Woman battling cancer earns nursing degree at age 70

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RAPID CITY, SD (KOTA TV) - Jani Lerback of Rapid City is enjoying her new life.

Jani Lerback spends time with her daughter and grandson after beating cancer and earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (KOTA TV).

"It feels amazing and I'm incredibly blessed," Lerback said.

Her journey to get here has not been easy.

"We've battled cancer not once but twice," she continued.

Lerback was diagnosed with deadly and rare gallbladder cancer but all the treatments and surgeries were the last thing on her mind.

The cancer was discovered when she was working on achieving something that would move her from inside that hospital bed to the side of it.

She graduated with her Doctorate of Nurse Practice in Summer 2018, the highest accolade you can receive in nursing.

According to Data USA, 45 is the average for females in the nurse practitioner role.

Lerback's age was the one fear she had while completing the program.

"So I told everybody that I was 39 when actually I was 49."

Now that she has hit this pinnacle in her career, she is defying the odds of age.

"I have to say that I'm right darn proud that I'm 70 and have completed this journey," she proudly expressed.

Lerback said she could not have done it without the support of her neighbors, colleagues, church family, and the local P.E.O. Sisterhood she is involved in.

Her daughter Jennifer Feliz said her mom is the strongest person she knows.

"To be told that she should just go home and go on hospice and just not accept that as an answer. She's just a fighter. She's a great leader for our family.," Feliz said.

Now that she has fought her battle, Lerback is ready to treat others so they can win their own.

"I am blessed every day and I'm especially blessed now as I look forward to getting a job as a nurse practitioner and going out every day and taking care of people," Lerback ended.

Lerback is cancer-free. She has a pet scan this Friday.

She says she has no reason to think it will be a problem, but if it does, she will do what she has to do to get rid of it again.

Jani Lerback poses with family after graduation (Facebook).
Jani Lerback heads into surgery while battling cancer (Facebook).