Stories of Resilience: Janelle Brunton-Rennie


It’s hard to believe it now, but one day you’ll wake up and the day won’t feel quite as heavy, and those days will slowly happen more regularly, I promise.”

When I was 36 years old my husband died of Blood Cancer. At the time he was diagnosed we had a four-month-old daughter, I was suffering from postnatal depression, I was scheduled for major corrective surgery in a few days, and I was running a company.

My husband Kurt was the healthiest human I knew. I’d never seen him suffer from a cold or flu even. One morning the day after our wedding anniversary, he jumped out of the shower and asked me if I thought his stomach felt a bit hard. I felt the lump he was referring to and nonchalantly commented that he should see the doctor. That afternoon, life unravelled at breakneck speed. The hard area was a large growth on his spleen. A CT scan revealed widespread lymphoma, and his health deteriorated so rapidly that he would have been dead within a few weeks had he not initially responded well to chemotherapy. I remember standing in the hospital hallway holding our tiny baby, being asked if my husband had a Will as there was a good chance he wasn’t going to make it. I remember it feeling so surreal and I just couldn’t wake up from this nightmare I was having.

I wasn’t coping well as a new mum. On the outside, I was holding it together, but behind closed doors, I was a mess. I had taken only two weeks off after having our daughter and was back running my business with a newborn baby under my desk. Kurt was the only thing propping me up. He took to parenting with ease and he was a wonderful dad. He was my rock. 

I remember thinking just before his health collapsed “I’ve done it, I’m through the worst of it, I’m feeling a bit better, I still have a business intact, everything’s going to be fine”. Only a few days later in a cruel twist of fate, nothing was ever going to be the same again, and life as I knew it was about to implode. An avalanche came out from under me.

Initially, Kurt responded well to chemotherapy. I set my workstation up in the hospital and would work from his room all day whenever he was having treatment. Things were looking positive, however, we then learned the tumours were growing again and had multiplied. It was at this time that we started researching CAR-T immunotherapy in the US as a backup plan. Kurt didn’t respond to the salvage chemo options, and we managed to have him accepted onto an immunotherapy trial in Boston. But unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we desperately needed. Kurt died in a hospital here in New Zealand on January 7, just less than a year since he found that lump. I was with him when he passed. I’ve had to work through the trauma of watching him suffer so badly that last week and witnessing him take his final breaths. 

I’ve shared our entire cancer treatment journey, the aftermath of his death, and my grief and healing journey over the last 2.5 years on Instagram and I’ve been grateful to have received support from all over the world. Our daughter Sage is now 3.5. We talk about Daddy a lot because it’s important to me that we honour Kurt the best we can and that he’s not forgotten. Grief has been desperately hard, I still can’t believe just how painful it truthfully is. I have been committed to honouring my grief, actively sharing my healing process, and finding a way to not only survive but thrive again one day.

At the start of my grief journey I was told “just keep living until you feel alive again” and that’s all I focused on. A kind of survival mode. Making sure I kept Sage alive, kept myself alive, and kept my business alive, so I could provide for her.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.