PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The sister of a Port Charlotte woman who died from metastatic breast cancer is focused on carrying on her mission. Sami Pickens was always very vocal about checking yourself, or getting checked by a doctor, for breast cancer.
August 26th is National 'Got Checked' Day: a reminder to schedule routine breast exams or self checks.
Fox 4 Morning News Anchor Lisa Greenberg first introduced you to Sami in October of 2021 after she beat breast cancer for the second time. She gave birth to a miracle baby girl in January, just four months before she died.
After she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, Sami found out she was BRCA 1 positive. This means she inherited a mutation in her BRCA 1 gene, which increases the risk of breast cancer. This testing helps doctors determine how aggressive treatment should be. But Sami didn't do this for herself.
"I wanted to make sure I did that in case it was that, so that all my my siblings and my cousins and everyone, we would know that that's a potential for them in the future," Sami said in 2021.
"She'd say like, 'I probably saved your life!' And I'm like, 'Well, maybe you did.' I said, 'But I'm not as strong as you!'" her sister, Mandi Crews, joked.
Mandi went on to get tested herself, and found out she is also BRCA 1 positive.
"Super important to know. It's a little heavy to carry with you on a daily basis," she said.
She said she plans to have a prophylactic double mastectomy and have her ovaries and tubes removed as a precaution when she's done having children.
"The odds are not in your favor if you're BRCA 1 positive, so hopefully I can do all the surgeries. And Sami really wanted me to do them," Mandi said.
Until that time, she's going to regular doctors appointments and cancer screenings and spreading Sami's message.
"The first of every month, she would posts on Instagram, Facebook, anywhere she could, 'feel your boobs.' She always said nobody was your own advocate bigger than you because you know your body. So if you're not checking, who else is gonna check it for you?" she said.
That's just who Sami was; always looking out for others. Mandi said since the day she was born, her big sister Sami held her hand, showing her the way.
"Thirty amazing years. I wouldn't change the heartache that we're feeling now to have not had those 30 years," She said.
So it was only fitting that in Sami's final days, Mandi was holding her hand: an image she got tattooed on her arm, with the words "Love you so much" in Sami's handwriting.
"It's not the sadness of sharing her story. If we can bring more people answers, bring more research to it, save more lives. I don't wish this heartache on any families. So if we can continue to promote and help in a positive way, just like Sami did, I'm going to do what I can," she said.
Sami died from stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in May, which Mandi says only 5 percent of money donated to breast cancer awareness goes toward. But 98 percent of breast cancer deaths are from stage four cancer.
She's hosting a Light Up MBC 5K in Punta Gorda on October 13th. Click herefor more information.