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Plum woman turns to fundraiser to help sick father

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
Dawn Elder, of Plum, is organizing a fundraiser for her father, John Elder, who has prostate cancer. John Elder's prescription medication costs are $3,760 a month after insurance coverage. Submitted photo

When Cathy Elder died four years ago, Dawn Elder lost not only her mother but also her caretaker.

“It was hard because I have a chronic illness, and she was taking care of me,” said Elder, 36, of Plum who has a bladder disease and suffers from daily migraine headaches.

Elder still was reeling from the loss of her mother, a non-smoker who died at the age of 61 just four months after being diagnosed with lung cancer, when her father, John Elder, 64, two years later was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“He went from no cancer to stage IV in one year,” said Dawn Elder, a mental health therapist who works in Murrysville. “The doctors said they had not seen this aggressive a form of it. It is usually slow growing.”

In stage IV, cancer has spread outside the prostate to other tissues. Thus, John Elder, also of Plum, was not a candidate for surgery, his daughter said.

John Elder underwent radiation and chemotherapy in combination with hormone treatments without success, she said.

Last month, John Elder began taking Zytiga, a prescription medication used to treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

He said the drug costs about $8,000 a month. His cost after insurance coverage is $3,760 a month.

“I get Social Security and a pension, but that doesn't cover it,” John Elder said.

Dawn Elder decided she needed to do something to help her father pay for the medicine he needs.

“My dad is all I have left,” she said. “He doesn't have the means to pay for this life-sustaining drug. He is an amazing man. I love him very much. He has been there unconditionally my entire life, and I am going to do everything I can to help him raise the money to get his medication.”

Elder said she tossed around different ideas to raise money.

She set up a website for donations, but the response was not what she anticipated.

She thought about trying to organize a 5K race. She decided against the idea because an event that complicated was too much for her to do given her health problems.

Next, Elder asked and received permission from Cornerstone Ministries, where she attends services, to conduct a pasta dinner and Chinese auction there from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday.

John Elder is proud of his daughter's efforts.

“She is working really hard,” said John Elder, who hopes to be able to attend the fundraiser. “It means a lot to me.”

John Elder said he will find out in a couple of weeks if the drug is working to slow the spread of the cancer.

“I am going day by day,” he said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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