The Ghost of Cancer Past

People try to make me a fixed star, but I am a wandering planet.
-from the movie Luther

 

Hearing that Jennifer Arnold has a rare cancer brings back all kinds of emotions. I too had that rare cancer.  I was stage 3 Choriocarcinoma.  When people ask what type of cancer I had and I tell them I usually get a blank stare.  They’ve never heard of it.  It’s scary having something no one has heard of.  I remember thinking: why can’t I just have a normal cancer? As if cancer were normal.  This is why I’m glad no one can read my mind. I’m praying for Jennifer and her family.  Praying for her healing.  (read her story here)

 

Going through old photos recently has been like looking at someone else’s life.  Except it’s mine.  I have no other story except this one. I am not the same person I was before.  A pastor at my church has asked me to give a testimony on Christmas Eve and I’ve accepted…

[insert heart palpitations and nausea here]

Part of me wants to say no.  I go back and forth about it every day.  I’m scared to do it.  I keep thinking of nightmare scenarios…like what if I say the word douche accidentally? Or what if I do my really ugly cry and can’t stop?  I cried through a meeting the other day at church!  Who does that!?

In thinking about what my testimony should be I’ve been thinking about what’s changed in me.  I mean there’s the obvious….I went from girly to boy-ly.  The rest….well, I’m struggling with how to put it into words.

Hearing that Jennifer Arnold has a rare cancer brings back all kinds of emotions. I too had that rare cancer.  I was stage 3 Choriocarcinoma..... via lilblueboo.com #cancer #choriocarcinoma

It’s hard to pinpoint what changed and when.  It’s like staging when I step back and look at it all:

“B.C.” Before Cancer: I was a happy person before cancer.  I was motivated and hard working.  If I work hard enough, everything will be perfect…one day.

Surgery Trauma: Suddenly I was thrown into the world of cancer. I thought I was pregnant. I don’t think cancer should result from the thought of pregnancy.  It’s like taking the hope of the world and then turning it into doomsday.  They were just going to go in with a camera and look around. I went under anesthesia and I woke up in ICU, looking all ragged and with someone else’s blood. Kind of like Frankenstein. The whole idea of “looking around” was all false advertising.

Chemotherapy: I started chemotherapy before I’d even had a chance to comprehend what had happened. And for the first time, I found that I had physical limits. I was forced to stop. I was reduced to accepting help. Pride goeth after a fall sometimes.

New Chemotherapy: The first line of chemotherapy was unsuccessful.   So a second line started. I think that’s about the time I just stopped caring what they did to me. It seemed much easier to just surrender.  I just found myself praying: Dear God, just don’t make it too painful.

Bald: With no hair, I was reduced to the most basic, barest human form.  There was no hiding. There was no vanity. Everything was suddenly simplified.

Stillness: Forced to be still, I could see the world swirling around me in its frenetic pace. As I sat on the sidelines something was slowly dying inside of me: old wants, old needs, old attitudes, old habits. Something had to die inside for something new to have a clearing to grow and thrive.

On Steroids: Sometimes I prayed for “up” days where I would have a burst of energy, to return to my own frantic life. Steroids helped. Sometimes I went overboard and paid for it for days after. What I’ve learned: frantic & busy = ego issues.

New New Chemotherapy: And then the third line of chemotherapy.  A last resort.  It fried my brain. Some days I would gain 4 pounds of toxic fluid. I might as well have had electro-shock treatment. Maybe I needed it, because finally my mind was starting to catch up with my heart. Only I don’t fully know when my heart changed. I think I may have had a heart transplant, scratch that….multiple heart transplants.  (Who knows…..there was that one incorrect report that said I had a lung removed.) Observation: If I met myself on the street in that last photo I’d run the other way.

