Ashley's story: how I became my strongest self after cancer
Ashley is a Sarcoma thriver; she is also a mother, wife, sister, daughter, lover, friend, leader, advocate, and runner. Today, the proud marathon runner reveals how she regained the power she felt she lost when receiving her cancer diagnosis.
My diagnosis: "I wasn't going to let cancer take my power away"
After no longer nursing her child when he was 3 years-old (still producing milk and thinking she had a clogged milk duct), Ashley was diagnosed with a rare cancer, primary angiosarcoma, in her left breast.
This felt like a loss of power and control as my world got ripped out from under me. Although I felt these feelings, I was not going to let a disease take my power away.
Since being diagnosed in February 2018, I have spent beautiful energy on not only finding the new me but also raising awareness by sharing love through my stages of strength, fear, healing and grief.
My decision of opting out of breast reconstruction
Ashley chose the route of two mastectomies without reconstruction - despite many surgeons not speaking openly about opting out of reconstruction.
Several people have asked me, “there is no judgement, but why did you not get reconstruction? Don’t you want shape? Take this as a free reduction and get some beautiful ones built?”
Ashley sends a beautiful message to other women who may contemplate opting out of reconstruction:
Actually, I don’t prefer breasts. One of mine had disease, and I don’t need some built. I don’t need shape. I need to be alive and be ME and flat. I have the power to choose what I do in my treatment. I get to choose what I do because it’s my body and my choice. I’m flat and thriving.
Becoming my strongest self: running a marathon
Ashley speaks of how she has gained so much power through her healing journey:
I have desired to be my strongest self more than ever; emotionally and physically. I’ve continued to push myself to do things I’ve never done and open up to share my disease and running journey as a strong and powerful woman.
Ashley's first mastectomy to remove the disease was March 9, 2018. Then, just 7 weeks later, on April 28, 2018, she ran her second half marathon in 2:45. She continued running, then decided to have her second mastectomy, November 19, 2018.
5 weeks after the mastectomy, I joined a running group, East Nasty, and began training for a FULL marathon. I said, “If I can beat disease, overcome debilitating fears and push through the face of death, I can run a full marathon.”
While training, on March 16, 2019, Ashley ran her third half marathon on a really hilly course, in 2:35. She continued running. She continued swimming. She continued pushing herself to be her best self and ran her first ever full marathon on April 27, 2019.
I didn’t have breast cancer, I had an extremely rare cancer that was located in my breast. This set me aside from others who had a mastectomy. Finding support from people with lived experience has been challenging.
Ashley has yet to find someone that has experienced the type and location of the disease she had. She found a running community that has supported, pushed and motivated her to be a marathoner, to be her strongest self.
These races, miles and experiences have shown me that I’m a thriver. I’m a woman that has been through so much, and I can continue doing anything I dedicate my mind and heart to, no matter what. I will never stop loving and caring for my body, in it’s perfect state. As of today, I’m still disease free. As of today, I’m thriving and being my best ME while running miles to strengthen my body, mind and to cure Sarcoma.
Ashley and Mel