Stage IV colon cancer patient Ashley received her diagnosis at age 33. Watch as she shares her story starting with a routine physical, surgery and treatments that she endured, and lessons learned during her cancer journey.
Special thanks to our partner, Colorectal Cancer Alliance, for helping to make this vignette possible.
My name is Ashley, and I’m from West Virginia but currently reside in Nebraska. In February 2021, I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at the age of 33.
I decided I wanted to join the Air National Guard and had to complete a physical examination. After visiting a hematologist/oncologist for dangerously low iron and hemoglobin levels, I went in for a routine physical a few months later. The physician’s assistant found a mass in my stomach area, and they sent me for a CT scan. The next morning, my husband Josh got the call that I missed. The CT scan had shown three different masses – and was likely cancer.
I was dumbfounded, shocked, and then I felt the tears rolling down my face. My doctor informed me, “You need surgery immediately, since the tumors are getting close to completely closing up your colon.” I also had a tumor on my liver.
I had surgery to remove the tumor before it closed my colon, but the surgeon couldn’t get to the tumor on my liver. After surgery, they told me the three most important things to do while there that would get me home sooner were eating with no issues, walking, and having a bowel movement.
Finally after two surgeries where my liver, gallbladder, one-quarter of my colon, part of my small intestines, appendix, two large tumors, and a lymph node that turned into a tumor was removed, as well as 12 rounds of chemo.
I received news in March 2022 that my cancer is back but will not be as aggressive as it was before. I am taking things one step at a time and one day at a time, trying to stay optimistic at each step.
When someone gets cancer – the “journey” is never over. The fear NEVER goes away. Even when you are declared to have no evidence of disease, there is a possibility cancer can come back. And if it does come back, the chance of fighting and winning again gets slimmer.
If you know someone that has cancer – be kind – just because they don’t look sick, doesn’t mean they aren’t having challenges. Just because their numbers and scans are good doesn’t mean they are in the clear for the rest of their life. Always, always – BE KIND!
Some of the things I have learned during my colon cancer journey are:
- Get your colon cancer screenings on time. Or if you’re too young like me, listen closely to what your body tells you and get annual physicals.
- Say yes to those who want to help by bringing food, checking in, or donating. We are amazed by the support we’ve received from friends, family, and complete strangers.
- Fighting the cancer fight is much easier knowing how many people are on our side and how much love there is for us out there.
- Advocate for yourself! Do research on your specific type of cancer and mutations. If you feel you are being told something that just doesn’t seem right, question it – push the bar until you can’t anymore! There are so many options out there when it comes to cancer and survival, you just need to find the right person that will take care of you!
These actions are key to staying on your path to empowerment.