PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — A Port Charlotte family's battle with breast cancer is just as heartbreaking as it is miraculous.
Fox 4 first interviewed Sami Pickens from Port Charlotte in October of 2021. At that time, she had just beaten breast cancer for the second time.
She was first diagnosed at just 28 years old, and was very dedicated to spreading awareness that breast cancer can strike at a young age.
On May 26th, 2023, Sami passed away surrounded by the people she loved most, including her 4 month old baby girl: a baby whose life can only be explained as a miracle.
When Morning News Anchor Lisa Greenberg interviewed Sami in 2021 after she beat breast cancer for a second time, her faith never wavered.
"I mean, it was shocking. I literally fell to the floor. My stomach just started like cramping, and I feel like I'm going to throw up," she said. "And then I think I'm lucky to just have really strong faith. So I quickly went from shock to "OK, God's got me. My family has me. We're gonna get through this.'"
At that time, Sami said her dreams for the next five years included children. But she was taking medication daily that impacts fertility.
"If I'm unable to have kids after this treatment done and I'm 34 years old, I'm interested in adoption. So starting to look through all of that, and being excited about what that looks like," she said in 2021.
Her sister, Mandi Crews, said the most wonderful surprise last year, Sami got pregnant.
"Against all odds. And without having a cycle return," she said.
She called it a miracle. But during her pregnancy, Sami got an unusual rash and said she didn't feel right.
"Found out that she had a collapsed lung. So she went into the ICU at her hospital, and upon getting some scans — because she was pregnant we couldn't do much — they found that the cancer had metastasized to the lung, liver and bone," Mandi said.
Over the next few months, Sami endured chemotherapy while pregnant.
"She could hardly eat and she was growing a healthy baby," Mandi said.
On January 7th, 2023, Sami and her husband Justin welcomed sweet little Lyla Grace.
"She's our little miracle baby. Sami carried her to 36 weeks against, again, all odds, during chemo and everything. She birthed a healthy little baby girl, just strong as can be. She's our little light," Mandi said.
For the next four months, she said Sami's positivity and faith were unbreakable.
"She told us at the end, 'You've got to be OK with God's plan, no matter what it is.' And she knew where she was going," Mandi said.
On May 26th, Sami took her last breath. Mandi says she, Justin, and the rest of their family are doing everything they can to make sure Lyla knows how strong her mom was.
She said instead of focusing on the heartbreak, she chooses every day to be grateful for the 30 years she had as Sami's little sister.
"You'd rather have the blessed time that you do have, than to not have it at all. So we pick up the pieces and we keep carrying on, trying to make her proud every day," Mandi said.