Students help teacher beat breast cancer

DEXTER, MO (KFVS) - Cancer is never easy to deal with, but can be especially hard during the holidays.

Janet Putnam-Bell of Dexter found her cancer around Thanksgiving two years ago, but discovered true healing in the little hearts around her.

Mrs. Putnam-Bell spends most of her days teaching first and second graders at Southwest Elementary in Dexter.

But two years ago, she learned a very important lesson.

"I've learned that people no matter who give you undying love and support," Putnam-Bell said.

Around the holidays two years ago she noticed leakage in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after.

"My first reaction was fear. Both my parents died of cancer," Putnam-Bell said. "My other fear was telling my family at that time."

She took quick action and had her left breast removed.

"He [the doctor] took out 30 lymph nodes. Out of the 30 I had 22 that were cancerous," she said.

But as Janet started a rigorous course of chemotherapy and radiation, she found a great deal of her healing came from several little hands with big hearts.

"I got pretty sad and I cried," said 10-year-old Josh Lemons of when he found out his teacher had cancer.

"The kids were my salvation," Putnam-Bell said. "They kept me going."

"We wrote her cards," said 10-year-old Madeline Webb. "We like sent them to her."

"One of our crafts was a little hat and we put rhinestones on it and then we put our name on it and then we kept those in our desk so when she came we would put them on," said 10-year-old Celeste Huey, one of Mrs. Putnam-Bell's former students.

"The whole entire staff, they had rallied together and came back to school with pink bandannas, pink shirts on for me," Putnam-Bell said. "All my children came with pink bandannas and they loved it because they got to wear them in class and all. It was quite inspiring for me."

The bond they formed is still strong two years later as the met for a reunion.

"I have missed you guys so much," Putnam-Bell said to her former students.

The kids didn't only inspire their teacher; two girls have donated their hair to Locks of Love.

"Even before I found out I was cancer free I thought you know, I am a survivor because I found out I have all these wonderful people around me," Putnam-Bell said.

Mrs. Putnam-Bell found her cancer after a self-breast exam, but did skip a year getting her mammogram and urges all women to remember to get that yearly check-up and to ask for a blood test if you have cancer history in your family.

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