Staying aware

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women, second to heart disease, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

An everyday thing for most people turned UNA student Nicole DeVaney’s life upside down.

“I found it in the shower,” she said. “I am a skin freak. I have used special scrubs all my life, and I found it. I told my step daddy first … and he said ‘We have to tell your mom.’”

DeVaney said after knowing something was wrong for a few days, she finally had to bring herself to tell her parents that something was wrong, that something wasn’t right on her breast.

“We went to the doctor here in Florence, and they said ‘Oh, it’s not cancer, it’s just a cyst,’” she said.

Finding out she had breast cancer at the age of 15 was a life-altering moment, DeVaney said.

“They said that I would probably be dead by the time I was 17 if I wouldn’t have done what I did,” she said.

DeVaney, now 22, said she hopes girls her age will keep it in their minds that breast cancer can occur at a young age.

“Never ever just think, ‘Oh, it’s nothing,’ because it could be something,” she said.

A tattoo is one of the ways she reminds herself that she is a survivor, DeVaney said.

DeVaney had “J’ai survécu,” or “I survived” in French, tattooed on the left side of her chest to be a reminder of her fight against cancer. She said it also serves as a conversation piece for her and people that ask about the tattoo.

“People usually call you a breast cancer survivor,” she said. “They don’t know your name, but they know you are a survivor.”

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women, second to heart disease, according to the foundation.

Campus organizations such as Zeta Tau Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Tau Omega and others have been working throughout the month of October to bring awareness to the disease.

Being a survivor, DeVaney said, is an honor that she will never take for granted.

“I am very proud to be a survivor,” she said. “Every time I meet somebody else that is a survivor, (I) just have a different perspective … it’s made me a better person.”

People are often worried about the exams being awkward, she said.

“Being 15 and having to expose your boobs to a room of doctors — it’s humiliating,” DeVaney said.

Getting past the embarrassment and getting treatment was the smartest thing to do, DeVaney said.