4-time cancer survivor, mother of 2 shares story of perseverance with North Country

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — In any battle with cancer, overcoming obstacles is a given. Jannel Pickeral was born and raised in the North Country. She is a mother of two, a high school french teacher and a loving wife. But incorporated in her personal story is her fight with cancer, which she has now battled four times since 2009.

Her first battle began when she was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, which was detected during a non-cancer-related surgical procedure. Jannell got a second diagnosis in 2014 after she found a lump on her breast and which was determined to be stage III estrogen-positive HR2 negative breast cancer.

She then went through treatment which included both chemotherapy and radiation. At the time she believed this was leading down a path closer to recovery.

“I thought I was good for a bit, but then the radiation damaged my skin so badly that I ended up with a radiation-induced sarcoma a few years later,” Jannell shared. “And then a year after that, I ended up with another sarcoma, which is where I’m at right now.”

She then underwent radical surgery in an attempt to remove the cancerous cells. Now, Jannell is 15-months cancer-free and just celebrated her birthday. Looking back on the past 13 years, she said her two children played a major role in her fight.

“When I got the breast cancer diagnosis, my children were 13 and eight respectively. So I was just like, ‘they’re too young to lose their mother,’ and all those thoughts ran through your mind,” Jannell expressed. “It was hard going through the chemotherapy and the radiation. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other so that the boys could see you can still live a full life, even with this.”

Continuing, since the day of her first diagnosis, she has led forward with the mantra, “Cancer does not define me.” She was constantly pushing to do her favorite activities, support her friends, students and community and spend time with her family. She shared that throughout the time she was receiving treatment she hardly missed any of her son’s lacrosse games.

“I just felt that was the most important thing to try and live life, as normally as I possibly,” Jannell said.

Jannell is now the honorary chair of the North Country Goes Pink and is considered a local spokesperson. She said many look to her for advice and words of wisdom while they either battle cancer personally, or are assisting friends and family.

Although sometimes difficult, she shared, “I don’t mind talking about it, especially in this situation, if I feel it can help someone get that mammogram, help their friend through chemotherapy. If anything I can advise them to do helps them, then it’s every minute of it is worth it.”

But Jannell could not share her whole story without thanking her community. She currently is a french teacher at General Brown Junior/Senior High School in Dexter, New York. Back in 2020 when she got her fourth cancer diagnosis, the school and community hosted a benefit for her and her family. The school community has also previously worn pink to support their teacher through her fight.

“It was just incredible, like from the t-shirt design to the outpouring of love and support. Everyone just wishing me well hoping for the best,” Jannell said. “I live in a great community and I don’t take that for granted on any single day.”

As she continues on in her journey, there’s no doubt, Jannell will continue to overcome any obstacle that she is challenged with. She concluded by saying:

“I’m not naive. I know it can rear its head again at any time, but it’s just a huge sense of relief that I made it past the year mark, I made it at 15 months and you know, hopefully, it continues. But if not, I’ll deal with it as it comes and just try to live every day as fully as I can.”


Jannell Pickeral will share more of her story on October 30 at the North Country Goes Pink Walk. This benefit will be held at the Watertown Fairgrounds and kick-off at 10 a.m. More information can be found on the organization’s website and Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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