Magnitude: In the quiet humming of a CT machine, I came to the conclusion that God does not cause suffering, but he uses it to reach us.  I made new friends in the other patients.  Many of them didn’t make it. A woman contacted me to tell me her aunt woke up from a coma and one of the first things she asked was how I was doing.  She passed away soon afterwards. I found myself crying in the shower at the magnitude of it all.

Mercy: And then suddenly, out of the blue, there was mercy.  Some say science. I say God.  And then I began slowly moving back towards strength. But I still ached over the pain I saw in others.

Healing: I found myself increasingly unguarded. It’s easier than you might think when you are reduced in size, ego, vanity, and pride. I found more and more things increasingly petty.

I surrendered to a simpler life, only it didn’t feel like surrender.  It felt kind of awesome. Little things became big things. I found God everywhere.

And God was like: yay, finally, you noticed.

 

A New Normal: Every day became another day.  I became grateful for the opportunity to attend doctor appointments. Some people no longer had that chance. I found myself overwhelmed with thankfulness.

Today: I’m still here. And I’m grateful. And I still cry in the shower at the magnitude of it all. It’s not a sad cry it’s more of a this-is-huge cry.

I’m not the same person I was before. I was emptied out and filled back up. Only I wasn’t filled up all the way. And that little bit of emptiness is good to have. It makes me a voracious reader and observer.  I’m constantly looking. I’m always wandering. I’ve always wondered where I fit in, but maybe my purpose isn’t to fit in.  Now I’m just more open to listening to where I’m supposed to wander.

“Oh God, give me more moments like this – moments where I am fully present to you and to other in love. Moments when I am connected with what is purest and most authentic within me and able to respond to your presence in that place. I want to live my life in such a way that there is more of this!”
-Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

Oh, and about that public speaking thing.  Yeah I’m still nauseous. If I could clone myself I’d make the clone do it.  I opened up my new Guideposts this afternoon and the first article I came to was called “My Fear of Public Speaking.” It’s about a woman being asked to share her story in church.

She says: My knees will buckle. I’ll throw up. Sweat like wild. I’ll pass out. I’ll embarrass our church.
And her pastor says: Concentrate on the message, not on yourself.

Concentrate on the message. Not on myself.

Writing that on my hand today.

(You can read the actual testimony here! I made it through!)

 

P.S. It certainly looks like I have perfected the “selfie”…..I should technically be embarrassed at ALL the photos I took of my cancer-self. But I won’t be. That would be petty.

Comments

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Comments

  1. 1
    Cindy Cochran says:

    I too read the article about Jen’s cancer and thought about you. thank you for sharing your cancer with us. I so enjoy reading what you write. So many of your messages relate to me and how I would write if I had your talent. I also am a cancer survived but on a very small scale compared to you, thyroid cancer much easier treated.

  2. 3
    Deborah says:

    God said you are exactly where you should be. Because you are so close to God, I ask that you pray for my adult children; my husband entered eternity last Friday and his funeral mass was yesterday. We are strong, but extra prayers are a wonderful thing.
    Lovelovelove to you,
    Deborah

  3. 5
    Shanna says:

    Can’t . Stop. Crying. So beautiful! I was diagnosed with a rare disease (granulomatosis with polyangitis) and find myself relying on your blog to encourage strength and remind myself to choose joy (and hope). Thank you for being so honest, always, and sharing yourself with us… It means more than you know :) I am blessed to have 3 babies who *need* their mom around… Mentally too not just physically.

  4. 6
    Inez says:

    Awesome post Ashley. I went through breast cancer back in 2006-2007. Now it seems like a distance memory, but reading your post brought a lot of it back to me – I could identify with a lot of what you posted. thanks for putting it all into words. Love your blog.

  5. 7
    Beverly says:

    I wear my Choose Joy necklace everyday and think, I can choose joy today. If Ashley can do it, then so can I. Even on days when those ugly tears that come for no other reason than the world is just too much, I think of your courage and how we each choose how we face things. I love this post. Merry Christmas!

