PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A tradition rang out loudly Monday in Pascagoula as a breast cancer patient completed her treatment. Staff and patients at Singing River's Regional Cancer Center call it the bell of hope. Ringing it signals the end of a patient's cancer treatment.
Nine months ago, when Heather Wiggins was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, she said this light at the end of the tunnel was hard to see.
"I didn't imagine it. It was just fear. It was just fear about what was going to happen," said Wiggins.
After months of chemotherapy and radiation, the fear is behind her. Wiggins said she couldn't have made it through the rough treatments by herself.
"I had such a great team. Between my surgeon and the oncologist, they just led me through every step of the way, and I'm just really grateful for all of them," said Wiggins.
According to the director of operations Joe Kippley, the staff and patients form close relationships over the course of the treatments. When the day comes to celebrate the end of those treatments, he said it's beyond special.
"It is a moment to kind of stop and just feel part of their journey and how our staff has done a great job getting them to this point," said Kippley.
Wiggins said in addition to the great staff at the center, she also had an extra team of support in her family and friends, who were there to watch her triumphant and emotional celebration.
One of her biggest supporters was her husband, Sen. Brice Wiggins. He said he was impressed by the quality of medical care and attention that was provided throughout the process of his wife's treatment.
"The doctors, the nurses, the staff. It's been fabulous. We're lucky to have such great care in our area," said Wiggins.
That care has led Heather to this day, which happened to fall right in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now, she hopes to use her story to inspire others to get checked and take no chances.
"If I had not found that lump, if I had not gone to the doctor, how much worse would it have been?" she said.
Wiggins said mammogram results had come back clear for her just months before she was diagnosed with the cancer in January.