I’ve mentioned Janette a few times in the things I’ve written here. She lives in North Carolina, has three sisters, one of whom is her twin, and one brother. She also has three kids, loads of grand kids with a new little boy expected any day now, she loves Daryl Hall and calls him her “man.” Janette is a sweet woman who can kick anyone’s ass if they push too hard, and she a good friend to me. We, along with our friend Cathy, call each other “sistas.”
Why am I telling you so much about Janette? Because she called me at 10:00 this morning in tears. Janette has cancer and not just one cancer she has a few different ones. She was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma ten years ago. Then late last year she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had a mastectomy. The cancer has now spread to her liver and she just found out that it’s also in her Cervical Spinal Nerve 2. Out of all the cancers she’s been diagnosed with this cancer frightens her more than the others. Let me just say that Janette is dying. Everyone knows it but even Janette never said it out loud to me until this morning when I told her I knew she was dying and have even spoken about it with our friend Cathy and to another of Janette’s friends. I admitted that I suspected that things were not going well to Cathy but never said it to Janette herself.
The reason for her tears this morning is that Janette’s having severe pain in her neck caused by the cancer in her Cervical Spinal Nerve 2. If you’ve ever had a pinched nerve in your neck you’ll understand had horrible the pain can be. Her doctors don’t seem to be taking her complaints seriously. Janette has told me multiple times that she feels as if she’s being brushed under the rug. I understand that.
I truly believe that when some doctors see a 66 year old woman with terminal cancer they might not go out of their way to help much. Janette needs pain medication to control or even take the edge off the neck pain but she’s also given a million excuses why she can’t get a prescription. One excuse is that she might become addicted. For real? Becoming addicted to pain medication is the least of her problems.
Janette called and begged me to write about what she’s going through with her process of dying. She’s tired of platitudes, “the sun will come out tomorrow”, “you’re strong”, “keep fighting” and things like that. What Janette wants everyone to know is that she is not strong, she is not brave, and that whenever she seems that way it’s all an act that she feels she has to put on. The last thing she wants to do is upset her children, grandchildren, her sisters, and brother and the rest of her family so she smiles through it all but inside she’s terrified.
I tell Janette that she can call me anytime at all and she can feel free to get it all off her chest. That’s what she did this morning. My sister died from Colon Cancer seven years ago and I saw what a battle with cancer can and does do to the victim and their family.
She wants me to spread her story to other people fighting this disease. She needs help. Janette want to know how all of you fighting and all the caregivers get what you need? How do you get your doctor to listen to you and not brush you under the rug? How do you get your family and friends not to be afraid and to not try to sugar coat the fact that you’re dying and might not be around when Christmas rolls around this year? How do you explain to people that telling you not to be afraid does not work? How do you get people to understand that you’re afraid and need them to listen to you cry and to talk with you? How do you live with the fact that your time is limited?
I do my best when I speak with Janette. I never told her that she’ll be fine because I don’t believe that. I cry when I think of her but the last thing she needs is to comfort me because I have to be a part of her support group.
We’ve been on the phone for hours this morning. The only time we weren’t was when she called her doctor’s office, stopped being nice, and told his nurse that she needed some relief from her pain. Today is her doctor’s day off but he called her back and told her to go to his office. That’s where she is now.
More than anything Janette wants whatever is left of her life to be lived with some sort of dignity and with some quality. She wants to be able to hold her new grandson when he’s born and tell him she loves him. She wants to be able to play with her little three-year old granddaughter, and she wants to be able to talk to her older grandchildren and tell them more stories about her life growing up. She wants to hold her children and tell them not to worry too much, and she wants to love her siblings and smile with them and maybe laugh a little too.
“How do I do this Sharon? How do I get people to listen to me, treat me with respect, understand what I’m going through? I’ve thought about this and the only option I see is to go to you and ask you to please write about me on your blog. Please ask people if they have an answer to the best way to die with cancer. I just want to wake up in the morning with little or no pain and to know that all my family and friends are supporting me and to not treat me like a child. I know I’m dying but I need a ton of support.”
So I’m asking you, cancer fighters, caregivers, friends and family of people who are going through what Janette is going through to please post on the blog and help Janette get through this hard time. I will make sure she sees your posts and I’m sure she will comment.
Thank you all.
UPDATE on Janette – The night this article was written Janette fell in her apartment and broke her back. She’s in the hospital now and is scheduled for back surgery next week. She will then be put in a back brace so she can heal and then she will have to go to a rehabilitation center. All this will take months.
I spoke with her late last night and she said that she thanks everyone for their beautiful comments. I’ll be sending her everything you’ve been posting. The only time she brightened up was when I told her how many people have read this article about her.
Please share this piece about Janette if you can. I’m so worried about her. Last night she said, “I’m in a real pickle now, Sharon.”