'Fight like a girl' was more than motto for a Nacogdoches breast cancer survivor

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A Nacogdoches woman is thankful she can help her friend get through rounds of chemotherapy since she also went through the same experience with cancer. Paula Cook said fight like a girl is more than just a motto to her. It became a way of life in 2011 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Two years after surviving breast cancer, Cook is hoping to inspire and help others. In 2011, results from her annual mammogram showed a suspicious area doctors were worried about.

"On the follow-up visit they did an ultrasound, they did more mammography and they referred me to Dr. Walker for a biopsy," Cook said. "When I finally got the results it was actually malignant. It was stage one breast cancer, which stage one is of course the lowest stage thankfully for me."

Cook weighed her treatment options and even contemplated having a mastectomy.

"I have always been a big supporter of annual mammograms. About five years prior to that I had a lump in the other breast but the biopsy of that was benign," Cook said.

Before the year was over the Nacogdoches woman had six rounds of chemotherapy and 42 treatments of radiation all while she was still directing dietary services at Memorial Hospital in Nacogdoches.

"That song what doesn't kill you makes you stronger was really popular at that time, and I kind of took that as my theme song," Cook said. "This cancer is not going to kill me; I'm going to come out of this whole thing stronger."

That's when the motto fight like a girl became a way of life for the mother and full-time worker. Her employees signed a pair of boxing gloves for her to remind her she would win the fight, and her niece and nephew even shaved their heads to show their support.

"It pretty much hits you like a brick in the face; almost numbing. I remember just crying," Cook said.

But this survivor is able to smile now and is stronger than ever.

"Two years later, I feel great," Cook said. "I still have my mammograms. I had one two weeks ago; all clear. It's always nerve wracking but delightful to get the good news."

Cook said she would like to be an inspiration to others and hopes to help them know the signs before it's too late.

"One of the things I always tried to do was educate all the girls. It starts when you're young. Not that you have mammograms when you're young but you have to know that they're out there, that they're available," Cook said. "You have to be aware of your own body and signs and symptoms of changes in your body so that you could get the proper medical attention to save your own life basically."

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