HATTIESBURG, MS. (WDAM) - On Tuesday, Meri Newell of Petal, was honored as the award recipient in the perseverance category at Wesley Medical Center's annual celebration of "Strong Women."
She was nominated for the award by her colleagues and students at Jones County Junior College. She has taught music at the school for 22 years.
According to Newell, "I love what I do and my students make everyday young. My mom used to tell me, you know if you teach you are going to be young everyday because of your students and that is exactly how I feel and I'm just so honored."
Newell, like her late mother, has also dealt with a breast cancer diagnosis. Newell explained that her mom's battle prepared her for her own. "She was really one of my first examples of courage because she never let it stop her," said Newell.
When Meri Newell learned she had breast cancer on May 27th of 2010, she didn't let it stop her either. Following six months of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, Newell is now cancer free.
"One of the things I did was to keep working out at the Y (YMCA). The whole time I was going through treatment, chemo and radiation, I kept working out and I had good friends there that were very encouraging. And I think that is why I feel so great right now because I just kept moving," explained Newell.
She has also been an eleven year volunteer with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life fundraiser. Newell became involved the year her late husband passed away due to melanoma related complications in 2000.
Newell said, "I go to Petal United Methodist Church and I was our team captain for the past five years and this year I worked as a mentor for our new captain. And when you work as a mentor, you are still in there with your hands and feet and everything getting things done."
Newell advises people to make sure they get their annual screenings like mammogram's. She said life is great on the other side of cancer treatment. Newell remarried in 2003 and she plans to mark her one year cancer free anniversary with her loving husband.