MINGO COUNTY — “I think that returning to some kind of normalcy in my life was what I needed the most,” said lifelong Chattaroy resident Janee Scott after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2012. “For quite a while, my life was flipped upside down.”
The 1981 Williamson High School graduate has enjoyed a 37-year career with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and currently works for the state DHHR office.
Janee, 59, said she is proud to be from the Mountain State and believes those roots are an integral part of her source of strength.
“Outside of a brief stint in Maryland as a child, I’ve been in Chattaroy all of my life, and I am a West Virginia girl and very proud of it.”
Janee said during a time when she was working a lot of overtime for her job, she skipped a regular mammogram screening.
“I was scheduled in September, and it was April before I had my mammogram,” she said. “On Monday they called me back for an ultrasound, and then I was sent to a surgeon to do a biopsy. After that procedure, I learned that I had a malignancy in one breast, and I had a benign one in the other. I had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction and, as a fluke, my surgeon decided to send the benign tumor off for a second opinion. It came back positive, so I actually had a false negative.”
She said that choosing to proceed with the bilateral mastectomy turned out to be the correct one.
“If I had not chosen the double, it could have went so many ways,” she said. “I could have died or gone through all of that again, and I’m very thankful for the course we went with. I’m thankful for my surgeon’s instincts.”
Janee endured four months of chemotherapy, and after 30 days of rest she took on six weeks of radiation.
“I could have had to go through all of that twice,” she said.
Her treatment has been handled through Charleston Area Medical Center’s Cancer Center.
There was no history of cancer in her family with the exception of her mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984 — which took her life.
“Today, with the advances in medical technology, it would have likely saved her life. That is how far we’ve come,” she said.
Genetic testing showed that the gene was not passed to her.
Janee said she leaned on her fiancé, Bo Mikles, family and friends.
“My fiancé was a tremendous source of support for me along with my family, my work family and my close friends,” she said. “It took a village of support, I suppose. Also, I’m a Christian and without God, I wouldn’t have made it.”
She said that her cousin Barry Dotson and his wife, Rachel, accompanied her to all eight of her chemotherapy sessions.
“It was six- or seven-hour process, and they sat there with me,” she said. “I think people are put in our lives for a reason. I leaned heavily on my best friend, Jan Webb. I feel bad for people who don’t know God or don’t have someone to lean on.”
She said that after her diagnosis, she needed a little time to absorb the news.
“It was pure shock,” she said. “Then I allowed myself one cry. I allowed myself one breakdown, and then after that I had to get to work and get well. I prayed for God to walk me through this. I was in remission for five years. I saw my oncologist all along and just because you are in remission, you still need to be checked quite often.”
Then she began having discomfort in her sternum in 2018.
“I thought I had pulled something in my chest, and they sent me for a CT scan,” she said. “It was just one of 20 tumors they found. I had 18 along my spine, one in my leg and one in my pelvic region.”
Janee said the tumors showed no indicators via bloodwork.
The tumors were malignant, and treatment followed.
“Two of the tumors in my spine cracked my vertebrae, so I had two weeks of radiation to neutralize those to prevent more damage,” she said. “I have lost about three inches in my height due to the vertebrae issues.”
She said that through it all, she has suffered very little pain with the vertebrae treatments and healing.
“Thank you, God,” she said. “I’m very blessed in that regard.”
Currently cancer-free, Janee said her work family continues to support her.
“This bunch I work with are really amazing people,” she said. “I had co-workers fighting over who’d go to chemo with me. They picked up work for me, and I woke up from surgery to five of them in the room with me, and I get emotional when I think about it. They are co-workers, but they are family.”
She said she could have retired about four years ago, but she enjoys her work.
“I came back to work four weeks and two days after surgery, and I was supposed to be off for six weeks,” she said. “I was going crazy. I love my job, and I love the people I work with. Staying home is not for me.”
She currently gets a checkup every two months.
Janee recommends regular checkups and routine self-checks for women and hopes her advice will inspire others to be aware and listen to their own bodies. She said that after a diagnosis, staying the course is imperative to a positive outcome.
“Give yourself one good cry,” she said. “I think anxiety and depression can affect how your body reacts to things. I’m not a medical professional, but remaining positive, spending time in prayer along with leaning on family and friends did wonders for me.”