[00:00:00] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
It’s often thought that breast cancer only affects women over 40. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Breast cancer is rare in young women, but it does happen. And, when a young woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be shocking. At a time in life when most young women are focused on friends and career, all of a sudden issues of treatment, recovery, and survivorship suddenly take top priority.
Hannah Hancock joins the podcast today to share her story and how she navigated being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 22. Hannah, welcome to the show!
Thank you so much for having me. I’m really looking forward to hearing your story. Appreciate you joining us today. Uh, let’s start with your breast cancer story, you know, can you tell us about your diagnosis and what was going on in your life around that?
[00:01:00] Hannah Hancock: Yeah. So I was 22. I had just moved to DC. Um, out of college.
I grew up in Florida and went to the university of Florida and I had just moved here. I was working for a Congressman on Capitol hill and I had. Felt a bump in my right side boob. And I had a gynecologist appointment that week already. So I kind of just asked my doctor, she recommended me to go to get up and all ultrasound and then it all kind of took off from there.
But. Hop in really abruptly right after I kind of felt it. I remember having hesitations or even telling my friends, like this is kind of scary. I feel like I felt something I’m just going to go get it checked out. And I don’t really, like, I’ve never loved going to the doctor’s like, no one really does, but I knew it was the right thing.
And yeah, that kind of all happened. From there. I remember my girlfriends would come with me to the ultrasounds or the biopsies, and even, um, I went to GW their hospital in DC and I really I’ve only had good experiences there and it’s been pretty, um, it’s been a few years now. I’m 25 now. And that was when I was 22.
Yeah. It all happened pretty fast. That’s how I found out. Wow. Yeah. I remember the day I found out that I was diagnosed, I was working and everyone, uh, uh, my. Office. Everyone was fast friends. Like it was most positive work environment. Um, we were really close and kind of told them what was going on as it was happening.
But I got a call from the doctor in the middle of the workday. So I stepped out and it was like in a movie. They just called me and said, The biopsy came back and you have cancer. It’s stage one, it’s triple negative. But, um, like we need to know, we need to find out more. And so that’s kind of, that was the worst part of all of it kind of having to wait to find out what the treatment and everything.
And yeah, that’s how I found out. I went back into my office. I remember, I kind of tried to just put it away and put it aside and keep working. But then I obviously like am a human, I have feelings. And so, I cried and told everyone, and it was just so much support since that.
[00:03:37] Adam Walker: Wow. I mean, you know, at that age, I mean, it had to have been just a serious shock.
I mean, does breast cancer run in your family, was it already on your radar?
[00:03:47] Hannah Hancock: Yeah. So, my mom had it in her early fifties and she never had treatment or anything. She just kind of, uh, she had the surgeries, and she no longer has breast cancer now. And the way she handled it was definitely an inspiration for me, always.
She’s so strong and kind of just didn’t want, I have a younger sister, and so she didn’t want us to really be burdened or anything. So, she just treated it like doctor’s appointment. Did what the doctors told her now she’s good. And so, I was aware of it, but I never got tested for the genes or anything. Um, but I have BRACA-2 gene.
And so that’s something I always try to tell, even my girlfriends, you know, Even if my mom had it, but I didn’t know to get tested. No one told me to get tested, but that could prevent or help you keep a closer eye on it. And having that gene knowing I have it also was able to get my eggs preserved and do the whole fertility process.
So actually, that first day that they diagnosed me, they said, um, so you definitely have it, you have cance and the next step is we need to act like tomorrow. They’re like, I’m sorry. And my doctor’s nice. She’s I’m sorry. But you know, we have to, you have to like suck up and act fast. So, the next day I went in, talked to the fertility doctor.
My parents flew up from Florida and I did the whole process like that week. So that’s something like, I hope other young girls kind of know, along with it being a shock, definitely was I had so much support, but something I always would do, I would Google, like other young girls who have breast cancer, something about soar.
