“This time,” she says, “it didn’t shrink. It got bigger.”
Concerned it was cancer, Ashley asked the doctor for a biopsy, which was performed the next day.
Ashley and Harley with the family dog.
Her gut instinct was right – the lump was a cancerous legion.
But specialists were stunned.
“Pathologists from all over the country studied the lump,” Ashley says. “They all agreed that it was a rare and very aggressive, possibly hormonally fueled cancer. But nobody could diagnose it.”
At 33 weeks along, Ashley was induced so she could start treatment, and on Nov. 17, 2007 baby Harley was born.
“We were preparing for our son to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit,” she says, “but when he was born, he didn’t have to. He got to go home two days later. The NICU doctor came in to see us, and he said that never in his career had he seen a 33-week-term baby not go to the NICU, even for evaluation. That was just a miracle.”
It was the first of several miracles that the family never imagined possible.
Four days after giving birth, Ashley had surgery to remove the mass in her neck. It was the size of a softball and had grown fingerlike tumors that grew into her jaw muscle.
“Doctors tried to aggressively remove what they could,” she explains. “It took more than six hours, and I had lots of jaw muscle removed.”
The tumor was sent for evaluation, and it took five weeks to get results.
During that time, the cancer spread viciously - to her brain, both lungs and a spot on her liver. It was diagnosed as stage 4.