NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - It happened during a regular breast self-exam, and for one Nacogdoches woman, the news changed her life forever.
At 25 years old, Allyson Hancock said she did daily breast self-exams because both her mother and grandmother had battled and survived breast cancer.
But what she found made her stomach drop, she says. It was a lump about the size of a pea in her left breast.
"I was still kind of in denial even though deep down I knew that was what it was. But hoping, you know, I was in shock for awhile and it took awhile for that to wear off," Hancock said.
Hancock traveled to Austin to visit a breast cancer specialist, and that was when she was told she had a rare form of breast cancer.
"The type of cancer I had was triple negative, which means it's not estrogen positive, it's not hormone receptive positive," Hancock said.
Based on a scale from one to 10 that doctors use to see how fast the cells are growing inside the tumor, Hancock's cancer was rated at a number nine.
"I thought, I'm 25 years old. I'm married. I have a good job and I thought I was invincible," Hancock said.
It wasn't a hard choice to get a double mastectomy, she adds, but losing her hair during chemotherapy was the rough part.
"It's one of the things, like here I am, and I've already lost my breasts and it's one of those things that make any female a female--is their breasts. Then I lost my hair, which I've always been--my hair has always been so important to me. Obviously, you don't realize how important it is until you don't have it," Hancock said.
She says before her doctor even asked her if she wanted to do a mastectomy she had made her mind up.
"I don't want to take a chance of it going into the other breast. So, it was a very easy decision for me. You know, I don't look back and regret it now. It was a very easy decision," Hancock said.
After a year and a half of being cancer free, the last thing Hancock expected was going through chemotherapy again until she found another lump in her breast.
She was 27 years old.
"It was in the same breast. But, it was up higher. It was on my chest wall right above my implant and it felt like a little, green pea. A frozen, green pea under the skin," Hancock said. "My stomach dropped the same way it did the time before and I just knew it was cancer again."
This time, chemotherapy was more aggressive. The first time, Hancock said she did chemotherapy every other Friday for about five hours. Now, she was doing chemotherapy Monday through Friday every two weeks for nine hours.
"It's crazy. It's the scariest experience I've ever had to face. And here—not only am I facing it once, but I was facing mortality twice. You know, I faced it twice because as fast as that tumor was growing, you know, it's scary," Hancock said.
But, she says her faith got her through it.
"I was scared the first time, but I was really terrified the second time because I was starting to get more information on the kind I have, which is extremely, extremely rare," Hancock said.
When Hancock was told she was cancer free, she admits she still had some doubts.
"If I got a year and a half between the first one and the second one, well, surely it's got to be a year and half before I get it again," Hancock said. "There's that little piece in the back of my mind that thinks what if it does come back? I mean, it's very little but, I trust my doctor with my life and if she says I'm cured than that's what I have to go with."
Now, Hancock talks to college-aged girls all over Texas, including Nacogdoches, about how important it is to do weekly breast self-exams.
"Never take a risk. Your life is not worth not checking," Hancock said.
Hancock will be participating in the Nacogdoches Relay for Life on Friday at the Nacogdoches Expo Center. The event starts at 7 p.m.