  6. 8
    Jessica says:

    I love this post; thank you for being so open about YOU! I’ve been reading your blog since 2009 and have loved every bit of it. I so appreciate you letting everyone know that you’re human…not some unbreakable, untouchable artist/writer. You’re inspiring to all of your readers! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  7. 9
    Dawn says:

    As a fellow survivor, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I look back at my wedding pictures and think, “where are my scars?” Battle wounds that I’ve earned!

    “Concentrate on the message, not on yourself.” I love it! Here’s another that I live by, “Growing old is a privilege denied many.” It’s one I hope to never forget.

    Blessings, sweet girl.

  8. 11
    Jackie F says:

    And God was like, ‘Finally! You noticed!’
    Yes. This.
    I can’t explain the magnitude of emotions that one feels when diagnosed with something life threatening.
    Let go and let God is what is always on my mind and gets me through the hard days.

  9. 12
    Laura Greene says:

    Thank you for being completely open about yourself. You have a beautiful way with words so I’m wondering if you are someone that can help me come up with the words for when someone says: “Why you?” What do you say to the families of those who have lost their loved one to cancer? Like you, I have a testimony but I’m not able to give it until I can answer that question. I survived a ruptured brain aneurysm nearly 5 years ago. This is the first year I haven’t had to have another brain coil surgery – God has completely blessed our family. I’m tired but I keep going with each blessed minute of living. One day I will be asked to give my testimony. I still do not know what to say to those who are disabled, barely making it, or to the surviving families of their lost loved one. You are brave, and you are filled with the grace of God. Thank you for sharing you!

  10. 13
    Cheri says:

    Your testimony shows God’s promise not to always give us the easy things in life but to walk with us through the hard times. Thank you for sharing your story. You have a lot of encouragement to offer others, Ashley. May you have peace as you share. They really are just a bunch of people who each have a story of their own. I do not enjoy speaking in front of groups and in fact stuttered as a child after a traumatic change in my life. My heart still beats fast but I have learned to look into the faces of persons I connect with a speak directly to them.
    I think you are an amazing woman of God!!!

  11. 14
    Kim Rhodes says:

    I will say a special prayer for you on Christmas Eve. I know you will do a great job.

  12. 15
    Kathy Howard says:

    Butterflies when doing public speaking is normal. Our pastor, who is in his 60′s, says he still gets nervous when getting ready to do the sermon. Let God minister to others with your story.

  13. 16
    Rebecca says:

    I’m a nurse. I refer people to your site regularly. You are human, you are overwhelmed, you walked through fire, you kept your faith. I know it’s hard to imagine that you are a role model, but you are. Thank you for keeping it real.

  14. 17

    love you.
    crying.

    “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid. Then the angel of the Lord said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.’ ” Luke 2:9-10.

  15. 18
    Mindy says:

    I love the message. I thought of you when I saw the Jennifer Arnold story. Don’t be embarrassed of all the photos. Someone, probably lots of someones, need a reference. What am “I” going to go through and look like. They’ll find your story. They’ll find a chronicle of survival and transformation. They’ll find hope.

  16. 19
    Beth Moody says:

    When I read about your public speaking invitation, I immediately thought of the same story I had read in Guideposts! If you speak like you write, you will be wonderful. Your message will inspire so many people. I started reading your blog during your
    battle with cancer and while my husband was in treatment for prostate cancer in 2012. When I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in Jan 2013, I reread the Chronicles for practical help (detoxing after chemo) and emotional support. Thank you so much for inspiring me to stay strong and choose joy! Your speech will be fantastic!!

  17. 20
    Mary ann says:

    I will send up a little prayer for you on Christmas eve but I am confident you will be amazing. Your story had lifted up so many of us and I always tell people “Choose Joy” I have handed out dozens of your bands. Thank yo u for helping so many of us find the way while you have been walkng there too.

  18. 21
    Heather Dalik says:

    People say to me “I am sure you have changed after Cora’s illness”. You said it better than I ever could. Thanks so much for putting the words out there so I can tell people how I have changed.

