A silver lining can prove hard to find when dealing with the subject of terminal cancer.

But for Randolph resident Jana Bell, that hasn’t entirely been the case. In fact, she has been able to have meaningful experiences she otherwise would not have had.

Bell was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31 three years ago. The disease has since spread, causing her diagnosis to become stage 4 terminal cancer.

Earlier this year, Bell started an account on GoFundMe.com, in which people have been donating money in order to alleviate financial stress and provide her, along with her 10-year-old daughter Gracie, an opportunity to have new experiences while there is still time.

“The support and community is basically what has kept me afloat and kept my spirits high,” said Bell. “The financial stress is gone. It’s amazing.”

The account was created in the hopes of fulfilling some of Bell’s last wishes, which included having a wedding reception with her new husband Nick Okeson, after her father had thrown a surprise wedding for her in November. Also on that list is having a honeymoon in the Dominican Republic and taking her daughter on a road trip.

Bell said spending time with her daughter was the main inspiration for setting up the account.

“It has brought a lot of amazing things to my family, to the community and strangers around the world,” said Bell on her account, in which she updates followers on her story and travels. “I’ve had people in other countries donating, sending stories and saying my story and inspiration has given them hope to move on with their health or family problems. I feel like somebody else. I feel like someone you read about in the news.”

Bell estimates that she doesn’t personally know about 80 percent of the donors who have contributed to her webpage, which has garnered over half of its $50,000 goal.

The road to being able to take part in the last wishes has been a bumpy one for Bell, to say the least. She has seen a reduction in the size of her tumors, but found new ones in new places during her appointment at the Mayo Clinic in early April.

“The next step is radiation treatment for pain management,” said Bell. “I did (have an) experimental surgery, with lasers and heat and got second- and third-degree burns that were accidental. Two days later, infection set in and [they] had to scrape the wounds. All of last summer was spent doing wound care from the accident.”

Another affliction Bell has been carrying is a case of lymphedema, a swelling in her right arm due to lymphatic system blockage. That has forced her to wear a sleeve to prevent further enlargement.

Support system

Bell noted that that a great source of support during her illness has also come from within her family, citing her mother, Sherry Bell, and niece Mylin Bell, as one of the many helping her with such everyday things as driving.

“She is amazing,” said Sherry Bell. “She gets up every morning with her daughter for school, sits on the couch and has breakfast with her. If it could go wrong, it went wrong, but she is a trooper.”

According to Bell, she has had a chance to embrace her situation, taking part in many programs aimed at alleviating some of the burden placed on her. She has gone on a mountain climbing expedition in Colorado with First Descents, a cancer camp for young adults, as well as attend a cancer conference in Houston the past two years, as her health permits.

“The cancer brought a lot of good things and experiences in my life, along with the bad,” said Bell. “I want people to know that you have to continue to find and search for the good, to do it and not lie around and cry about it. I was kind of given the gift to wake up and realize I could die tomorrow or in five years. It was a wake-up call.”

“With Jana, it’s about right now, not yesterday or tomorrow,” said Sherry Bell. “She wants to make memories for right now because she has this time.”

Bell also noted there are plenty of ways people can contribute to her cause, citing that GoFundMe.com takes 7 percent of donations. She said she has had friends contribute by doing such things as bagging groceries and entering bike races.

As the show of support grows for Bell and her family, she says she aims to take to the road trip with her daughter within the next month, stating that they plan to rent a treehouse, because her daughter always wanted to be in one.

“I’m scared, but excited at the same time,” said Bell on her health for the trip. “I feel like I’ve won the lottery. I feel like I’ve won the lottery of love with the support of everyone.”

Chris Houck is the city beat reporter for the Northfield News. Contact him at chouck@NorthfieldNews.com.

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