We'd like you to introduce you to Ashley. A 35 year old mom, wife, entrepreneur, gardener, and cancer survivor.
"I was diagnosed the day after my 34th birthday with aggressive invasive ductal carcinoma, Stage 2, HER2+ & ER+. I found a lump after preforming a self breast exam the day my aunt told me of her own breast cancer diagnosis. I truly feel her diagnosis saved my life. I have undergone chemotherapy, a mastectomy, still in my year of immunotherapy, and just began the long haul of 10 years of hormone therapy." - Ashley
How did this journey bring you to a deeper understanding of yourself?
The best way that I can describe a cancer journey is a total rollercoaster. I’ve never necessarily been someone to go with the flow, I love control. This situation has taught me we truly only have control over a few things. How we respond to adversity being one of them. At this stage of my life I’m making a vow to show up as my authentic self. I’ve learned that I am much stronger than I thought I was. What I have accomplished and been through since my diagnosis makes me proud.
"I’ve shown up every day and done my absolute best for myself and my family. I take pride in that."
I’ve learned to face fears, mother through pain and side effects, and really just keep moving forward.
What has been the most significant change you see in yourself now that you are a cancer survivor?
My perspective. Prior to my diagnosis my career was such a huge part of my identity, and something that took most of my time. I’ve made huge changes to shift my focus to family first, always. I have the capability now to see everyday moments as true miracles. I cry happy tears regularly. I pause and study all the perfect parts of my children. I find true gratitude in every single day, even the hard ones. Because they make the good ones that much sweeter. So much of me has changed. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Sometimes I feel completely unrecognizable. But I’m slowly and surely finding my way again and I look forward to this new version of myself that lives every single day with intention and passion.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started treatment?
"To get my eyebrows micro-bladed 🥴 "
Haha kidding. But seriously, I would go back and do that first thing if I could!I wish I knew that I could do it. When I was first diagnosed I truly didn’t think I could get through all of the steps of treatment. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I did it. One day at a time. Sometimes one minute at a time. I just wish I had more confidence in myself that I could get through it all. I think that would have helped with my fear.
What was the most difficult part of your journey and how did you overcome it?I honestly think the most difficult time is right now, survivorship. I dramatically underestimated how much treatment would change me. Surviving cancer is hard. Integrating back into real life is hard. Social situations are hard. Finding love for your new body, your new hair, your new mind. And of course coping with the constant fear of recurrence. It’s a heavy load to carry every day. I get a little better every single day. But something I think people don’t realize is that when treatment is “over” for us it’s not even close to over. Healing from the trauma I know will take me years. But survivorship is a gift not ever cancer patient is given so I am grateful every day to navigate these challenges.
What advice would you give on how to best support a loved one going through breast cancer?
"Find the breast cancer community."
Meeting and communicating with other young survivors has helped validate my experience so much. It’s just a group of women that totally gets it. Cancer as a young adult can be very isolating, and finding my community has helped me to have friends to lean on and learn new ways to cope with all that is survivorship.