  19. 22
    Jen says:

    When I heard about Jen Arnold’s cancer, I knew what it was because of your story. You are an inspiration to many. You have a great attitude. Thank you for sharing!

  20. 23
    Cait says:

    THIS is why I’m doing the Roswell Park fundraiser. Because there are people out there who fight, who don’t give up, who try their hardest. Because there are people out there who are going through something that I can’t even begin to imagine even though I’m a nurse and I’ve pretty much seen it all. Because there are people out there who are brave enough to share their stories and in doing so make a difference. I was asked by a patient if I would consider going Bald for Bucks or at least donating my hair to Locks of Love. I told her I’d do both. It’s not enough, I know, but it’s something. And if everyone does one little something then we end up with a great big pile of enough.

    • 24

      I think that’s amazing Cait. The nurses I met along the way were so much a part of my story. You are doing enough. That’s incredible. This: And if everyone does one little something then we end up with a great big pile of enough.

  21. 25
    Mrs d says:

    You will do awesome! I would love to hear you speak. Actually I would love to have you on the modern sewciety podcast… But in person would be so awesome. I remember the old Ashley. I thought you were great then too but I have seen you change into a much stronger, Centered, and Godly woman. God is using you and you are so making him smile. You inspire so many and share his word with so many in a way that very few people could. You have a way with words and it is amazing. I truly get inspired and uplifted by reading what you have to say.

    And I love your selfies:)

    Prayers for you on Christmas Eve. You will do great.

  22. 27
    Michele Ward says:

    I can just see Jesus giving God a high-five about you….you’ve been to hell and back with this stupid cancer. You recognize Him – grace, mercy, power – in it all and now you are using your blog to share Him with others in a way NO ONE ELSE can. He says “I am PROUD of you, Ashley!” Ask Him what you’re to say Christmas eve and He will tell you. Praying for you!

  23. 28
    Jess Z says:

    Thank you for this. I lost my father 12 years ago to cancer- two months shy of graduating high school. Two years later, I was diagnosed with and treated for cancer and have been in remission ever since. My life was later rocked 5 years ago after being sexually assaulted by a then boyfriend’s brother. I finally crumbled and God rebuilt me.
    I am now married to my best friend and have a 6 month old daughter. My pregnancy gave me a rare autoimmune disease that so little is known about, there isn’t a known treatment. There are days it’s too painful to move and days I can hold and play with my daughter. I’m once again crumbling.
    THANK YOU for sharing your story and reminding me of all I have lost, but even more, all I have gained. Thank you for reminding me to hope and persevere for God has plans beyond anything I can imagine. I’m choosing joy!

    • 29
      Ashley says:

      Thank you Jess. Wow what a powerful testimony yours is! Thank you for sharing. Love that: all I have lost, but even more, all I have gained.

  24. 30
    Stephanie says:

    I think your journey has been beautiful to witness. If you ever doubt that it has changed anyone else.. Don’t. I’ve made so many changes this past year toward simplicity, joy and authenticity and I have no doubt that a huge part of the inspiration has been found in your posts. Love you!

  25. 32

    I have read your blog for years now. When you first wrote about your diagnosis, I didn’t know what to think. I had sympathy, but you were still a stranger on the internet. As time has gone on, I’ve often thought of different words and photos and sentiments you’ve shared. A close family member is now battling Stage 4 cancer, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or think. I’m grateful to you for sharing your story with us. You have no idea how far your influence has reached.

    • 33
      Ashley says:

      Yes Laura. It’s something I still struggle with too. What to say to others. Sometimes I think it’s as easy as “I hear you” but it never seems like enough. Praying for your family tonight.

