Jane’s final post and tributes

Posted December 22nd, 2009 by Rita


A message from Rita – Jane’s partner.

You may have already read Jane’s last post on the Breast Cancer Care forum but I post these here too as a final message to you from Jane.

Jane’s final post:

As many of you know I never found anything positive or uplifting about having breast cancer … nevertheless getting breast cancer in the age of the internet has meant a support and information network which was unknown 15 years back. Thank you to everyone who has helped me on these forums since I first logged on in February 2004. Thank you for your support and information, your kindness and laughter. Thank you for great discussions and debates.

My death is but one of the 12,000 deaths from breast cancer this year. More than 45,000 women will face diagnosis in this time. My death is unremarkable. I am 60, not a bad age, even in the west, but still a premature death. Premature, too, are the numerous deaths from breast cancer of young women with young children. They are there, unnamed in the statistics.

I’d like to think that among those of you reading of my death today are some young women, newly diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, the relatively unusual type I had. Today you are very frightened, crying and confused. But I want to imagine that you are going to be all right and that after your treatment is over you will decide to get involved in cancer campaigning.

But not for you are the appearances in Fashion shows, not for you fundraising at pink pampering parties, not for you airbrushing the reality of this disease into some designer must-have condition. You will decide on a harder more radical route … and a movement will begin to challenge governments, and research scientists, the medics and the charities. You won’t be smiling sweetly about good 5 years’ survival statistics … you’ll be saying that 12,000 deaths a year is not good enough, that effective prevention and treatment, let alone a cure, is barely off the starting block, that this is awful and it has to change. There was the whisper of such a movement recently … I hope the movement promised comes to fruition with determined committed campaigners.

Winding forward to say 2050, I hear you talking to your grandchildren about the old days when breast cancer still killed, and generations of women died years too soon. For now in 2050 few people get breast cancer and no one dies of it any more.

This is my hope, my hope for all your futures. Please smile and raise a glass for me in that hope. But avoid soppiness, or any references to bravery and fighting … there were none. Like the thousands before and after me, I simply did the best I could to live as well and as long as I could. We are ordinary women dealt a bad hand by breast cancer.

Rita’s tribute for Jane

Jane has enriched my life beyond measure – she was the love of my life and my best friend. She had a soft centre, was easy to anger and quick to repent. Life was never dull with Jane – she was witty, often challenging, funny, intelligent and kind and we laughed so much. I am grateful to have loved and been loved by Jane, and to have had 13 years with this wonderful woman.

Jenny’s tribute for Jane

Like all of us, I have been feeling the absence of Jane over the last week.

But also, like all of us, I have been remembering her and how she will remain with me.

These words reflect not just my memories but those others have shared with me.

Jane’s friendship will stay with me just as it’s been with me over good times and bad. I know that’s true for all her friends, including some who can’t be here today.

For me, the worst of times was also made, by Jane, the best illustration of friendship and community. When an accident, 26 years ago, meant I was in hospital for five months and paralysed for life, it was Jane who was the lynchpin and organiser of the huge amount of support I got from the family of socialists and feminists to which we both belonged.

And over the last week, others of her friends have been sharing how she was there for them in their own crises and sorrows.

We’ve all been remembering her voice, which was powerful and could convey such a wide range of emotions – including irritation. Honesty is at the heart of the best friendships and Jane’s friendship was the kind that could survive arguments. She was fiercely ethical, challenging, funny, and took no nonsense from anyone.

We’ve been remembering the fantastic times we had when we were younger, and what an inspiration Jane was. It wasn’t only that we admired her for demonstrating how a strong woman could keep an unruly meeting in order. It was also that she was at the heart of creating the family of friendships built on our common beliefs and concerns and which has sustained us through all these years.

We’ve been remembering the honesty and anger that Jane shared with us about her illness and dying. She let us know what she needed from us and that was so characteristic of Jane. She thought her voice was gone but it wasn’t because the power of her tone and what she said were still there.

And finally, I’ve been remembering Jane and Rita’s love for each other. To Jane’s friends it was a joy to see the love that Jane had for Rita and that Rita had for Jane. As Jane’s friends, we are so grateful to Rita for looking after her with such love and care, and enabling her to die at home.

It’s often said but no less true for that – those we love live on in our memories. Jane will always be with me and I know she will for everyone else who loved her.

Daphne Havercroft’s Tribute

I met Jane through the Breast Cancer Care Forums early in 2004. She had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer in October 2003, me in December 2003.

I knew from her postings that she was intelligent, forthright and had refreshingly frank views about breast cancer; I was a bit scared of dipping my toe in the water and engaging in discussions with her.

But I did, and it was enlightening, liberating and enjoyable. There were stimulating debates on Pink October – Breast Cancer Awareness month, dairy free diets, complementary therapies, the tyranny of “positive thinking”, the cancer charities, breast reconstruction, assisted dying, doctors, breast screening, books. Jane’s views were always incisive, thoughtful and she had a gift of succinctly expressing the views that so many women with breast cancer shared, but perhaps could not communicate so effectively.

Some people strongly disagreed with some of Jane’s views, but whether or not people shared her opinions, Jane was always there for them to give support and encouragement.

Jane was diagnosed with a form of Breast Cancer which we now know as Triple Negative. She worked to raise awareness of this variant of the disease with breast cancer charities and kept up to date with the latest research. She provided immense support and advice to other people diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

It was a great pleasure for me to have met Jane in person at Breast Cancer charity meetings and I enjoyed a visit to Jane’s and Rita’s home 2008. We planned to meet again earlier this year, but sadly, it was not to be.

It has been a great privilege to know Jane. .

And another linked tribute comes via Daphne in the following form:

Maggie Wilcox, wrote this and we would like to send you this on behalf of ICPV.

“Jane had a healthy scepticism for the mainstream breast cancer charities. Whilst valuing their work in campaigning and support for people with breast cancer, she was frustrated by their bureaucracy and the limitations caused by their need to keep within their chosen strategies. She felt, as we did, that this meant that they sometimes reflected a patient opinion which was selective to fit those strategies and that there needed to be a forum for informed patients independent of the charities and willing to educate themselves to become valued partners in cancer research.

She was an educationalist and researched her own disease from diagnosis with the aim of finding the best possible treatment and whilst accepting the possibility of a poor prognosis for herself, she was also interested in improving the odds for those diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in the future.

She campaigned for research into triple negative breast cancer and welcomed Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s current study being led by Andy Tutt at Guy’s and was an active “poster” on Breast Cancer Care’s Forum – but, she also gave both charities her constructive criticism. She was very supportive about our launch of ICPV & disappointed that she no longer had the energy to be an active member of a new group.

However, what a valediction she has left to inspire us and ensure that we keep our focus on improving diagnosis and treatment for future patients whilst finding evidence based methods of reducing the incidence of cancer”.