Riding for More Victories

Friday, May 18, 2018 - 12:42pm

One spring day in 2012, Janice woke up with a horrible headache. Because her mom had had a brain aneurysm at a young age, Janice paid attention and called her husband. By dinnertime that day, she was coming out of brain surgery.

It was stage 4 glioblastoma. A fist-sized tumor had ruptured in her brain and caused that headache that would change everything. Under the care of Lazlo Mechtler, MD, FAAN, FASN, Chief of the Department of Neuro-Oncology at Roswell Park, she did 33 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, followed by a clinical trial.

After a recurrence and subsequent treatment in 2016, Janice is now doing so well that she’s riding the 3-mile Family River Route in The 2018 Ride For Roswell. She’ll be riding with Team Grey Matters, led by her sister, Michelle, and named for the foundation Janice created in order to fundraise in support of brain cancer issues.

Hear My Voice

When Janice had her last chemo treatment, she thought it would be really great if there were a way for everyone to celebrate their victories at Roswell Park. So she started exploring. After hearing some things other hospitals do, she worked with her husband and son to create something everyone at Roswell Park now knows well: the victory bell.

Their generous donation has since become a triumphant rite of passage for hundreds, even thousands of patients. Since 2014, survivors have rung the victory bell on the last day of their treatment, after receiving good news from their care team or when they are declared cancer free.

And every single person within hearing range cheers when they hear it sound.

“Because I’m a pianist, sound is important to me,” Janice says. “This bell has a beautiful tone. There are warrior angels on it and a Latin saying that means ‘Who touches me hears my voice.’”

Janice would rather be sitting at a piano than most other places. She’s a church pianist, and has just written four inspirational songs she’s recording with the help of a local choir and one of her nurses, who’s a guitarist. “To me, music is a therapy,” she says. “I feel it really helps people.”

Why Ride?

The average life expectancy after receiving a diagnosis of stage 4 glioblastoma is two years. Janice is riding in The Ride For Roswell six years after her cancer was discovered. She is deeply grateful to Roswell Park and all its donors for all they do to help people.

“Roswell is just fantastic. What a great institution. The people there are just phenomenal, and the way they do things and the way they help you — we had a makeup class for people with cancer. That was really nice and really helpful. They help you feel better about it, and the expertise there is just amazing. Here’s Buffalo, which is not a great big city, having this incredible institution right here in our backyards. It’s amazing.”

Janice can’t ride a regular bike anymore because of a bad blind spot resulting from her first brain surgery. So her husband got creative and joined a men’s and a women’s bike together side by side. It’s a tandem built with love that the two of them will ride on June 23.

So, what does The Ride mean to Janice?

“It’s that I am somebody who has brain cancer, and I am a person who is strong enough to be able to be out there and riding and showing people that you have cancer and life doesn’t stop with that diagnosis. That’s what it means to me, and I want to encourage people to live their life as full as possible.”