Pink Up: Laurel woman shares her story

Whitney Pickering encourages women to not hesitate if they notice something.
Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 2:07 PM CST
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LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - Whitney Pickering and her husband Stacey were training for a half marathon when she says she just noticed something.

“My sports bra…there just wasn’t a good fit, and I can’t really explain it, but something just made me say you know what, I need to check this,” said Pickering.

Pickering said she felt a lump about half the size of a pea in her breast – but didn’t want to think the worst.

“Because 10 years earlier, I had felt something very similar to it, gone to the doctor, but by the time I went to the doctor, it was no longer there. They couldn’t find it again and I was really embarrassed,” Pickering said.

“It wasn’t that I ignored it – it’s just that I thought I need to wait and see. I waited four months and I always ask myself if I had just gone to the doctor if I hadn’t listened to that voice that said ‘oh this had happened before’ maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through the trauma that I did.”

At the age of 42, Pickering was diagnosed with stage 2-B cancer in the breast tissue and lymph nodes, very close to her lungs. After eight months of chemotherapy, radiation and a complete hysterectomy, Pickering is now cancer-free.

Initially, Pickering said she felt scared.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say there was a little bit of denial, the first thing I thought about was my kids and my family. I thought about what I might miss,” Pickering said.

Pickering explained that her family became her support system during her fight. She said it was hard for her to look at herself in the mirror some days during chemo, and she knows it was tough for her family to see her like that.

“What they don’t tell you is how hard it is on the people who support you... because I could avoid the mirror, but they were there with me every day,” Pickering explained.

Pickering chuckled remembering moments with her family during her battle.

“My husband literally was grilling bacon and eggs outside during chemo because I couldn’t stand the smell of cooked food… My daughter had just gotten her driver’s license and unfortunately, she became the taxi driver… My second grader John Thomas coming over to the chair every day, feeling my head, which had no hair on it whatsoever, and saying ‘Mom I feel some hair coming in!’,” Pickering said.

Even Pickering’s church’s small group of young couples made sure her family had meals prepped for a few nights every week. She said that by the end of her out-patient treatment at Forrest General, she was able to drive herself. She said the constant support from her community really helped her get to where she is now.

Pickering stressed that it’s never too early or too frequent to do self-breast exams and encourages women to ask questions if they notice something.

“I am so thankful though that I had done that self-breast exam,” Pickering said. “If I had not and I had waited for that yearly mammogram to come around, it very well could have been stage 4.”

Pickering thanked her family and community for their support and said the biggest lesson from her journey - “You can’t discount a self-breast exam.”

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