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Participant Profile – Janell Tofanelli

In observance of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we are pleased to share Janell Tofanelli’s story of survival. Thank you, Janell, for helping to inspire us all!


Photo by Ginny Rickey

I was diagnosed with metastatic rectal cancer in September 2005.  I began treatment immediately, but also started counseling with a psychologist to help me work through my feelings about death.  She wanted me to get connected with The Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara as soon as possible, but between my daily radiation appointments and the gradual decline in my energy level, I wasn’t able to attend an orientation until after my first surgery in January of 2006.

During my 18-month participation I took advantage of nearly every program offered.  I joined a weekly support group.  I attended the relaxation and yoga classes.  I enjoyed the “Look Good Feel Better” workshop and many of the lectures that were offered.  The interaction I had with my group members was the centerpiece and most valuable aspect of my experience.  I came to the group without hope, convinced I was going to die.  They gave me support, wisdom and the inspiration to believe that it was possible to experience cancer with courage and hope for the future.  I will always treasure the deep and loving connections I made with each one of them.

I am happily married to Dr. Dave Tofanelli, the wonderful man I waited most of my life to meet.  We will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary in May.  Together we’ve raised my son Austin who is now a sophomore in college.  We love to travel and enjoy eating in great restaurants. Spending time with our adult children and extended family is the source of our happiest moments.  For the last 10 years, I’ve been working as a lay counselor in my church. It feels like what I was always meant to do.  Working with people who have cancer is a great privilege and a meaningful way for me to pay forward what was given to me.  It’s a wonderful time in my life when I can turn my focus toward building a lasting legacy.

I remember very clearly how it felt to be told I had a short amount of time to live.  I also remember very clearly how it felt to know I was being given bonus time.  The Cancer Support Community made a huge difference in my cancer journey.  I believe the single most important thing about the services they provide is that they are free.  Many participants do not have the financial resources for private counseling.  Finding hope, support, and healing in a group without charge can be the difference between rising above cancer and being overwhelmed by it.  

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