‘I’m a survivor at this point’

Published 2:12 am Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gail Nettles is pictured with her husband Joe, who shaved his head when she lost her hair going through chemotherapy battling breast cancer.--Laura Fenton

Gail Nettles does not consider herself a breast cancer survivor just yet.

“I guess I should feel like I’m a survivor at this point,” Nettles said. “I have at least gone through the mammogram part and know that it’s not there, but I think as long as I’m going and taking those treatments, I’m still not completely out of it.”

Nettles was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2009, eight months ago, at the age of 60.

She admits her husband found the lump in her breast, which was large enough for her to feel through her skin.

“It was big when I found it,” Nettles said. “I don’t know why I hadn’t found it before.”

She chose to save the breast and through surgery doctors removed the lump.

Throughout her treatments in Meridian, Miss. and Birmingham, Nettles turned to her husband, friends and family for support. Without their support and prayers, Nettles would have felt more scared.

Friends and acquaintances said anything they could do to help, they would do, even offering to drive her to treatments.

“They sincerely want to help,” Nettles said. “It’s made me realize that when people offer to help, they really want to help. If you don’t let them, then you’re missing a chance for a blessing for yourself and for them.”

On each drive, she got to know the people, so much better from talking in the car, and they honestly wanted to know her story.

“My next-door neighbor, for example, when we got on the road, she said ‘OK, now we’re got an hour, I want to hear about you,’” Nettles said.

Now, as she completes chemotherapy treatments, she looks to survivors for support.

“You just never know anything had been wrong with them.,” Nettles said. “It’s encouraging, really encouraging.”

Nettles is hopeful the cancer will not come back, but now worries her daughter and grandchildren may have the gene for breast cancer. She is the first person in her family, at least to her knowledge, to have breast cancer, and she worries others in her family may develop it as well.

“If there had been 10 people in my family, somebody had to be the first one,” Nettles said. “I happened to be the first one.”

Every survivor story is different, but every story is just as important.

“It’s you, and it’s yours, and it’s bad,” Nettles said. “It’s bad when you’re going through it, even if somebody else has it 100 times worse. It’s bad to you.”

Nettles lived in Selma for 30 years before moving to Chatom, and currently lives in Clanton.