By mayoral proclamation, Thursday was “Wonder Woman Day” in Rushville in honor of local resident Janelle Bedel, who continues to fight Mesothelioma and to advocate banning asbestos.
Thursday evening, area residents came together in a big way to help raise monies Janelle has asked be donated to an organization that works to raise public awareness about asbestos and to ban the material.
Hardee’s hosted a fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. and 20 percent of their receipts from those three hours will be donated to Asbestos Disease Awareness (AsbestosDiseaseAwareness.org, otherwise known as ADAO).
Janelle has been dubbed Wonder Woman by family and friends and T-shirts of the famous cartoon heroine are being sold, with those profits also earmarked for advocacy, and the Corner Restaurant will host a Wonder Woman Day June 19 with 20 percent of the day’s receipts to be donated to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
Monday evening, Rushville resident Janelle Bedel was honored by Mayor Mike Pavey and members of the Rushville City Council with a proclamation and medallion in recognition of her valiant fight against Mesothelioma.
Members of the City Council arriving to honor Bedel included Bob Bridges, Brad Berkemeier, Brian Sheehan and Brian Conner. Janelle’s father, Bennie Cameron, her husband, Andrew, and son, Carson, were by her side for the presentation.
Janelle was diagnosed with stage 2 Mesothelioma in 2007 and her long battle has been chronicled in the pages of the Rushville Republican and in the hearts of the community of Rushville. How Janelle contracted this form of cancer is a mystery. It is commonly due to being exposed to materials containing asbestos.
At the time of her diagnosis and as reported in the Rushville Republican, Janelle had just been promoted to the IT department at MainSource Bank, something she had been looking forward to and loved. With a change in her work hours, she began to notice a shortness of breath in the mornings.
The shortness of breath continued for the next couple of weeks, and it got to the point where Janelle could barely vacuum the house without feeling like she had just run the New York Marathon. At the time, she was a smoker, so she quit out of concern for her health. Then, she had an asthma attack, despite the fact that she had never been diagnosed with asthma. So, she went to the doctor.
She was exhausted, feeling like she had the flu, and was totally drained. She took the five-day prescription that her doctor had given her, but her symptoms just got worse.
“I went back, and the doctor ordered a chest X-ray,” she said.
What it revealed was shocking, even to her physician. The X-ray showed a plural effusion on the left side of her body.
“He called me and said, ‘You’re not going to believe what’s causing this,’” Janelle recalled. “I remember him telling me how abnormal it was for someone my age to have this.”
Plural effusion is an accumulation of fluid between the parietal pleura (the pleura covering the chest wall and diaphragm) and the visceral pleura (the pleura covering the lungs). Both of these membranes are covered with mesothelial cells which, under normal conditions, produce a small amount of fluid that acts as a lubricant between the chest wall and the lung. Any excess fluid is absorbed by blood and lymph vessels, maintaining a balance. When too much fluid forms, the result is an effusion.
The effusion was drained the next day in Greensburg by way of a needle between her ribs in her back. It was uncomfortable, but she had been numbed before the procedure. As she watched the fluid drain, almost two liters, she almost passed out.
Life continued as normal. Jannelle was sent home, went back to work, and was scheduled for a CAT scan the day after her procedure. This is a common practice to make sure that the drainage worked properly.
Her lung was half-full again the next day.
This time, the doctor noticed a mass in her chest on the CAT scan screen. He didn’t know if it was related to the plural effusion, but he wasn’t taking any chances. ...
April 13, 2007, Janelle Bedel headed to Columbus to a lung specialist after her family doctor noticed a mass in her chest on a CAT scan.
The lung specialist went over Janelle’s x-rays and previous CAT scans. The fluid drained from her lungs was tested for abnormalities, as well as her bloodwork. Both revealed normality. Janelle was relieved, but her physicians were still perplexed. What would cause a seemingly healthy 31-year-old woman to develop a disease most commonly found in 65-year-old men?
Her next step was to visit a surgeon in Indianapolis at the Indiana University Medical Center on the Campus of IUPUI. Dr. Kessler saw Janelle April 18, 2007, for a consultation to check her lung, do another round of x-rays and more tests. She had another round of thorentesis (i.e., fluid drained from her lungs), which unloaded another two liters of fluid from her chest cavity. The fluid was sent out for testing, which again revealed nothing abnormal.
Dr. Kessler ordered a scan to be done immediately after Janelle’s fluid was drained from her lungs, which would enable him to get a more accurate picture of the mass in her chest.
“The doctor saw the mass right away, but also noticed that my lymph nodes were enlarged in my left breast,” Bedel said. “He sent me for a mammogram immediately.”
