She fought like a warrior for about two years through cholangiocarcinoma, which is basically cancerous growth in one of the ducts that carries bile from the liver to the small intestine. That’s the cold medical definition. The painful reality was far more graphic and horrifying, and I couldn’t possibly recount her battle with any justice. You must read Janine’s blog to see what she went through in her own words. Her last post was January 5, and not long after that, she was placed in hospice care. The last time I heard from her directly was February 4, my birthday. She was in hospice care and entirely too unwell to think about other people, but she thought about me, and I’m so thankful that our last words to each other were exchanges of love and support. I was able to tell her that I loved her before she died. That has been a great comfort to me.
I first came to know Janine about eighteen years ago. At that time, I was living in St. Louis, going to school, and just learning to use the internet. Happenstance brought me to a chat room for my favorite television show at the time, Dr. Quinn. Remember those early days of the internet when chat rooms were about meeting like-minded people instead of nasty places where dirty old men troll for underage girls and boys now? It was more innocent back then. I met Janine there, as well as many others, and all of us got together every Saturday night to talk about the show. Three of them – Janine, Jennifer, and Mariann – became lifelong friends for me. We were all writers in one way or another. We were all interested in history. We were all relatively close in age.
Janine and I were a bit closer over time though. We had a bond that lacked real explanation, nor did we ever try to explain it. A great number of trials and tribulations befell both of us as we grew into womanhood, as well as sharing innumerable secrets between women that will never again be uttered aloud. Despite the physical distance, Janine became one of my best friends. She was the first person I confided in about my past life case as Fanny Chamberlain, and when I eventually wrote a book about it, I made sure I included her in it. She never judged me when I felt completely insane by the whole thing. That was her way in any situation. She could be loud and opinionated when the passion of a thing overtook her, but there was a gentleness in her that made a person feel secure in enjoying full confidences. Now that I’m looking back on it, I can’t think of a single incident in which my confidence was broken. Until you’ve enjoyed the rarity of someone so incapable of petty gossip, I don’t think you could fully understand the value of it.
Janine and I cut our teeth in literature by sharing our writing with each other. We were both avid readers and writers, which was probably the biggest source of our bond. I probably wouldn’t have worked on improving my writing so much if I hadn’t had people like Janine, and a bit later, Martina, who were willing to be honest about what was good, bad, and ugly. Janine was a wonderful writer as well, although she never thought herself as anything much, and never (to my knowledge) tried to get herself published. Late last year, she asked me for advice about self-publishing, as publishing a book was on her bucket list, and I offered to help her through the process. She got sicker and sicker though. It never materialized. I hope one day, after the loss isn’t so raw, her family will find her stories and have them published. It was one of her dreams that never came to fruition.
A little more than ten years ago, I became engaged. I was the first one of us to take that plunge. That relationship became abusive in various forms that I don’t want to discuss now, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. Janine came to visit not long after we moved in together and she knew right away that things weren’t right. As is the case with so many women in abusive relationships, the face of denial becomes such a heavy mask that it will destroy every other relationship in her life. She and I hit the roughest patch of our relationship and I went on to have to smack rock bottom face first with a miscarriage, alcoholism, and pill addiction before I found the courage to leave. Janine and I were not on good terms during the years that I was with my ex but she never completely disappeared. She was there observing and was still there when others disappeared completely.
And while she visited, she gave me a rosary that she’d had blessed by a priest specifically for me, pictured above. I often hid the rosary under broken parts of my old jewelry box and managed to save it from being stolen as I lived like a nomad in the years after leaving my ex. I used that rosary when I went on paranormal investigations and had it in hospitals with me. It has traveled almost as much as I have and I don’t feel right without it if I leave for any trip, whether paranormal related, history related, or just pleasure. The last trip I took it with me was when I went to San Francisco with PRS for paranormal work at the USS Hornet and Alcatraz. Janine was always supportive of my work in the paranormal. For many years, she was one of the only people on this planet who knew I was a child medium (and grew into an adult medium). She never judged or scolded me about it. She understood because she had been through some paranormal experiences of her own.
When I did my NoH8 picture about three years ago, I used Janine’s rosary as well, pictured below.
In repairing my life after going through abuse, a miscarriage, addiction, etc., Janine and I rebuilt our relationship too. This is one of the things I’m most grateful for in my life because it wasn’t too long after that when her symptoms appeared. Had either of us been too proud or too stubborn to forgive and reconcile, she would have died without us coming back together again as we were once.
There were times in the course of her illness when she expressed to me the fear and desire to know if I felt, on an intuitive level, if she was going to beat her cancer. She never fully asked. Part of her didn’t want the answer. I never gave an answer either, mainly because she never fully asked, and partially because I always had a foreboding that it was only a matter of time. Neither of us ever wanted to say it aloud but I think there was a silent understanding that we both knew. I made it a point to tell her I loved her as often as I could and that has given me a little peace over the terrible loss. Had I not conveyed my feelings to her and resolved our relationship, the unsettled feeling and the pain would be worse.
My grief is not so direct. Imagining what Milo, her husband, or her mother, or other family members must be going through is rather impossible. I’m so thankful that Janine finally found true love before she got sick. It was the greatest dream of her life to find a lifelong companion and a beautiful love, just as it has been for me as well. We spent many, many hours talking about such dreams. Janine nearly gave up on finding real love until Milo came along. She never spoke a harsh word against him, and he stood by her through every minute of her illness. I may never find a love that beautiful or a companion that devoted, but I was so glad Janine got to experience it in the last years of her life. She never took it for granted after all of the frogs she had to kiss and the years of solitude in between that it took to find her prince.
At the end of a life, the only thing that really matters is whether you gave love and received love. Janine was blessed on both accounts. She will be remembered for her loyalty, passion, creativity, opinionated nature, joy, courage, and for the beautiful love she built in her marriage. For me, she will be remembered as the friend who never gave up on me when I wanted to give up on myself.
Rest well, my friend.