The first time you meet Ashlie, you realize she’s extremely easy to like. She is a tiny little 25 year old dynamo of energy. She chases after her two young children, 5 year old Keegan, and 1 ½ year old Brieahna. She finds time to share a laugh with a friend, and with her husband of a year, Nick.
There is a lot hidden beneath the surface of this young lady. She has dealt with several changes in the last few years, from cancer, to her role as a newlywed. She lost both a grandfather, and more recently a mother to cancer.
In November of 2005, while she was pregnant with now 5 year old Keegan, her grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. By that time he was diagnosed, he was already in stage four cancer. Once he was diagnosed, he was immediately started on radiation and chemotherapy. The battle was lost and he passed away in March of 2007.
Shortly afterwards, some friends started talking to the family about Relay for Life. The relay was in May, and without much preparation time Ashlie got online, found the information and formed her team. She says they didn’t raise much money that first year; this coming relay for life will be the fourth year for their team being together.
A year later, in March of 2008, Ashlie’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. About three weeks later in April, [ashlie’s mother] Tammy had her first surgery. Upon removing all of her lymph nodes, they all tested positive for cancer.
Ashlie comes from a family of strength. As the family started to research the supplies Tammy would need for during her chemotherapy, they discovered there were no stores locally that catered to cancer patients and their families. This led to the opening of Ribbons in Findlay. The store sells wigs, scarves, bandanas and other cancer related items. They are also looking to expand into other cancer services.
After watching her own mom suffer through several treatments, including approximately 13 kinds of chemo, Ashlie’s biggest fear is that her own children will watch her suffer the way she had to watch her mom suffer. She is taking a proactive role in her health however; including beginning mammograms at the rather young age of 26.
In addition to Relay for Life, there have been other fundraisers. There has been “bowling for a cure”; golf scrambles, and bake sales. “There are a lot of things in the works. It wasn’t that we didn’t take it seriously before, just, now that mom is gone, we’re a lot more focused.” Ashlie continues talking about the spaghetti dinners and other things they would like to plan; sometimes the problem is just, funding the fund-raiser.
Tammy lost her battle to cancer, at the age of 45, in December of 2010. Ashlie credits her ability to stay strong to her two young children. “Just because I lost my mom, it isn’t fair for them to lose their mom to depression.” She admits that at times her mother’s illness took a toll on her family. When asked if she has any advice for family members, she says “I don’t really have any. Nothing anyone says is going to make it easier.”
“My mom was my best friend. I called her every day. Even now, I pick up my phone first thing in the morning call her. I usually don’t cry until then.”
Five year old Keegan had some input too. His grandmother passed away the day before his birthday. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up, “because of grandma’s doctors and so no one else’s grandma gets sick. I would help give her pills and take a book [to fan herself] when she got hot.”
Tammy left a legacy for her children and grandchildren. She was a brave woman, whose first thought was not for her own suffering, but rather that for her family. In a pamphlet in which breast cancer survivors shared their experience she wrote, “I worry more about the toll this had taken on all of them [friends and family] than the treatment I am facing.”
This is the type of beautiful sentiment, and strength that led to her daughter’s current fundraising goals. It is heartening, to see that in the face of such tragedy, beauty, courage and strength will find their way into the world. It is amazing that someone is able to take their personal pain, and try to make the world a better place.
Ribbons is located at 213 Crawford St in Findlay. Donations can be made to relay for life at http://mainacsevents.org/site/trteam name, Big K’s Krew, or under participant Ashlie May.