma is a rare cancer that develops in fatty tissue. Erdman soon underwent radiation and the tumour was surgically removed.
Shortly after her surgery, Erdman read an article about Lorne Miller, a Calgary firefighter who faced the same diagnosis. After reaching out to him, the two bonded quickly over their shared experience. Now 38 years old, Erdman is in remission and still works as a nurse. And, along with Miller, Erdman is an ambassador for the OWN.CANCER campaign to offer hope and raise awareness.
“I was in complete disbelief when I was first diagnosed. I had no other symptoms other than feeling full. I was looking for a [support] network, and my surgical team told me how liposarcoma is very rare and my case was unique. Initially, it left me with a very big feeling of isolation.
“It was this huge weight off my shoulders when I met Lorne because there’s not a lot of [younger] people out there with sarcoma. It was so nice to share information, knowing he had gone through everything and had come out the other side thriving.
“I had my surgery on Jan. 26, 2022, and came home three weeks later a very different version of myself. But the human body is incredible and I was back to work in May. Even in my darkest moments, so many people uplifted me. It was challenging, but I was so well-supported and loved. I also can’t say enough about my surgeon, Dr. Lloyd Mack, and the oncology team at the Foothills and Tom Baker.
“Lorne was a mentor in a sense to me, and I thought, ‘If I can share my story and have someone recognize themselves in me, maybe I can help, too.’ I want to be an advocate for sarcoma because it accounts for less than one per cent of all cancers. It’s important to me to give back because I’m so grateful for my care and want to [support] this community.”
Lorne Miller’s Story
Lorne Miller was diagnosed with liposarcoma on Mother’s Day in 2021. It was a whirlwind as he tried to figure out the logistics of his treatment with his wife and two children. His surgery was a month later, and he woke up on his 39th birthday to the news that he was on the road to recovery. He met Erdman shortly before he had a recurrence just before Christmas in 2022, but has since had surgery to remove the mass and is now in remission. He said it was a “no-brainer” for the two of them to support the OWN.CANCER campaign.
“For me and Torey, as frontline workers, the notion of giving back is already something that runs through our blood. We also know we won’t be the last people to walk that journey. So, it’s been important for us to work together and stay connected and help give back. If we can be a light of hope for someone else who gets that phone call, then we’re all for it. And to do it as a team is powerful for us.”