Woman Relays for her daughter

Published 1:35 am Saturday, April 8, 2017

Suffolk resident Barbara Johnson has been hit hard by cancer.

She lost her husband and her sister to cancer, but she was unprepared for her daughter to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the young age of 26.

Jenelle Boyette, called “Jaye” by family, graduated from Lakeland High School with honors in 2002. She attended Old Dominion University and worked as an accountant in York County. She had returned to college for a second degree when she began to get sicker and sicker.

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“She had been complaining she wasn’t feeling well and going to the doctor,” Johnson said. “They always checked her out and said they couldn’t find anything.”

Finally, in October 2010, she called her sister and said she felt so bad that she wanted to go to the emergency room. When the pain medication there didn’t make her feel better, doctors ordered a CT scan.

“They found this mass,” Johnson said. “They took her in for emergency surgery that night.”

Jaye fought the cancer valiantly for a year, taking chemotherapy treatments and continuing to work when she could. Her former co-workers still remember her on her birthday every year by wearing purple.

“She would come in so bubbly, and even when she didn’t feel like going to work, she would try,” Johnson said. “They say her smile was worth a million dollars … I always say, you’ve got to raise your children so somebody else will love them besides you.”

Everybody loved Jaye, Johnson said.

“She was a people person. She didn’t meet any strangers.”

But on Oct. 13, 2011, about a year after she got sick, Jaye passed away. Johnson and her family got heavily involved with Relay for Life the next year.

“We participate for that reason, so no other mom will ever have to feel that pain,” Johnson said. “It’s just so much pain, just from the memories of losing that person.”

Johnson, who is the team captain for Jaye’s Angels, said the team has a variety of fundraisers planned, including doughnut sales and a trip to the Harrington Casino in Delaware.

Folks can call 325-5994 for information on the casino trip.

Johnson said the family enjoys going to Relay for Life and staying up late. They usually stay until about 2 a.m., but the event ends at midnight this year.

“When you just see so many people and everybody needs a hug, it’s just unbelievable,” she said.

This year’s Relay for Life of Suffolk will be held at Nansemond River High School on Friday, May 19, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

There is a fundraising goal of $200,000. So far, about $29,400 has been raised.

Visit www.relayforlife.org/suffolkva for more information.