Ashley was your average, healthy, active 19-year-old college sophomore. She had a new boyfriend, a great group of friends, and exams to study for.
That all changed when Ashley sneezed, and a razor-sharp pain shot through the right side of her back. At first, she thought she had just pulled a muscle, but the pain was so intense that it became difficult to breathe, and Ashley went to the doctor to seek some type of pain relief.
The doctor also thought it was a pulled muscle until he performed an X-ray and noticed a dark spot on her upper right lobe, and immediately sent her for a bronchoscopy and a PET scan. Less than a month after her diagnosis, she had an operation to remove the tumor and a portion of her lung, which was followed up by four rounds of intravenous chemotherapy, and then 9 weeks of radiation therapy 5 days per week.
But it still frightens her to this day that without that sneeze, she may not have known she had lung cancer until it was too late.
"The scary part is I really wouldn't have thought twice if it didn't hurt as bad as it did," Ashley said. "I'm just so lucky that happened because I had zero symptoms until that sneeze, so who knows how long it could have gone on until that point without me knowing that I was suffering from lung cancer."
"The pain was so intense that it became difficult to breathe."
Ashley: I just remember just a shooting, sharp pain deep in my back on my right side. I can't lift my arm. I can't take a deep breath. It's like my brain was still working, but my body wasn't. I wasn't sure if I'd ever get to tell him I loved him again.
Ashley: You altered my life forever, but I'm strong, and I'm here to fight and come out even stronger. My name is Ashley, and I am a fighter.
But Ashley's struggle was far from over. Three years later, three months before her wedding to her college boyfriend, she relapsed. "My relapse was really difficult. Stage IV, I had a brain tumor, a tumor in my spine, and then a bunch of tumors throughout my lungs."
Ashley endured multiple surgeries and procedures, including brain surgery where was awake during the operation. But she persevered through it all. "I remember the first person I saw in the room [after the operation] was my husband and how grateful and happy I was and then seeing my parents. Those are things that will always stick with me."
"Lung cancer stole some of the best years of my life, my college years, my young years but I'm strong and I will keep fighting and come out even stronger."
Page last updated: March 11, 2020