Fiveash's Fight: Community rallies behind beloved teacher
By Cassandra Favre, Staff Writer
Apr 18, 2017, 17:05
Janet Fiveash. Photo by Cassandra Favre
In July of 2016, after 30 years of teaching kindergarten, Janet Fiveash retired.
"I love to teach," she said. "I wasn't ready."
The energetic Poplarville native was forced to retire after complications associated with Lymphedema.
Fiveash began her career in 1986 in the Hancock County School District, the same year Mississippi implemented the first kindergarten classrooms.
"Everyone was really excited about it," Fiveash said. "I always wanted to teach K-3. Kindergartners are so excited and motivated about learning."
She taught for five years at Hancock North Central Elementary before she moved to North Bay Elementary.
After Hurricane Katrina, she taught at Waveland Elementary until her retirement.
In addition to teaching kindergarten, Fiveash taught a multi-age class made up of kindergartners and first-graders, she said.
"They are so eager to learn, very happy, loving and caring," Fiveash said. "It's wonderful to see all the excitement they bring. Some need a little extra help and care and I love teaching them all."
About 20 years ago, Fiveash was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Two years after her diagnosis, Fiveash said, she noticed swelling in her feet and ankles.
"At that time, no one knew what Lymphedema was," she said. "It wasn't well-known."
Fiveash said Lymphedema is a chronic illness characterized by a heaviness, swelling and tightness in the affected areas.
In her case, the disease has affected both her legs. Fiveash said she has secondary Lymphedema because some of her lymph nodes were removed after her bout with cancer and radiation treatments.
Nine years ago, she started seeing a lymph therapist.
Last May, Fiveash became ill with cellulitis, an infectious disease.
She spent eight days in the intensive care unit and another 22 days in the hospital.
For three weeks, Fiveash received rehabilitation treatment at Dunbar Village Rehabilitation Center.
"I couldn't feed myself or walk," she said. "I had to relearn."
She received home health care for about six months.
Fiveash said she undergoes massage therapy with Lymphedema therapists.
Every day, Fiveash applies compression wrappings to her legs. In the mornings and evenings, Fiveash pumps her legs to keep fluids from traveling to her abdomen.
"It circulates the fluids," she said. "It takes a lot of time, but it's very important to keep the cellulitis away."
In an effort to decrease the chances of cellulitis, increase mobility and have a better quality of life, Fiveash is considering surgery.
"There's not a cure," she said. "But I'm still young and want to be able to maintain it so the swelling doesn't get any worse."
Since May, Fiveash said, the support from her family, friends and the community has been so helpful.
"It can be an expensive and lonely disease," she said. "It really makes a difference to have their support."
One of her supporters is North Bay Elementary teacher Tammy Raymond.
She began her teaching career in 1992 as Fiveash's assistant.
"She dedicated her life to teaching," she said. "She gave everything she had to those children. Every child was educated and loved."
In addition to teaching, Raymond said, Fiveash also devotes her time to community programs such as the Friends of the Animal Shelter of Hancock County and the Diamondhead SPCA. She is an active member of Main Street United Methodist Church, where she serves on the Vision and Planning Team and volunteers for Vacation Bible School and the church's nursery.
"I love Janet," Raymond said. "She was my mentor and role model. I've always looked up to her. She has dedicated her life to this community."
A fundraiser will be held for Fiveash on April 22 at Main Street United Methodist Church from 10 a.m. until.
Mugshots Grill and Bar provided burgers. Tickets for burgers cost $10 and can be purchased at Lulu's, Hairworks, Cappy's Point and Bay Books.
The event is open to the public and there will be a silent and live auction, Raymond said. There will also be a bake sale.
Children's activities include: Children's yoga, arts and crafts and face painting. Bubbles the clown will also attend and the Bay Ratz Marching Battery is scheduled to perform, Raymond said.
"She is just a wonderful person," Raymond said. "If you're able to help, she's one of those people you should help."
Fiveash said she is "so appreciative and excited" about the generosity of people.
"I'm hoping to bring awareness to Lymphedema, too," she said. "I have so much energy and want to keep going, stay active and help others."
Learn more about Lymphedema at www.lymphaticnetwork.org.
For up-to-date information about benefit efforts, visit the Facebook page Fighting for Fiveash.