Then, in 2001, her friend Allison Allred was diagnosed with the same cancer.

“I was just seeing some mild flashes of light for, say, 7 to 10 days,” she said.

Their friend Ashley McCrary was the next to develop ocular melanoma, after seeing black spots.

“What’s crazy is literally standing there, I was like, ‘Well, I know two people who’ve had this cancer,” she said.

McCrary told her oncologist, Dr. Marlana Orloff at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, that her friends had the same cancer, and Dr. Orloff and her colleagues are now studying the strange connection.

“Most people don’t know anyone with this disease,” Dr. Orloff said. “We said, ‘Okay, these girls were in this location, they were all definitively diagnosed with this very rare cancer what’s going on?’ ”

RELATED VIDEO: Mom of 4 Diagnosed with Rare Cancer Loses Eye Weeks Before Giving Birth to Twins

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This is more than just health care, she said. This is a matter of rural prosperity.

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