Living on Hope and Prayer

Wesley Harris
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Sandyville lady battles gastro carcinoma

Imagine how difficult it is when a patient is diagnosed with cancer!

At home Jeanette (R), accompanied by her friend Pauline, takes a moment to read one of the hundreds of cards that were delivered to her home or brought by Pauline from the fundraiser.

 Imagine how much more difficult it is when the patient is told that she has a hidden cancer called gastro carcinoma, a cancer which arises in the tissue of the skin or in the lining of the internal organs, and then is told she has multiple, enlarged lymph nodes, a spot on her spine and a spot on her right kidney.

When a 41-year-old mother of two children gets this news, she is horrified. Then she asks about treatment and is told, “That’s your call, but it won’t do anything for you.” The horror had deepened.

Jeanette Herritt’s descent into horror began in November of 2012 when she began having a lot of diarrhea and an eventual colonoscopy showed nothing. “I began to think”, she said, “that there’s colon cancer in our family: my father died from it after being told at first it was a pinched nerve causing his pain.” The next year in March she had constant laryngitis and wanted to see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist). Before that was arranged, she saw a doctor in Harbour Breton who prescribed an antibiotic which cleared up the laryngitis.

“In April my stomach began to trouble me: I experienced spasms of severe pain (up to ten hours at a time) causing me to throw up, “ she explained. “Between that time and Christmas Eve I made 39 trips to different emergency rooms and was prescribed different pain killers and the stomach medications such as losec and pantoloc.” When the problems persisted, she was told it could be gall bladder trouble (she had her gall bladder removed 12 years earlier), it could be irritable bowel syndrome ( she took medication for that for a month and a half), it could be h-pylori bacteria (her test for that came back negative) and it could be a nervous stomach ( she was asked if she and her husband had marital problems).

In December she passed a kidney stone, and a CT scan on December 11 was arranged; on December 12 she was told that she has stage 4 gastro carcinoma, multiple, enlarged lymph nodes, and spots on her spine and right kidney. This lead to an upper GI examination in Grand Falls-Windsor on December 19 where she was told, “I can see the growth in your stomach”, a growth that did not show in her earlier upper GI. Her doctor explained, “You have what is called the ‘The Hidden Cancer’: it started in the walls (lining) of your stomach and worked its way into the layers of your stomach.”

A biopsy of the stomach tissue and the lymph nodes confirmed the malignancy, and at her request, the doctor phoned her on Christmas Eve with the results, telling her that surgery was not an option and the treatment was her call. She also learned that the spots on her spine and right kidney were not cancerous.

After consultations with the doctor in Grand Falls-Windsor and a cancer doctor in St. John’s, Jeanette elected to take the treatment: three rounds of IV chemotherapy and six pills a day for 63 days. She also took a herbal supplement from a supplier on the Burin Peninsula; the supplement was basically a detoxifier which she said boosted her energy considerably.

Now, in early February, 63 pounds lighter and in a lot less pain, she plans to travel to Halifax to see another surgeon for a second opinion on her prognosis.

To help her with some the expenses she has incurred and for her trip to Halifax, her friend and daily visitor/helper Pauline Morris arranged a fund raiser on January 31; Pauline and her friends, using social media and the telephone, contacted everyone in Hermitage-Sandyville and Seal Cove; the message reached thousands on Facebook. As a result of the fundraiser and from mailed in donations which arrive daily, a total of $13, 095.00 was realized up to February 4.

“I was overwhelmed with the response,” Jeanette said, “I never imagined I had so many friends. I guess anyone with small children knows what I am going through. Let me tell everyone how thankful I am for this outpouring of help and concern; it really uplifted me.”

When I interviewed her on February 4, she was very positive, in good spirits and was praying and hoping for good news in Halifax.

So this community activist (she was involved with weekly delivery of the Coaster, with Sunday School, with the Pioneers, with the Seal Cove Youth Group, with the ACW Sandyville, with the School Council, with the Church Vestry and Altar Guild) has experienced a 180-degree turn in her life as she fights on despite the odds, knowing that everyone is praying and hoping for her.

Organizations: Seal Cove Youth Group, Church Vestry

Geographic location: Grand Falls-Windsor, Harbour Breton, Halifax Hermitage-Sandyville Seal Cove

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