Name: Ashley Smith
Occupation: Preschool Teacher
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 34
Breast cancer type: HER2-Positive
Breast cancer stage: 2
Treatment: Six rounds of Perjeta, Herceptin, Docetaxel, and Carboplatin. Treatment is given once every three weeks. The treatment cycle after the six rounds is Herceptin every six weeks for about one year. Double Mastectomy, and potentially radiation.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer
I love playing adult softball, I coach high school basketball, and love to draw and paint.
What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?
Don’t give up on me by Five Feet Apart
How did you discover your breast cancer?
A friend posted that she was diagnosed with cancer on her Instagram page. She asked all of her friends and family to check themselves for lumps. I checked my breasts for lumps and felt a small lump inside my right breast. One week later and I was diagnosed with stage 2 HER2-positive breast cancer. My cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in my armpit. I really think my friend’s post may have saved my life! Who knows when I would have found it, had it not been for her post.
What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?
I was at work when I got the call that I had cancer. I stepped out of my classroom to take the call and listened as my doctor told me that my tumour was cancerous. I slowly slid down the wall and sat on the ground, holding tears back as my doctor talked to me about what was next. I was in complete shock. The first things I thought of were my kids and husband. What would they do without me? How are they going to handle seeing me sick? Why me?
What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed?
I had an acquaintance reach out to me and ask me questions about how I was doing. By the end of the conversation, she was trying to sell me health products from the company she works for. I kindly told her that I can’t take a lot of supplements when I’m on chemo because they can interact with the meds. I was shocked that she took my illness and turned it into something to profit off of.
Who are your biggest sources of support throughout your experience with cancer?
I am so blessed to have such a good support system! My mom is staying with me while I am on chemo to help with my kids. My husband is always there for me and very supportive. My co-workers started a t-shirt fundraiser through our school district and they all wear shirts that say Smith strong once a week to show their support. My co-workers donated their sick hours to me and I will get paid throughout the rest of the school year because of their generosity. My friends and a couple of local businesses have started fundraisers for me as well. Many community members have reached out to me letting me know they are there for me and are praying.
What is the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?
Having young kids at home. I have three girls that are my whole world and I hate that they have to watch me battle for my life. My 7-year-old is too young to fully wrap her head around it and it has been hard on her. My 10-year-old and 13-year-old have been handling it pretty well.
What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself?
I am much stronger than I thought I was. While chemo has wreaked havoc on my body, I continue to keep a positive attitude and am honestly surprised how well I am handling chemotherapy.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Accept the help that others offer you and remember that having cancer doesn’t make you look weak, it makes you brave and strong.
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If you or someone you know is a young woman with breast cancer looking for a community that relates and connects with your struggle, the Rethink Young Women’s Network might be right for you. For more information, click here.