Janet Fisher is battling stage 3 pancreatic cancer.
Most Saturday mornings, David “Fish” Fisher, and his wife, Janet, can be found at the Carpe Diem coffee shop in downtown Canton, sharing a large table with a coterie of longtime friends.
The group is part of a support network for Janet Fisher, who is battling stage 3 pancreatic cancer.
For the last three years, the Perry Township couple has participated in PurpleStride Cleveland, an annual event sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Their wish is that more people from Stark County will participate in this year’s 5K and 1-mile walk June 13 at the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo.
Proceeds benefit pancreatic cancer research and helps support families affected by the disease.
This year’s goal is $400,000.
“The first time we did it it was just me and her,“ David Fisher said.
Last year, 13 of the couple’s family members and friends participated.
Janet Fisher was diagnosed in December 2016 after her coworkers and others noted she looked jaundiced.
“I felt fine,” she said. “That’s the problem with pancreatic cancer. You don’t feel any symptoms.”
In 2017, Janet Fisher underwent the “Whipple” procedure, a surgery to remove the part of the pancreas containing the tumor, as well as part of her stomach and small intestine.
She also underwent genetic testing that showed no family history pancreatic cancer; however several first cousins have experienced other types of cancer.
She was in remission following the surgery until the disease reappeared in 2018. She’s currently on her 41st round of chemotherapy, which is being administered though a portable pump. She also underwent five rounds of radiation.
She’s also on a list at University Hospital for any upcoming clinical trials.
The Fishers say they didn’t know a lot about pancreatic cancer before it intruded upon their lives.
“More people die of this disease than breast cancer,” David Fisher noted.
The two can’t say enough about their support network. David Fisher said his sister travels from Florida every year to participate in Purple Stride. One of their daughters designed their “Jan’s Junkies” team T-shirt, a reference to her love of chocolate.
Longtime friend Carolyn Hess is helping to spread the word about PurpleStride.
“Dave and Jan raised $3,000 last year,” Hess said. “And our goal this year is to raise $10,000. It would be great if we could guarantee more runners. We want Stark County to be a Top-10 team in Ohio.“
“When she was in the hospital, every week in the mail we’d get a a gift card to go out to dinner,” David Fisher said, adding that if he can’t take her to appointments at Akron City Hospital’s Cooper Caner Center, others step up and do it.
“These two really are an inspiration,” Hess said.
Janet Fisher, who has beaten her prognosis by at least nine months, still works full time at Akron Summa Hospital.
“My coworkers have been awesome,” she said. “Work has been a lifesaver.”
What advice would the Fishers offer other families facing the same situation?
“You’ve got to remain positive,” David Fisher said. “See if you’re eligible for the Whipple procedure, and find a doctor who’s done it a minimum of 15 times.”
“There’s websites and Facebook groups you can join,” Janet Fisher added. “Do your research and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.”
David Fisher marvels at his wife’s strength.
“For the last three years, she’s been a rock star,” he said. “Most people don’t make it this far... I think she can be an inspiration. She’s pretty much beaten the odds.”
“He’s my rock star,” Janet Fisher replied. “I tease him, ’What are you going to buy with my insurance money?’”
“We joke about it,” David Fisher said. “We have to.”
To learn more about PurpleStride Cleveland 2020, visit http://support.pancan.org
For sponsorship information contact Hess at 330-353-0909.