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A local woman’s breast cancer story

SALYERSVILLE – The Magoffin County Extension Office was able to hold its first Pink Ribbon Luncheon since the pandemic began last week, honoring women and their families who have fought breast cancer.

While we could go over scary but true statistics, like one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, but nothing could better explain the importance of the event than Janet Nickels’ story.

Nickels spoke at the Pink Ribbon Luncheon, reading the following message at the event, hitting close to home to everyone in the packed room:

My name is Janet Nickels, I am 49 years old. My husband Mike & I have 4 children Blake, Abbey, Jaylen, & Eli. I am employed by the Cabinet for health and Family Services. I am a member of the Dotson Pentecostal Church where my husband Pastors.

This is my story, my journey, my testimony…..

During the Summer of 2020 while on vacation I started having a pain in my right breast, it was an odd pain, felt like being stung or poked with something. The pain continued on & off all day until I got back to our cabin and I had the opportunity to check myself. Ironically, there was nothing there, it wasn’t even red but then for some reason I check my other breast which wasn’t even hurting and I felt a spot that felt hard, my husband agreed that when we got home I would make a mammogram appointment.

As soon as I discovered that hard spot on my left breast, I never felt that pain on my right breast again. . I knew this was God’s way of letting me to know something was there that needed checked. When people ask me how I found out I had breast cancer, I reply God told me. After a mammogram, ultrasound, & biopsy… in July of 2020 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I have always heard that when you hear the word cancer your life flashes before your eyes, it truly does. One month from the day of my diagnosis I was in the operating room having a double mastectomy. It was a scary time, we was in the middle of a pandemic and my husband was only allowed to take me to the front door of the hospital. Sitting in that lobby without him was awful. God knew my fears and when I was in my hospital bed waiting to be took to surgery. Everything going through my mind… here came my angel. Or at least she was to me in that moment. She was a chaplain and she ask if she could sit with me. Of course I said yes, I was so happy she was there. She was so kind. We had so much in common. She was a Christian and so am I, She was a foster parent and I work with foster kids at the job, she stayed with me until they came and got me. The last thing I remember her saying to me as I was being wheeled to the operating room is…”I will never forget you, there is just something about you” It’s Amazing how God works that way. My final pathology report showed my lymph nodes were clear so I was given no treatments. I thought this nightmare was all behind me. 1 year later at my yearly check up my doctor found a small bump, between my implant and skin. My doctor thought it wasn’t anything, she thought it was scar tissue but thankfully she wanted to biopsy to be safe. So on October of 2021, I was told my cancer had returned. How can I go through this again? My oncologist decided since it had returned, they were going to treat it aggressively this time. I was also HER2+

I began the dreaded Chemotherapy November 2021. 6 treatments of their strongest medicine, 1 treatment every 3 weeks. I had no idea at that time how terrible this was going to be. This would be the hardest battle I have ever faced. Chemo was brutal. I would be in bed 3-4 days with the treatments with terrible bone pain, no sleep, no appetite, I barely had enough strength to even answer a question. Even in that state, my youngest 2 kids would come to my bedside and say mom you have to get up and walk, because that’s what the doctor said. Their little minds didn’t understand I was so weak I could barely even talk, but they would help me out of bed and hold me up best they could and make me walk a few laps in the house, they had no idea that it took all I had to do that, Usually on the 4th day when life would seem to be coming back to me, I would try to eat because I could only sip water on my hard days, food was horrible. My mind wanted it but everything tasted so bad. The roof of my mouth was raw. I lost 30 pounds during that time. 2 weeks after my 1st treatment my hair started coming out, that was so hard for me. People who hasn’t went through that would say “its only hair it will grow back” those words are easy to say when its not you. My hair is growing back pretty good, but it still has a ways to go. So many people tells me “I love your hair” I say thank you but it’s not real…but I’m glad you think it looks real.
I was so very thankful in March 2022 I finished my Chemo. I proudly rang that bell at Edwards Comprehensive Cancer center in Huntington, Wv. Next step would be surgery to remove some skin from my breast and then to Leonard Lawson cancer center for 16 radiation treatments. Radiation wasn’t too bad but at the end of the treatments I got 2 burns, but compared to Chemo it was a breeze. I finished those in May of this year. Since I was Her 2+ I was given a medicine call Herceptin that is given through my port. I would receive this every 3 weeks for a year. Best part, this medicine usually has no side effects. I have 1 more of those left and then I am done with everything. Check ups from here on out. Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women in the world. Did you know about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime? I tell you this not to scare you, but instead help you understand the importance of knowing what breast cancer is and how being aware can save a life. Please get your yearly mammograms & do your self-exams. Early detection means everything!!!
I wish I could call out everyone’s name who has been there for me during this time in my life. There were so many people that has touched my life in so many different ways there is no way I could. But I do want to say a few words about some of those people, because some of them are here today. I was blessed to have the most amazing support system.

First of all, I want to say Thank you to My husband, Mike. Who has stood by me every step of the way, his words to me when I told him the news was “We will get through this and I will be with you every step of the way” He definitely was and still is. He has went to endless treatments, dr appointments, getting test results, changing bandages, emptying drain tubes and so much more. He slept all night in a car in the parking lot at Cabell Huntington hospital when I had my surgery because of Covid he couldn’t stay in my room but he wouldn’t leave me. Even when all the hair was gone, He would continue to tell me how beautiful I was.

Thank you to my children, Blake, Abbey, Jaylen, & Eli….I can only imagine how hard this was on them but every battle I fought was for them. The love I have for you is indescribable, Being your mom is the greatest joy of my life.
Thank you to my dad & stepmom Kim who constantly called, text and came to see me.

My mom, I could never put in words what she has done for me. She became a mother to my kids when I wasn’t able. She cleaned, she cooked, and even though I know it broke her heart to see her child so sick she would be so strong in front of me, constantly telling Me God is going to heal you and I won’t settle for anything less, I know she spent many nights on her knees crying out in prayer for me. A mother’s prayer for her children is powerful.

She is truly my Angel.

Thank you to my Sister’s Jackie & Beth.

Jackie is my encourager, no matter what the dr said she would always remind me of the God we served and that nothing is to hard for him. She often would remind me how I was so much stronger than she ever could be. She got me a plaque that still hangs by my bed today, I fixed it to when I open my eyes it would be the 1st thing I saw each morning and it said “When I am afraid, I will trust in thee” Psalm 53:3.

Beth is always the one who shows up without you asking and always bringing exactly what you need like one night my legs were hurting so bad, here she came late that night with a heating pad. That truly meant more than she knows. She will spend her last dime to help her family. She is always there no matter what.

Thank you to my Co-workers, my work family…who donated me their sick time and to this day because of them I have never went without a pay check. With Each cancer milestone, like when I finished my Chemo & Radiation, I went to work with my office decorated and always a cake at lunch to celebrate. Thank you to my church family, for covering me in prayer, constantly sending me messages checking on me & always encouraging me. Thank you to everyone else, you know who you are…the ones who brought dinner, left gifts on my doorsteps, mailed me gifts in the mail, made me homemade quilts, sent me prayer cloths, and sometimes it was a text that just simply said I love you, I truly am so very blessed.

Last, and certainly the most important person in the life my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. Being a Child of God and serving Him is the best decision I have ever made, I have told this to many people “I could not have went through this without him” He is truly my best friend, He knows all things, He is the one I pour my heart out too, He is the one who was with me when I had to go alone for biopsies, MRI’s, and so much more. He is the one who would covered me in peace when I should have been a mess, He was the one I would go into a room and get on my knees and cry out to. He is my healer, my deliver, my rock, my peace, my everything. I give all the praise, honor & Glory today to him that I am a Cancer survivor. I am healed! We often wonder why things happen to us, I cant answer that question But I know I have been able to reach out to lots of other women facing cancer since my diagnosis, it’s a powerful thing to be able to look at someone and say “I know what you are going through, I have been there” Maybe that’s why I had to walk this road is to help others, someday I will know. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” God Bless you all…

The Salyersville Independent would like to thank Janet Nickels for allowing us to share her story. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, be sure to stay vigilant on your self-breast exams and mammogram appointments.

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