  26. 34
    Crystal Campbell says:

    Love this and love you! Been following you and feel like we’re friends. Pray for you still and try to remember to “Choose Joy” everyday. XOXO

  27. 35
    Christie says:

    You are so beautiful, Ashley! Curls or no curls—heck, hair or NO hair! You are a beautiful soul who is so inspiring and I am so thankful for your messages and your willingness to share yourself! From reading many other comments it is so apparent that your witness has helped so many of us….and we are just viewing you from this side of the internet!—Just imagine what the Lord will allow to those hearing you speak in your church! Ok….DON’T imagine it! I don’t want you to puke. But DO focus on that message because it is a good and necessary one for people to hear. God bless you, lovely lady!

  28. 36
    Jill Olf says:

    I have followed your story for some time! You are simply awesome! I just wanted to encourage you about speaking at church… I speak at women’s conferences and I matter how many times I do…I get nervous! But one thing I have learned is that God has something He wants to share and He is just using me as a vessel. He is going to allow your story to change someone’s life forever! Just be you! Open your mouth and He will fill it!i can’t wait to hear the testimony afterwards!!

  29. 37
    Amber says:

    I just love you. You’re amazing. And such an inspiration to me.

  30. 38
    Rachel Michelson says:

    I read Jen’s article and thought of you–like crap, I hope Lil’ Boo is given a heads upon this article. This could be a trigger. This week was my year anniversary of my last chemo. There is so much of my cancer journey I have hard time understanding; yet, that last chemo-that I remember and understand. Thank you for talking about the crying. It’s only been recently that I have allowed myself to cry.
    G-dspeed to you and your family

    • 39

      Yay for one year anniversaries Rachel! About the crying…I came to the conclusion that it’s worse when I try to hold it back! Then the super-contorting-shaky-cry starts.

  31. 40
    Amy says:

    Wow. Just WOW. And thank you. I’m otherwise at a loss for words. Continue to let your light shine. ❤️ Amy Haven

    • 41
      Marlene says:

      Ashley you are a delight! Thank you for sharing your life with us. You open your heart to the world and let us in. You show just how important it is to appreciate and LIVE each day. Shine on sweetie, you are JOY! Xoxoxo

  32. 42
    Wendy says:

    I started following you somewhere in the middle of your cancer experience. I like the intermediary and post cancer you or rather I just like the “you” regardless. ;)

  33. 43
    Jos says:

    Awesome post and so beautifully written. Don’t worry about speaking out loud – if need be close your eyes and speak to your heart or to your gorgeous hub and daughter. You have so much to share form what you have learnt and you have lessons to teach us all – don’t let the public speaking freak you out. They’ll want to hear what you have to say. I wish I could be there – imagine it will be v v v special!

  34. 44
    Jos says:

    PS Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to you and your divine family.

  35. 45
    DIsney says:

    Ashley, loved it, loved it. I wish I could be there to hear your testimony. I know you’ll be great, but who cares if you make an idiot of yourself, anyway? God will use you to say what he wants and it will be perfect. Oh, and bring on the selfies! Selfies are the most beautiful of all photos because people are the most beautiful of all subjects. :O)

    • 46

      Thank you Disney! I just think you should move to Southern California…because I know we’d be the best of friends. There’s a house for sale down the street. Then we could be neighbors! I’d move your way….but it’s too cold!

  36. 47
    Trisha Ashley says:

    Not only is God everywhere, but I believe, for myself anyways that God is using you! You make the world a better place Ashley! xoxo

  37. 49

    hey there!
    I am a follower of your blog and love this post. My husband jut got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and e are on the road to kicking it. I love your yellow dress in the last cancer post. I am wondering if you can make me one please?
    Please email me back. Thank you and many blessings!
    Love
    Jill

    • 50

      Praying for your husband and you as well Jill. That yellow dress was made from old t-shirts so it can’t be remade…..I wish it could because I’ve worn that one out!

