Jan Parker, who works at the Selma-Dallas County, faced and defeated breast cancer. -- Desiree Taylor

Parker: Prayer, faith beat cancer

Published 11:53pm Monday, March 14, 2011

Prayer and faith are the two things Jan Parker, longtime staff member of the Selma-Dallas County Library, credits with bringing her through her battle with breast cancer eight years ago.

“I had a lot of praying friends to get me through,” Parker said. “I knew I would be okay.”

Parker was diagnosed with breast cancer in the winter of 2001. She vividly recalls the day that left an indelible mark in her memory.

“I was absolutely scared to death,” Parker said. “I called my husband while driving home from Birmingham to tell him the news. When I got home he put his arms around me and told me, ‘whatever it takes, we’ll get through it together.’”

Each year, Parker said, she would get her regular mammograms. When she had her breasts examined in October 2001, doctors found nothing. During a self-examination a month later, a then 42-year-old Parker found a hard lump.

“The lump was obvious,” Parker said. “When I went back to the doctor in December they didn’t see anything and doctors thought it was hormones. Something just told me though, it was cancer.”

In January 2002, after months of rejection from doctors, a sonogram finally confirmed what Parker had believed for a long time.

“A radiologist told me it was cancer,” Parker said. “I had been living a healthy life before the diagnosis and there was no one in my family with cancer. I later had surgery to remove the lump.”

Parker was born in Eufala and spent 30 years in Anniston before moving to Selma in 1996. She and her husband Barry have been married for nearly 30 years and have a daughter named Alex. In 2003, Parker took a job with the library, which she noted as “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“I grew up in a wonderful home — full of joy and happiness and no tragedy,” Parker said. “Most everyone at the library knew I had cancer and the staff was very supportive. Becky Nichols encouraged me along the way; she’s been through a lot with me and has been my biggest inspiration.”

After nearly nine years of living cancer free, the family received more disturbing news.

“My husband was diagnosed with throat cancer,” Parker said. “We didn’t know how severe it was and things didn’t seem as encouraging. Barry didn’t smoke or drink alcohol, so doctors were confused.”

Parker said she and her husband supported each other through the two months of radiation and chemotherapy.

“It was more frightening to me when it happened to him,” Parker said. “The radiation would burn my husband’s throat but he is a fighter.”

The Parkers’ bout with cancer has caused Jan’s faith to increase. She appreciates the simple things in life more.

“You do things you wouldn’t normally do, like take (exotic) trips and be more spontaneous,” Parker said. “I don’t take things for granted anymore and family, friends and your health become most important. Every day is truly a gift.”

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