Team Tonya rallies for friend battling pancreatic cancer

Tonya receiving chemotherapy in Texas (Source: Facebook)
Tonya receiving chemotherapy in Texas (Source: Facebook)
Car decals in support of Tonya Hankins
Car decals in support of Tonya Hankins

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - A community is rallying behind one of their own. Tonya Hankins, the Director of Nursing at BRTC, was diagnosed with cancer last month. Now her friends and coworkers are standing behind her in her battle.

In less than a month, Tonya Hankins world was turned upside down.

"Tonya had been healthy," Ramonda Housh, Hankins' friend and coworker told Region 8 News. "She had a hysterectomy at the very end of May and day 12, post-op, she started having severe abdominal pain."

Hankins thought she had simply overexerted herself after her surgery. However, four Emergency Room visits later revealed something else.

"They did a cat scan of her abdomen and it showed a mass on her pancreas," Housh explained.

Housh said after doctors performed a biopsy, they thought Hankins had adenocarcinoma and the tumor was inoperable.

"They actually gave her a diagnosis and told her that she had 6 to 12 months to live. And that just...we couldn't settle for that," Housh said. "Not just gonna lay down and take that diagnosis."

So, they started looking for options. That led them to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. More extensive testing showed Tonya has pancreatic cancer. Now, doctors are saying that after months of chemotherapy, operating is a possibility.

However, it's taking a toll on the family.

"It's extremely expensive, as anyone who has gone through this sort of thing knows, it's not just about the medical care and the treatment," Housh said.

So while Tonya is in Texas, fighting her cancer, her coworkers, friends, even complete strangers are here at home, rallying behind the Hankins family.

"Chris is a law enforcement officer," Housh explained. "Tonya has been a nurse for 18 they both have spent their entire careers serving others."

Now those they've served are returning the favor. In just two weeks, the army of people supporting her, called Team Tonya, have managed to organize a 5K color run, t-shirt, bracelet and car decal sales. Local businesses are even helping out.

"Kiss the Cook, in Paragould, they have a "Pay it Forward Friday" and we were fortunate that they put Tonya on their pay if forward and they raised $423 for her."

Donations, prayers and support like that are giving Tonya hope while she's in Houston.

"She said 'I just can't wait to be home so I can do it for others.' and that was her exact word. She said 'I want to be able to pay it forward because I will never be able to pay it back.'"

You can learn more about fundraising and donation efforts for Team Tonya on Facebook.

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