Esquimalt’s Janice (Jay) Nelson (middle) had the opportunity to go on her first helicopter ride from Victoria to Vancouver last Thursday with first officer Jamie Madden (left) and Capt. Matt Ellis.

Dying woman checks off bucket list

Flying thousands of feet in the air in a Helijet helicopter overlooking Victoria, Janice Nelson was the happiest person in the world.

Flying thousands of feet in the air in a Helijet helicopter overlooking Greater Victoria, Janice (Jay) Nelson was the happiest person in the world.

“It’s such a weird feeling (being in a helicopter),” said the 54-year-old Esquimalt woman. “It’s so awesome.”

While a helicopter ride may only seem like a means of transportation for some, for Nelson, it meant the world.

Three months ago, Nelson was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, a form of liver cancer, and was told she has until December to live.

She had been having back pains for months, but thought it was due to the hip replacement she had years earlier. She visited five doctors in three months, but no one was able to properly diagnose her.

But in March, Nelson went to the hospital for a bladder infection and was given an MRI, at which time doctors found two tumours — one roughly five to seven centimetres and another roughly two centimetres.

“I was shocked. I cried my eyes out,” she said.

Nelson, the second youngest of five siblings, originally grew up in Squamish and moved to Victoria in her senior year of high school, graduating from Vic High. Shortly after, she moved to Calgary for work and years later, eventually moved back to Victoria.

She built a life for herself on the Island, even marrying her partner of 11 years, Susanah Knight.

After coming to terms with her diagnosis, Nelson and a few friends were chatting, when her friends asked if there was anything special she’d like to do in the her last few months.

Only one thing came to mind for Nelson — she’d never been on a helicopter before.

“I’ve lived a good life. I’m fulfilled. I have no resentment and I’m happy, I’m not going to let this take me out sad,” said Nelson, who used to deliver newspapers for Black Press. “It’s reality. I just didn’t expect it to be this quick.”

A Black Press employee heard about Nelson’s diagnosis and wanted to help fulfill her dream of riding in a helicopter. Last Thursday, Nelson got her wish.

She boarded a 12-person Helijet helicopter and flew from Victoria to Vancouver and back.

“What I was thinking was this is what I’m going to see when I go to heaven. The ground leaving and me leaving and how beautiful it is to look at,” Nelson said. “It put my mind at ease for being scared (to die) a little.”

Knight said it’s a ride Nelson will never forget.

“She’s a very giving person, very generous. I think in her heart, when she goes, she’s going to go much more peacefully now that she’s gone up in a helicopter,” she said. “It’s the best present ever.”

The last few things Nelson would like to do before she passes away is go whale watching, since she’s never seen whales before, and see parts of Canada, such as Niagara Falls.