Janet Fanaki by the famous LOVE locket wall in Toronto's Distillery District. Photo cred: Maggie Knaus (@photoat50)
"Can you talk to someone whose husband also has glioblastoma?", was the text I got from a friend. Only a few weeks later she would send me another note asking me to speak with someone else.
Within a month I met two women whose husbands were diagnosed with the same terminal illness as my husband. G. was the first, and then N.
Their questions were typical of someone fresh to the brain cancer story. They wanted to know "How is your husband doing?", "What treatments has he done?" and "How's your doctor?"
It was just three and a half years ago that I was in their shoes. Scared, exhausted and feeling isolated from the world. How could anyone understand what we're going through?
The average life expectancy with GBM is on average 14-18 months. Adam's friend had been living with it for over five years and still working, travelling and enjoying life at the time. He encouraged me to connect with his wife who he believed could help me.
I resisted for many weeks until I received a few texts and phone messages from her and decided to call her back. We spoke on the phone for over an hour. Someone who I didn't know, but knew everything I was feeling and thinking.
We still keep in-touch and my relationship with her made me promise that I would pay this act forward.
I feel it's important to have your network of support and that it should come from different sources: neighbours, close friends, therapists and those who are dealing with the same challenge as you.
It could be organized group therapy or just casually connecting the way G. and N. have with me. Some of our talks were about serious issues and others might have been just to share a funny text. But we were people who really understood each other.
Even as my husband's condition had worsened, and after he passed away, I continued to check-in with them. I wanted to be an understanding and listening ear for them, as well as to remind them that they weren't alone.
It also gave me a purpose which in turn made me feel better too.