  38. 51
    John Malone says:

    Just read this, like a few others, I started following you after my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, she finished the aggressive treatment last year on Xmas eve, (chemo and radiotherapy) people think that once treatments over, that’s it, back to a normal life, but not the case, the reason that this particular post caused me to write is that my wife has said exactly the same thing, looks at old photos and says “that’s not me, now” the worst people she has come across who are the least understanding are some of her colleagues who are mental health “professionals” who felt that her phased return to work was a “joke”, after she put a complaint in, she was then moved to another area away from patient care because of the effects of her “chemo brain” symptoms, the process of her complaint is still not resolved after 5 months and she has to deal with unsupportive management, all of this has impacted on her mental health and now she is in the depths of depression, feeling guilty because she “can’t be a proper wife” can’t be the good nurse that she is due to others doubts, and still has to cope with having to speak to one of the people she’s complained about who make it difficult to say the least, I suppose my point is, that “AC” is just the worst time at the moment, my wife sees no light at the end of the tunnel with her mood and how she feels, is now having to go off sick again, sorry for sounding off, but as her husband, I’m trying to support her, keep working and try not to drown in a sea of despair and debt. Its hard to be positive, but your blog and Facebook are a pleasant read, when your trying to swim upstream in a river of treacle.

    • 52

      Oh John this just breaks my heart. The biggest thing that helped me was getting involved in a church, where I could focus on others. It took my mind off of the problems I was having. I know everyone is different but maybe that would help….finding a group where she can keep busy and feel productive. We all have our dark days. When I have those I usually immerse myself in something bigger than myself….even if it’s something as simple as the bookstore. But that’s easier said than done. It’s often so complicated and other people outside the situation try to make it so simple. I get it. I hope she can find some light soon. Thank you for sharing.

      • 53
        John Malone says:

        Thanks for your reply, things are a touch better than the other day when I wrote this, it’s good advice, still early days with things at the moment, we’ve just seen out GP and Joanne is taking some time away from work, we will have to see how things pan out. Thanks for your kind thoughts :-)

  39. 54

    This is so incredibly moving! Your honesty and courage – and faith – are amazing and will touch so many hearts! They have touched mine- thank you for writing about your journey! Blessings to you and yours!

  40. 55
    Tijana says:

    You’re a BIG FIGHTER Ashley and I am glad you’re still here, creating, writing and sharing your stories with all of us!!
    My deepest respect and admiration goes to you and to your family, who is there with all the way!

    XO
    Tijana

  41. 56
    Jenn A says:

    Thank you, I needed that post. Our youngest daughter was born almost 6 years ago. Instead of having our perfect family complete, she was sick. Very sick. Her heart didn’t work right, her nervous system was a mess, our whole world was shattered. Surgeries, countless Dr’s, our own personnel pharmacy in our medicine cabinet and she is doing really well for having chronic medical conditions. But. I find myself slipping back to what you call your old self. I need to stop. Thank you for the reminder of God’s love and what his message to our family is about our daughter’s Journey. I need to stop wasting the gift of a second chance he gave us. Have a wonder Christmas and Advent season.

    • 57

      I’m so glad she is doing well Jenn. Yes, it’s so easy to slip back into our old self. It’s a constant struggle for all of us. Blessings this Christmas to you and your sweet girl.

  42. 58
    Tia says:

    I thought Choose Joy inspired me. But following along with your journey has put another new and useful perspective on my life. You have gone through what everybody fears and you’re still going. You’ve done it all with a grace one can learn from. Thank you for the grace you show, even in your selfless. Your eyes say it all.

    Tia

  43. 59

    I discovered your blog a couple of years ago and I just wanted to tell you how much I love reading it. I following over a hundred blogs, and most posts I only read if something interesting grabs my attention. But I am always happy to see your posts come up in my feed, I always read them, and I always enjoy them. Thank you for always being so honest. I think that’s what makes your blog stand out from so many others. Thank you!

  44. 60
    Amy says:

    “In the quiet humming of a CT machine, I came to the conclusion that God does not cause suffering, but he uses it to reach us.”

    WOW…seriously the most profound statement that i think many people never come to understand. