The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal

MAY 2015

The 2012 edition of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal features medically reviewed, reader-friendly articles such as tanning, the increasing incidence of skin cancer diagnoses among young women, & the prevalence of melanoma among white males over 50.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 67 of 115

The treatment, however, bought her time. For three years she remained cancer-free. But in November of 2009 at Thanksgiving, she noticed a black and blue lump on her right hip. "I think the melanoma is back," she told her mom. Her intuition was right. The lump tested posi- tive for melanoma. In 2010, she started clinical trials for two experimental drugs to boost her immune system, but neither of them worked. Next, a local television station profiled her as she traveled from her home in Seattle to Port- land to take part in a research study with yet an- other promising immunotherapy for late-stage melanoma patients. It didn't work either. "The last treatment involved injections in the tumors in her groin and were very painful," Bob remembers. "She was an incredible trooper through it all." By January 2011, the cancer had spread to both sides of her groin, her upper back, liver and lungs. She was treated with yet another experimental drug, but again the cancer stub- bornly held on. ASHLEY SPREADS THE WORD As her condition became increasingly grave, Ashley felt an urgent mission to prevent others from repeating her mistakes. "I didn't listen when I was warned about the dangers of tan- ning beds and not using sunscreen," she wrote on a friend's blog in May 2011. The cancer continued to spread through- out her body, reaching her brain, and in October, 2012, she had gamma knife surgery, a non-invasive procedure that involves gamma radiation beamed onto tumor sites in the brain. She followed with a round of another immunotherapy, Interleukin-2, which was very hard on her body. "She shouldn't have done it," says her mom. "She was always vomiting." That May, Ashley was able to celebrate her 40th birthday surrounded by nearly 100 friends. In January 2013, doctors removed four inches from her intestines to eliminate a blockage. After discovering tumors in her intestines, the surgeon told her parents the brutal truth. "Your daughter is a very sick girl. She has weeks to live," Karen remembers him saying. THE FINAL DAYS King 5, a Washington television station, vis- ited Ashley to make a powerful video about her story. Lying in bed, Ashley had tubes hooked up to her veins pumping in pain medication. Tumors had invaded the right side of her face, leaving it paralyzed. But even then, Ashley con- tinued to maintain her beauty. Everyone knew she loved the color pink, so a manicurist visited to paint her nails bright pink. A make-up artist applied fluttery, long eyelashes. Her face glow- ing with make-up, Ashley spoke to the camera about her regrets: "I paid money to be in the po- sition I'm in now. I literally paid to get this terri- ble disease that is killing me." She was wearing a "Hello Kitty" T-shirt in the hope of reaching young girls to convince them never to tan. After the video aired and went online, the family received a flood of cards from people saying they would never tan. Another let- ter writer from the East Coast said that after watching Ashley's story, she cancelled her order for two tanning beds. In March, after a week in a hospice care facility, Ashley asked to return to her parents' home, where she could pass away peacefully. On March 15, 2013 at 5 AM, Ashley passed away after a seven-year battle with melanoma. Her mother and father held her hands, her group of girlfriends and her boyfriend nearby. "They were all crouched together, watching her die; I was amazed that these girls were so in love with her," Karen recalls. Ashley's strong Christian faith helped her face death with grace. It also provided comfort for her parents. "We have a wonderful mantra; Ashley is on vacation and I'm going to see her again," says her dad. "She is no longer in pain and suffering. It allows you to accept that death is a part of life. But unfortunately she was taken away too young." A few weeks before she passed, Ashley re- vealed her last wish: "If there's one person's life I can affect, that's a beautiful gift I can give to somebody. I don't want them to end up like me, it's just not worth it." By all accounts, she has passed that gift to many, especially throughout the Northwest. In- spired by Ashley, Dr. Brian Druker, Director of the Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, spearheaded a law in Oregon banning those under 18 from indoor tanning without a doctor's prescription, which passed in April, 2013. Washington State passed a similar law that went into effect in June, 2014. "We're really proud of both of these ac- complishments," says Karen. Ashley also directly affected the teen chil- dren of one of her friends. On the one-year an- niversary of her passing, the girls, ages 12-15, brought pledges to their school for classmates to sign, vowing never to tan. Hundreds of students signed the petition.. "I can't take back my poor decision, but I HOPE to help others make better decisions. Nothing good comes out of tanning, and cancer sucks." 66 References on pages 105-107

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal - MAY 2015