I could never really find anyone, like I knew a few people. Who had like preventative mastectomies. And there’s a girl Kaylee McInerney from Tampa, she’s from my hometown, and she was a press secretary for the white house. At the time. I always looked up to her and her family. She’s vocal about getting the preventative mastectomy.
I never really had young people to look up to. So that’s something, you know, I’m just like, I hope other young girls know that they’re not alone and there’s other people there’s good ways. If it is a shock, which it definitely was to me, there’s that you can find positivity of it.
[00:06:28] Adam Walker: Yeah. I mean, that’s why we’re doing this show.
Right. We want to, we want to let people know they’re not alone. You’re not alone. So, um, so did you feel like there was a team that sort of guided you through what to expect next and kind of, what did that process look like?
[00:06:45] Hannah Hancock: Yeah. So the process was, um, immediately the fertility and I, my doctors at GW hospital, and I even, I’d kind of just picked, it’s a great hospital.
I just picked it. Someone said, look at your insurance. My gynecologist said, look at your insurance and find a hospital that covers you and go get, go get an ultrasound there. So, I’m, I’m like 22, I’m so overwhelmed at work and just moving to a new city, I’m like Googling insurance. I had no clue really what to do, but so, but the team at GW, they sent me up with multiple doctors within the whole team and they kind of guided me along it.
And so no, I had different surgeons or chemo people or radiation different or, um, genetics. There’s a whole team there that really guided me and, um, yeah. And you know, my, my work was really flexible, which so nice. They would let me leave in the middle of the day for appointments. And they always, I told them from the beginning, I want to keep working, I’m 22, I am not going to let this stop me. And yeah, there was multiple teams helping me, I guess can answer the question. There’s just so many people that, you know, I maybe because I’m young too. I don’t know. But everyone wanted to just make sure doing what I needed to do, going to the chemo, going to my surgeries on that was all I could control.
[00:08:21] Adam Walker: Wow. And so I know you went through a lot of this sort of during the pandemic. How did that affect your, your treatment? And as you walk this.
[00:08:31] Hannah Hancock: Yeah, so I had about almost two years of chemo with a few surgeries and I would go every three weeks, and during the pandemic, I was almost a little more than halfway through my chemo.
So, I had a lot of, you know, it was a crazy time, but it was awesome how accommodatng all the doctors were. I actually, I got to be remote for work and I started law school also during the pandemic and we were, I was also working full time and I was also traveling to Florida to see my family or with my boyfriend, just other places and other hospitals would let me get their chemo there. So, I didn’t have to keep flying back and forth.
So, for instance, I was home in Jupiter with my boyfriend went to friends I didn’t want to come to DC just for chemotherapy, as annoying or lame has that sounds. I was just like, I want to live my life.
I don’t want to go for that. So, we set it up at a hospital in Jupiter and I got the same treatment. All the doctors have been amazing, and surgery has been a little tough, only bringing one person in. That’s a little bit different at the beginning, my friends, girlfriends, family, they would come like, sit with me during chemo and that was so helpful.
And then towards the middle and the end, I would have to go alone. I couldn’t go in the hospital with anyone, not something, you know, they’re still in DC at least doing so. Yeah, maybe. I would love to start a going, being able to go in person and like sit with people and talk. I feel like that’s something that could be changed or improved in hospitals.
[00:10:30] Adam Walker: Yeah, absolutely. So, you mentioned earlier that you had sort of a variety of support teams. I’m curious what the impact of your diagnosis at such a young age has had on your friends and family. How, how have they responded to it? How do you think it’s affected their life?
[00:10:47] Hannah Hancock: Yeah, in a way. Um, yeah, I just had moved from my college to, to DC and most of my girlfriends, guyfriends, everyone had moved to different places within the United States, New York or LA or other places.
So, you like in a way, it brought everyone back together. My girlfriends would come visit me from everywhere every weekend. Like, I was never alone and we would always talk and I remember even one time, like I was really trying to balance it all with working full-time and my dream job and I’m doing school on nighttime and I lost my earphones one time.
