In Honor Of Her Sister: Meet This Year’s Celebration of Hope Torch Lighter

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According to Michelle Dvorak-Held, her older sister Janice was an artistic woman with a determined nature.

“Even in sickness, Jan wanted to give something back to other patients,” Michelle said.

Janice was diagnosed with glioblastoma in May 2012 and began treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

During her radiation treatment, Janice noticed that some patients walked home alone. She wanted to give back to those at Roswell Park so she started playing piano in the lobby, which eventually led to the installment of the victory bell.

“She knew patients had a fighting spirit and they needed something positive to celebrate with. Something that was loud and everyone could share.”

At this year’s Celebration of Hope, Michelle will be lighting the torch in honor of Janice. 

Janice's Diagnosis

In May 2012, Michelle was moving her son home from college for the summer when she missed several calls from Janice. Eventually, she connected with Janice’s husband, Mike, who explained that Janice had a severe headache. Because their mother survived a brain aneurysm when Michelle was seven, the family was immediately worried about a brain injury.

Mike took Janice to a local hospital and a CT scan was performed, but the scan was inconclusive due to the field being obscured by blood. Janice was admitted to the hospital. Her condition declined and she underwent brain surgery. By the end of the night, doctors had removed a tumor from the right side of her brain.

“Janice woke up from the surgery a fighter, demanding that any pain meds be discontinued as she did not need them,” Michelle said, “She was in good spirits, and we were all amazed that she could snap out of brain surgery so quickly.”

Eventually, Janice completed 33 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, followed by a clinical trial, all at Roswell Park.

When Janice completed her radiation treatment at Roswell Park, she wanted to celebrate her victory over cancer. Smiles and hugs all around were not enough. The victory over radiation needed to be something big and boisterous, according to Michelle. Enter the concept of a Victory Bell.

The Bell and The Ride

Janice  wanted to bring comfort to other patients and felt that people should have a way to celebrate the end of radiation, chemotherapy and the end of cancer running their lives. 

“The Victory Bell is musical, like her” Michelle said. “She wanted people to rejoice in another victory over cancer and to bring smiles to the caregivers.”

Additionally, Janice also started participating in The Ride For Roswell. Her first experience was in 2015 when she attended the Celebration of Hope. Then in 2017, the sisters created a Ride Day team. Janice came up with the name and Michelle formed Team Grey Matters. In 2018, their team had fourteen people and raised over $21,000 for Roswell Park. 

In Her Memory

In September 2018, Janice passed away from brain cancer. Glioblastoma patients survive on average for only eighteen months, but Janice lived an incredible six years after her diagnosis that Michelle attributes to cancer research and clinical trials. 

On Friday, June 21, Michelle will climb the steps to the torch at the Celebration of Hope and kick off Ride Weekend in honor of her sister.

The Celebration of Hope was Janice's absolute favorite part of The Ride. She loved the Friday night activities and especially enjoyed when the Peloton arrived. To be able to light the torch in her honor, on behalf of our team, and to bring awareness to cancer at an event Janice treasured is a tremendous honor.

Michelle Dvorak-Held