Twenty-three years ago, Janet Wartman’s life was quite a bit different. At the time, the Illinois native was a student at Thornton Community College, studying to become a nurse.
Then, her diagnosis came back - stage 4 melanoma.
“I was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in my back,” said Wartman. ““It was life-changing. When they removed the tumor, I was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for over a year and a half. Eventually, I was able to use a walker, but I was given just 6 months to live. That was 23 years ago, so I consider myself to be very fortunate.”
Wartman now works with the American Cancer Society as Community Developer Manager for their Mishawaka office, primarily serving La Porte and Porter counties.
“Being a cancer survivor was what made me become involved with the ACS. I believe in them. I believe in what they do, and I love getting up every morning to do what I do.”
Wartman says that her cancer diagnosis changed her outlook on life.
“Every day is very precious to me. It affected not just me, but my whole family. I had small children when I was diagnosed, and I went through each day just wanting to see my family.” Her son was in 2nd grade at the time, “I just wanted to see him graduate 2nd grade. That was all I could focus on. This year, I watched him graduate from law school at Valparaiso University.”
Wartman feels that she gets to make a difference every day.
“Every day, I get to share stories. Whether that’s listening to a recently-diagnosed patient, helping to raise funds for a research program or getting a wig for a chemo patient, I get to make a difference every day; I get to see a smile.”
When she’s not brightening the lives of people dealing with cancer, Janet enjoys sewing and considers herself “a seamstress by heart.”
“I love sewing! I’m trying to teach myself to knit, though not very successfully, but I do find sewing to be very relaxing for me,” said Wartman.
Coming from a family of eight, Wartman enjoys spending time with her family. Her son Christopher, 26, recently graduated from the law program at VU, and both her daughters are in the medical profession.
“Both my daughters are in nursing. Sarah, 24, is an EMT, studying to become an ER nurse, and Monica, 23, is going straight into nursing.
Janet has been married for 27 years to Alan Wartman, a real estate agent for Golden Star Realty.
Though originally an Illinois native, Wartman currently lives in Schererville and says that she loves the Northwest Indiana community.
“I love the people! I love how diverse our communities are here. I feel very lucky to live here.”
Also, she loves the local festivals, visiting several each year.
“I love Pierogi Fest in Whiting! I’ve been going every year since it started. The Porter County Fair is amazing too. We go there every year; it’s just a lot of fun. We also went to the Bacon Fest in Portage this year. There are a lot of people who really love their bacon!” she laughs, but Janet’s favorite yearly event is Relay for Life.
Janet says that she and her family enjoy weekend trips to Michigan.
“I hope one day to retire there. We really like the winery tours.”
Janet enjoys her life, living each day to the fullest, and offered warm words to any who will listen.
“There are so many others with similar stories. There’s so much support,” said Wartman.
“You may feel like you’re walking this alone, but you’re not.”