While Janelle traveled back to Rush County, her imaging was sent away for a closer look by the doctor. In the meantime, the liner in her lungs was thickening. Her doctor ordered a needle biopsy at the end of April, as well as a CAT scan. This required Janelle to lay still for two hours. While her back was numb, doctors took 14 biopsies while she was awake. Making the procedure even more difficult, she had to be able to hold her breath during the procedure.
A week later, Janelle was delivered a startling blow while at work. Her doctor called with the results of the biopsies.
“He said, this is never 100 percent accurate, but tests are showing that you have Mesothelioma,” Janelle recalled.
Her lung was also full of fluid again.
She remembered sitting at her desk for a moment in shock, because she had a vague idea that Mesothelioma meant cancer, but she didn’t realize all that it entailed. When researching plural effusion and the certain type of mass that she had, the term repeatedly resurfaced, planting the seed in her brain. All symptoms listed were concurrent with her own. She asked her family doctor, who told her not to believe everything she read. Janelle was holding out that he was right, but it was not to be.
In a daze, she walked over to her sister-in-law’s desk, who also worked at MainSource with her.
“I handed her the piece of paper with ‘that word’ on it,” Janelle said, struggling to hold onto her composure. “I said, ‘Is that what I think it is? Is that cancer?’”
It is at this point that Janelle, who has been extremely strong throughout the entire interview with reporter Elizabeth Gist at the time, loses composure at the memory of that phone call and the sudden realization of what had been invading her body.
The doctor scheduled surgery. The game plan was to strip cells, but instead, lesions were found all over her left lung and left rib. Doctors put talc powder between the chest cavity and lung liners and multiple biopsies were sent to pathology. Two chest tubes with heavy silk sutures were inserted to drain the fluid; this time, over three liters.
She spent two days in the ICU and in recovery for four nights. Doctors loaded her up with eight prescriptions (16 pills total) per day as well as vitamins and folic acid to prepare her for chemotherapy.
May 30, 2007, Janelle met with Dr. Nasser Hanna and a surgeon at the Indiana University Medical Center. Hanna would be performing her chemotherapy, which was required for the next phase in the fight of Janelle’s life.
After some thorough research and recommendations, Janelle decided on the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. In order to be treated most effectively by Rusch, Bedel must undergo two rounds of chemotherapy with a PET scan before and after the treatments. So, June 13, 2007, Janelle was taxied to Indianapolis by her sister-in-law to begin chemo, round one.
She writes, “June 14, 2007: Chemo wasn’t too hard, but I felt awful afterwards and very tired and weird. I went to bed at 7 p.m., which made me sad to miss Carson’s swimming lessons which are at the Rushville pool from 7:30 to 8 p.m. He is doing so well. I love to see the smile on his face and how happy he is out there in the water!
“I did get up and get sick through the night, and that was hard! It also makes it worse because when I get sick it hurts my surgery area, I am glad I took two more weeks to heal before starting because it would have been a lot worse! I got sick twice this morning, finally drug myself out of bed and my dad picked up my son. Carson was crying to stay with me, but I need the rest, and Andrew will pick him up in a few hours so he will be fine. I love Carson so much. I hope I can spend a lot more time with him. My husband of course is also great, but there is truly no stronger love than that between a mother and her son.”
The community of Rushville also began to support Janelle beginning with the Janelle’s Journey Poker Run the summer of 2007 and other activities. Some as simple as home cooked meals prepared for her family’s table. The random acts of kindness and community support were an eye-opener for Janelle. The community showed up in force to support her with approximately 250 bikes arriving for the Poker Run.
“The good deeds and the things I have seen people make and donate for my benefit made me realize some of the things I want to give back when it is my turn, or how I will make a difference in others’ lives the way they have in mine so far,” she said at the time.
Janelle was also able to fulfill a yearly routine during that time in 2007 which was to take her then 4-year-old son Carson to the fair.
It was time for New York and the treatment available there. She would be seen by one of the best doctors specializing in her form of cancer at one of the top cancer hospitals in the world.
Dr. Rusch was able to remove the tumor and also removed a rib bone, as part of the extrapleural pneumonectomy, because when they go in to remove the lung and lymph nodes part of the diaphragm must be removed as well.
After enduring all of the trials and tribulations previously outlined, Janelle enjoyed something of a respite from the cancer she fought so hard to beat; unfortunately, it looks as though her time is running out.
Her brother, Bennie, explained that the cancer “never really left. She had been doing things to extend her life through surgeries, chemo, radiation. She has decided on hospice because the meso has gotten to her diaphragm and now she can’t do anymore to extend her life. Now she is just wanting her work to live on.”
In honor of Janelle’s bravery in the face of adversity, the Wonder Woman symbol can be found all over Facebook and other social media sites and Janelle’s story has been picked up by television stations out of Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman’s focus is on raising public awareness and working to ban asbestos in the time she has left.
Melissa Conrad with contributions from articles by Elizabeth Gist in the Rushville Republican