And I was like, that was just when the air pods came out instead of the dangly cord. And sometimes they’re just handier and I lost it. I had like, I cried so much, and my friends knew I was going through it. I’m like, it’s okay. It’s just earphones. But the little thing, like they, everyone like 20 of my girlfriends put in money and they all got me a new pair of earphones, really relieve a little stress.
And I mean, so I think that impact was just, you know, bringing everyone to gather and kind of realizing like, it kind of was a newsflash for all of us. Like there’s no time to waste really, especially within the first week of getting diagnosed, not knowing what it was.
I mean, blindly, like not knowing if I had another week or like the rest of my lifetime to live, and so that’s like a feeling that I’m actually so lucky to have at a young age, because it really did like put things in perspective, like, wow, do I need to be stressing over where I’m going to go eat or rush or an outfit or Sunday, a normal thing, girls at that age with stress over? But it was kind of just put things into perspective and um, I feel like it had that impact on my friends kind of as well as me just enjoy everything and do things you’re passionate about.
[00:13:00] Adam Walker:. I love that a lot. I mean, it sounds like it really, it can really transform the way that you look at life and the way you look at stress.
[00:13:11] Hannah Hancock: Yeah, I think you’d definitely transform that and kind of just, even, just enjoying time with friends and family and just doing things that make you happy and some of my friends who didn’t like their job, they’re like, okay, I’m going to fix this. Or, you know, why am I sitting here? Like thinking, oh, poor me, I don’t have this. I’m not really explaining it well, but it’s kind of just like to enjoy everything and do things that make you happy.
It just put things into perspective and how like little time we have.
[00:13:51] Adam Walker: Yeah. I love that. I love that. So encouraging, um, to, to think about from that perspective. So, so why is it so important for you to share your story with others now? Why, why are you on this?
[00:14:02] Hannah Hancock: Yeah. I think that something that was lacking for me always was someone to relate to and as I’ve said, I had so much support, still going on, even though I have it anymore. Like still being talked about, um, amongst my own community. So, I think that that’s something I was always lacking someone to relate with or how, you know, even little things, like I wanted to go hang out with all my friends, but I had like, no hair, no eyebrows or no eyelashes.
So I’m like, okay. Googling, like how to fake, like, ah, that you have hair. Like how to like put mascara on when you have no eyelashes, like little things like that. Like I just wanted to enjoy things. So, I wish there’s someone like my age, so I guess yeah, just like sharing and, you know, young people or even old people just to find that you can find the good and you don’t have to let it like slow you down or anything.
Really, I feel like that’s just like a message I would wish people had told me. I wish I had access to. But something that’s good about the pandemic is we get to do this on Zoom, like it is so nice. There’s so much information accessible now. So, there is anyone younger. I just want them to know, like they come by the positives and they can use a diagnosis to impact their and other lives.
[00:15:40] Adam Walker: That’s right. That’s right. I love that. I love that. Love the positive attitudes, so important, so important. So, it’s the last question, and maybe you’ve already said it, but I just want to make sure, uh, are there any final thoughts or final pieces of advice that you’d like to share with our list?
[00:15:56] Hannah Hancock: I would say, you know, anyone listening to this, or, um, even if it’s not you that got cancer, even if it’s a friend or family about, should great step that you’re even listening to this and seeing how you could help yourself or help others. And I think just keep finding ways to kind of brush off the negative.
Not really brush them off, but something good in every day or every month or year, and, you know, don’t let the cancer diagnosis drag you. Like my family was like, or my friends are like, how do we even react to you? Like, how are we being too nice? Like, do you want us to treat you the same and be like, that’s something.
Even if it’s someone like a support team listening, just good first step that you’re trying to see, like understand what people went through. And I would say, yeah, final advice would just be like, keep, just like, keep trying to enjoy every day and help. If it’s not you, then help your friends just see the good in things.
[00:17:06] Adam Walker: That’s right. That’s right. Enjoy every day and help other people see the good in things. That’s a good, that’s a great final thought. Uh, Hannah, thank you so much for joining me on the show today.
[00:17:16] Hannah Hancock: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:17:24] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com.