One woman’s struggle to regain a normal life

By Willa Wick in Community, Health & Fitness, People

Bring-you-to-your-knees pain. Days in bed. It’s impossible to comprehend the stabbing pain, the chest spasms, and the feeling of a searing hot knife being thrust below the breastbone. Life as a dedicated wage earner was ripped away. Depression set in compounded by cancer. Financial ruin was imminent. But the will to survive ran deeper than the often desperate thought of succumbing. The will to fight, to have normalcy in her life – also for recognition among those judging her as ‘looking fine’, created a scenario that was more than one person should have to endure – and it’s been like that for over 12 years.
Jokelee Vanderkop (pronounced Yoke-lee) was a child when she emigrated from Indonesia, to the Netherlands and then to Canada. As a free spirit she left home at age 17 and went to Switzerland, worked for the U.N. for a few years, and did a back-packing stint for 2 ½ years working here and there to support herself. She came back to Canada, and at age 29 enrolled at the University of Guelph as a mature student. She has her M.A. in Political Studies along with a Bachelor’s in Education.
At Norwell District Secondary School in Palmerston Vanderkop taught French Immersion and Core French, History, Economics and Law. She loved teaching.
And then there was an accident! She was a passenger in her own car during a winter storm. The operator, a friend and school bus driver, had offered to take the wheel as she was more experienced with snow conditions. Although knocked unconscious, Vanderkop “seemed” ok and did not attend the hospital until the following day.
What followed was, unfortunately, a long hard route back to what would eventually become a new normal in her life – a life not remotely related to the life she enjoyed before.
As a result of a 12-year battle with constant pain, loss of a job she loved, cancer, depression, and financial woes, Vanderkop was encouraged to write a book.
Jokelee knew from what she had been through that she had valuable information to impart to  others. The cliché “if it can help just one person” is not enough. Pulling it all together to write the book was difficult. Pain and exhaustion always interfered. High doses of prescription muscle relaxants and even Oxycodone only take the edge off the chronic pain disorder, while the neuro-cognitive brain dysfunction inhibits her thinking capabilities. But the book has finally been published. It covers the accident and how life has changed.
The 200 page book is a clear guide to prepare people in advance of what they might face should they be in a serious or debilitating accident.
Jokelee also includes her pain management approaches and alternative health strategies such as her concoctions with turmeric. In response to questions about how she can drink that stuff, her answer is, “When you have enough pain, and are trying to keep your cancer and rheumatoid arthritis in remission, it is surprising what you can swallow”.
In addition to the book, Vanderkop will be doing “speaks” at various service clubs and organizations. During these presentations she will be talking about how she has managed to deal with her loss of career and earning capability, life-style changes, chronic pain, an incurable cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression. These topics should be of interest to almost anyone even if they don’t think the book would be relevant to them.
A launching of the book will be held on Saturday, September 14th at Mapleton’s Organic Dairy at #8548 Wellington Road 7 (R. R. 1 Moorefield) from 2 – 4 pm. There will be entertainment by local musicians while the author signs each copy of the blue softcover which sells for $25.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to help artists, artisans and musicians in the local community who do not have a fixed income, and those whose illness no longer enables them to work.

Jokelee Vanderkop  holds her book So You Think You're covered to be launched September 14.

Jokelee Vanderkop holds her book So You Think You’re Covered to be launched September 14.