When a 52-year-old Hanover woman visited her long-time doctor last May with a fairly large lump in her breast, she was concerned, but was told not to worry about it.
Melissa Wickham did just that until April, when the lump grew and her worries returned.
In September, Wickham discovered she had stage-three breast cancer after an ultrasound. It had spread to her lymph nodes.
“I felt like I was thrown into the woods a little bit,” she said.
After her diagnosis, Wickham started chemotherapy and just finished her last week of treatment. The next step is having a mastectomy at the end of the month. Then she’ll undergo radiation and will take a drug that targets her specific cancer for a year.
The treatments aren’t cheap and Wickham said her insurance doesn’t cover much of the expense. So in order to make up for lost work time and pay hospital bills, her two best friends, Suzanne Burton and Susan Robertson, organized a fundraiser called the “BFF bake and barbecue sale.”
They will host it at First Baptist Church in Ashland Feb. 1 and attendees will be able to feast on barbecue and sweet treats in addition to participating in a silent auction. All proceeds will help Wickham.
The first one started out as the two ladies just sold cookies at the church, but more and more individuals wanted to help as they learned about the cause.
“We’re completely blown away [by the support],” Robertson said.
The ladies have known Wickham for over 20 years and they really wanted to help their friend.
“I feel a little uncomfortable with it but it’s so nice to have friends that care so much,” an emotional Wickham said. “It will definitely help.”
Robertson and Burton teamed up because they wanted to help their friend. Once the effort went viral on Facebook, “it kind of just kept snowballing,” Robertson said.
They had over 300 pounds of barbecue to sell, which was already sold before the event.
“It’s just been a strong testament of the community coming together and reaching out to help her,” Robertson said.
Although Wickham is optimistic that she’ll get through this battle, she said she wishes her doctor had told her to get an ultrasound earlier on. Still, she knows she will survive this.
“I hope I will one day be able to move on and give back to the community and my friends,” Wickham said.
She explained that one in every eight women get breast cancer and although she has had a healthy record, her family has a history of breast cancer.
With that, she pointed out the importance of knowing one’s body and trusting themselves instead of putting all of one’s faith into their doctor.
“You are your own advocate,” Wickham said.
But she hasn’t gone through this process alone, she said she has received ample encouragement and support from friends and family.
“It’s overwhelming and it warms my heart,” she said.
But Wickham feels that she is not the only one in the world who needs the support of their communities.
“My battle is nothing and there are people out there fighting bigger battles than mine,” she said.