ROCKWOOD, Tenn. (WATE) — A battle with cancer is not easy, but it helps when friends and colleagues show their support and help fight along the way. In Roane County, an animal shelter community is celebrating one of their own as she has been battling breast cancer.
Stacey Whittenberg, the director of the Roane County Animal Shelter, had her last radiation treatment earlier this week. RCAS celebrated Whittenberg by throwing her a party complete with pink balloons and pink ribbon decor for breast cancer awareness.
“This woman is one in a million y’all she gets knocked down so much but she always picks herself up and comes back for more!!” RCAS shared in a social media post on Monday. “She loves these animals and does miraculous things for them and this shelter!! We the staff love her to pieces and wish her the best in all things.”
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2023, an estimated 297,790 women and 2,800 men are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
Whittenberg spoke with WATE 6 On Your Side about her battle and the importance of staying vigilant for one’s health. She had gone for her yearly mammogram back in March when they found a spot in one of her breasts, and that began her journey and battle with the disease.
“They found it very early, which was such a blessing for me, and from March until now, I’ve went through quite a bit,” she said. “I had surgery to remove the cancer, and wound up being very blessed not to have to have chemo, but I did have 20 treatments of radiation.”
Those visits wrapped up earlier this week and Whittenberg was surprised by her animal shelter coworkers with a party.
“Oh wow, we have the most amazing relationship,” she said of her coworkers. “If you’ve ever been in a place in your life where you feel like you’re meant to be there – we have it here. My work family is absolutely amazing, and that’s county-wide, but my work family here at the shelter – we carry each other, and when one of us goes through something, we go all through it together. You’re never alone with these amazing people here.”
Whittenberg said their inspiration for caring comes from their work with the animals that they rescue, nurture and re-home.
“We’re all always there for each other and for the animals,” she said. “I really don’t know where I would be without that support. I really don’t.”
During her breast cancer battle and treatments, Whittenberg continued working remotely and stayed in contact with her coworkers.
In 2018, Whittenberg also said that she and her mother, who is living with Alzheimer’s disease, went to Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center to have their yearly mammograms. That’s when she found out she had a benign tumor. That health issue had put her on high alert, which led to her keeping up with her mammograms and finding out about her cancer years later.
“I have two daughters myself, so that really sparked an awareness, an alert for me to encourage my children, my friends, my family to actually go an have those yearly mammograms,” she said. “And if it hadn’t been for me staying up-to-date on those mammograms and those tests, they would not have found this cancer so early.”
Whittenberg said during this journey, she has been so blessed by the support from not only her colleagues but also her family and medical staff along the way. She also shared that working at the animal shelter is also helping in her journey.
“There’s so much healing in animals, no matter what you’re going through you can walk through your healing with a four-legged friend as well,” Whittenberg said. “Animals are one of those beautiful blessings that help us make it through things.”