Fiveash’s Fight: Community rallies behind beloved teacher

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 22, 2017

By Cassandra Favre

Sea Coast Echo

In July of 2016, after 30 years of teaching kindergarten, Janet Fiveash was forced to retire after complications associated with lymphedema.

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“I love to teach,” she said. “I wasn’t ready.”

The energetic Poplarville native 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 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, 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 described lymphedema as a chronic illness characterized by a heaviness, swelling and tightness in the affected areas.

In her case, the disease has affected both legs and she has secondary lymphedema because some of her lymph nodes were removed after her bout with cancer and radiation treatments.

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 and now 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 fluid 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 chance 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 the support from her family, friends and the community has been 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.”

Fiveash also devotes her time to community programs such as the Friends of the Animal Shelter of Hancock County and the Diamondhead SPCA, 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, Raymond said.

“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 is scheduled for Fiveash on

April 22 at Main Street United Methodist Church in Bay St. Louis from 10 a.m. until.

Mugshots Grill and Bar will provide burgers. Tickets for burgers cost $10 and can be purchased at Lulu’s, Hairworks, Cappy’s Point and Bay Books.

Other activities planned for the event included a silent and live auction and a bake sale, Raymond said.

Children’s activities include yoga, arts and crafts and face painting. Bubbles the clown and the Bay Ratz Marching Battery are 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 For up-to-date information about benefit efforts, visit the Facebook page Fighting for Fiveash.