Ron’s daughter Ashley was a fun, snarky kid who just wanted to have a good time. She loved spending time with her friends telling jokes, and she was incredibly funny! Ashley, then 10, became a big sister to her baby brother and she cherished the experience. She was an A student in high school and she was an active member at her church and on the drill team. In her free time, Ashley enjoyed cooking, painting, and reading. Ashley loved to visit and ride horses with her cousin Hannah in Austin, TX. She thought Grandma’s house was the best place in the universe because she was loved a lot, laughed often, and felt the happiest.
In February 2010, Ashley, then 15, developed pain in her leg during drill team tryouts. Initially the pain was believed to be dance-related. However, by mid-March the symptoms got worse and at the end of the month Ashley was diagnosed with stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.
“I’ll never forget our family meeting when the doctors told her about her cancer and what the treatment plan would be. After learning that she’d experience hair loss from the chemo treatments, Ashley, true to form replied, ‘Well darn it, why can’t it just be the hair on my legs?’ That set the tone for the rest of her treatment.”
The severity of Ashley’s diagnosis meant that statistically she had few options and time was limited. As she endured her treatments, first radiation and then chemotherapy, her spirit never dimmed. “There was no stopping this girl, she took everything in stride and her attitude never changed.” Her core group of girlfriends visited the hospital often – designating her room as a ‘no cry zone’. With her friends, she yearned to just be a typical teenager, catching up on all the high school gossip, turning her hospital room into a scene from Twilight, and even celebrating her Sweet 16 birthday there as well.
“While gathering information about children’s cancer, it was sad to learn that only 4% of money donated is spent toward research for children’s cancer, and this is just not enough! I called doctors in Dallas, Cincinnati and Arkansas as I was desperate to learn all I could about this disease. Nothing sounded promising until I reached out to Dr. Keller. I learned about ongoing research, with results that lead to more trial studies. I finally had something I could hang onto: HOPE.”
Ashley’s disease was diagnosed in her bones and blood, but as her condition worsened, disease spread quickly to her back and eventually to her brain. A family trip to Disney World through Make-A-Wish, (the organization dedicated to granting magical wishes to enrich the lives of children fighting life-threatening conditions) was moved up earlier than originally planned. “We made great memories and took lots of pictures, but it was a difficult time because Ashley’s health was declining.“
No amount of prayer could change the outcome. Ashley passed away in June 2011, having survived well beyond what was initially projected. A parent’s fear is they don’t want their child to be forgotten. “So, I’m sharing Ashley’s story – our story – to help continue research and enhance treatment. I tell her story as often as possible, to keep childhood cancer in front of everyone’s mind and to give HOPE to others.”
Our deepest appreciation goes out to Ron for his continued support of our mission and his willingness to advocate for change on behalf of Ashley.