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25-Year-Old Finds Friendship in the Face of Breast Cancer

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SACRAMENTO -- Imagine this, you're 25 years old, you just finished college and are starting your new career. Then the unthinkable happens -- you find a lump and learn it's breast cancer.

That's exactly what happened to one Sacramento woman.

May Villa wasn't expecting a cancer diagnosis back in March; after all, she's only 25 years old. It's not a problem most women her age have to face.

"I didn't even have any idea this was happening," Villa said. "No ... no symptoms. Nothing like that."

During a self exam Villa found what felt like a muscle knot. She had just started her career as a nurse and knew it was a symptom she shouldn't ignore.

"Three days later, they told me that I had stage 2 metastatic breast cancer, and it had spread from my right breast tissue into my lymph nodes already by then," Villa said.

Treatment started immediately and it was at the hospital where she met Marcie Ellis.

Ellis is the head of supportive oncology at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. She specifically works with younger cancer patients, guiding them through it all, from side effects of treatment to health insurance questions and even fears of infertility.

"They often feel very isolated," Ellis said. "Their friends don't understand what they're going through."

For a friendship that seems so normal, Ellis and Villa's is rooted in a diagnosis that is anything but ordinary.

"I have no friends with breast cancer, let alone friends my age in general who have breast cancer," Villa said.

For Villa, Ellis became that person.

"It's really important for every cancer patient to have somebody they can talk to that isn't as invested in their life," Ellis said. "Somebody they can talk to when they have a bad day, somebody they can be brutally honest with."

She became a friend, someone who could help her get her makeup done before a TV interview.

"It does seem like a little thing, but to feel pretty and to have eyebrows again..." Ellis said.

"Looks so good! I feel so good!" Villa said.

Their friendship proves there can be good in anything, even cancer.

"You've made my journey so much easier," Villa told Ellis. "You've really made it that much easier for me."

Villa is also helping Ellis in her effort to reach out to other young cancer patients, so they know they're not alone and there are resources out there especially for them.

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