Blessings in disguise

In 2016, Janine Desrochers was worried because she was late for her mammogram.

She knew that it was important, for her especially. Her sister was a breast cancer survivor. Her other sister succumbed to the disease. Women in her family going back generations have had it. So she rescheduled her appointment, and didn’t miss it a second time. 

“I got a mammogram, and then they had me do [an ultrasound],” said Desrochers, a Louisa resident. “I had also participated in a trial for people who had a family history of breast cancer, so I knew I was at risk.”

Following the results of the ultrasound, Desrochers was called into her doctor’s office. 

“He took my hand and said, ‘I’m so sorry. You have breast cancer,’” she said. 

After her diagnosis in January 2016, she began chemotherapy almost immediately. In March, she had her lumpectomy.

“My oncologist called and said, ‘Why haven’t you had your surgery yet?’” she said, laughing. “I wound up having it two days later.”

The timing was coincidental. Desrochers was going through a painful divorce, and was dealing with the pain and grief that naturally follows such an event. She credits her cancer with giving her the will to fight, not just against her cancer, but her depression as well.

“I had said for so long, ‘Why me?’” she said. “Then suddenly I realized, ‘Why not me?’”

With the support of her doctors, her friends and her family, she charged into the battle of her life, and quickly discovered that she was far from alone.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I think having cancer gave me another way of understanding people. I have met some of the best people, friends I feel like I’ve known my whole life, because of it. I go to the grocery store ... and someone will notice the scar where I had the port, and we’ll talk about it like we’re veterans of the same war.”

For well over a year beginning in 2016, Desrochers endured countless chemotherapy sessions, radiation treatments and surgeries. Her  family, and especially her sons, supported her throughout the process, even remodeling her kitchen to boost her spirits. 

As her recovery came to an end, and she emerged victorious from the same fight so many of the women in her family had lost, she said she began finding new things to enjoy and appreciate.

“I discovered that I love photography,” she said. “I want to learn how to paint, next.”