- By Julia Wade
A handful of locals willingly said goodbye to their tresses and curls recently to help raise funds for a Mangawhai woman, known for her generous and kindhearted nature, who has recently been dealt a devastating cancer diagnosis.
Devoted mother of three, 42-year-old Janelle Penjueli, was given a life expectancy of only two months after her symptoms were mistaken for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Kaiwaka’s Three Furlongs Hotel hosted a ‘shave-off’ on October 7 organised by friend Cheryl Anderson, Furlongs staff member Kyle Underwood and Headz of Hair owner/stylist Rose Paikea.
The event contributed nearly $3000 to ongoing fundraising efforts to support Janelle, husband George, and daughters, aged 13, 10 and 7 years, as they face an uncertain future together.
The former Wellington police officer and mobile hair stylist had felt continuously unwell in the later months of 2016, and visited a medical centre on multiple occasions with complaints of ongoing abdomen discomfort.
Although Janelle changed her diet to treat the diagnosis of IBS and blood tests revealed no concerns, the symptoms persisted for a further six months. With her general health failing to improve and the pain became increasingly unbearable, in June 2017 Janelle drove herself to Whangarei Hospital. After tests and a biopsy operation, where over a foot of her bowel and an ovary were removed, she was given a frightening diagnosis of stage four bowel cancer. However treatment to fight the disease had to be put on hold as a painful and nearly deadly infection caused by an epidermal injection from the surgery had spread through Janelle’s spine. While recovering from a second operation to clear the toxins, which saw her cut from the base of her neck to tail bone, the cancer spread with aggressive tumours forming in her pelvic area. The couple were given a new nightmare prognosis: an inoperable and untreatable pelvic mass with life expectancy of only two months.
As medical treatment is not on offer due to the extent of the disease, Janelle has turned towards natural therapies, adopting a vegan diet, acupuncture for pain relief and the controversial intravenous Vitamin C infusions, which have reportedly helped a number of cancer sufferers. However first Janelle has to be well enough for the treatment, her health complicated by a recent bout of flu which has left her even more depleted of vitality and confined to bed. She is currently recuperating at Waitakere Hospital but is hopeful to start Vitamin C treatment soon.
Since her diagnosis in June, ironically and poignantly Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Janelle and her family have to contend with everyday physical pain and nausea as well as the emotional distress, disbelief and grief of the disease. Anger over the devastating effects from the delayed diagnosis has been consciously laid aside for now, as those who love her choose to focus solely on Janelle’s health.
All money donated through fundraising will go towards treatment costs easing the financial burden for the family. A movie night and cake sale, organised by a group of local mums, raised $5500 and
personal items, portraits and even free life-long netball membership for her daughters have been gifted to the family.
The private family, who are members of the Causeway Church, are incredibly humbled and encouraged by the generosity, support and love shown from the Mangawhai/Kaiwaka areas, with one family member commenting she knew Mangawhai was a great community but had no idea just how amazing it was.
Friends suggest the outpouring of support and donations is a reflection of how Janelle has touched so many people through her mobile hairdressing business and being involved in the community through school, sports, Save Te Arai, church and her marae in Leigh, becoming a friend and confidante to many.
Janelle wants to thank all the ‘wonderful people who continue to support, think of and pray for me and my family through this journey, we’ve been so deeply touched… we are also conscious that there are others in the community who are also going through similar health battles, with some doing it worse… we pray for them’.
Janelle’s essential message however is for people to be assertive when it comes to their health and to not hesitate in seeking second opinions. ‘Ultimately you know your body, you need to listen to yourself’.
n If you would like to donate please visit, givealittle.co.nz/cause/janellesfightfortime