When Janice Miller lost her husband and father to cancer within months of each other, she was consumed with grief. She tells AASMA DAY how she has shaken off her inhibitions to turn her double tragedy into something positive
When Janice Miller is basking in the sun on a beach on holiday, she recoils at the thought of going topless.
“It would be totally out of character for me to take my clothes off in front of other people” laughs the 54-year-old, from Chorley.
Which is why it is even more remarkable that Janice has come up with the idea of producing a risque “Calendar Girls” style calendar, and taking off her own clothes to participate in it.
Janice, who is a carer for vulnerable adults, suffered a turbulent year last year as her dad Alan Hargreaves died of prostate cancer just 10 days before her wedding to John, who just three months later also died from cance.
Janice was devastated. She says: “Losing two people I loved so much in such a short space of time was very difficult, and it made the grieving process very hard.
“Whenever I was grieving for John, I would feel guilty for not grieving for my dad and vice versa.
“I am still struggling to come to terms with it, and I miss John and my dad so much.”
Janice says her husband John’s death at the age of 65 was even harder to deal with, as they had only found each other later in life.
Janice, who has a 27-year-old daughter, and John, who had three daughters, had known each other since the age of 17, but did not get together until eight years ago.
Janice says: “We bumped into each other in Chorley and got talking, and it just went on from there and our relationship developed.”
Janice and John went to Portugal on holiday in 2009 and while they were over there, John proposed to her on the beach and she accepted.
Janice returned to the UK for work while John planned to stay out there a bit longer.
However, just one week after his marriage proposal, the couple’s lives were turned upside down when he was involved in a car accident.
Janice explains: “John was very seriously injured, including a collapsed lung, frontal lobe damage and damage to his eye.
“He was in a coma for two weeks and then in rehabilitation before being flown back to England.
“As a result of the accident, he had acquired brain injury, so we put our plans on hold.”
Janice and John organised their wedding for June 2012, but in December 2011, they suffered a blow when John was diagnosed with cancer.
Janice says: “John had lost a lot of weight and we did not know why, so he went to the doctor. After carrying out a blood test, they did investigations which showed he had cancer all over his body, and we were told the cancer was terminal.”
The couple bought their wedding forward to February 17 last year, but just 10 days before, Janice’s dad Alan died at the age of 84. Exactly three months later, John, a painter and decorator, lost his fight for life.
Janice recalls: “I was heartbroken and felt so angry at cancer.
“It is a horrible disease, and it took two people I loved so much away from me.”
Janice’s daughter Rachel and her dad began fund-raising to raise money for cancer charities last year, and one of the events they organised was a sunflower competition in memory of John.
Janice says: “John was a keen birdwatcher and they felt it was right to have the sunflower competition in memory of John, as after the sunflowers have gone to seed, they attract the birds.”
It was after watching the film Calendar Girls that Janice came up with the idea of doing a similar calendar.
Jane says: “The character Annie’s husband, who dies of cancer in the film, is also called John and the film has a strong theme of sunflowers, so it got me thinking about doing something similar.
“I posted on the sunflower competition site asking if anyone would be interested in doing a calendar.
“By the following morning, I had 39 replies.”
There are a mixture of men and women who have chosen to bare all for the charity calendar, but their modesty is protected. Everyone taking part either has cancer, has survived cancer or those who have lost someone to cancer.
The photographers Sharon Coupe and Gill Arrowsmith gave their services for free, as they have both had family affected by the disease.
Janice says: “I have even done a nude shot of myself in a walking scene with a couple of friends, are wearing nothing but boots and a rucksack!
“This calendar is my way of doing something fun to raise awareness and funds for cancer.”
l All money raised from the calendars will go to Breast Cancer Awareness and an oesophageal cancer charity. Calenders will be ready for November and will be sold for £6 each at venues including a stall at Chorley Market.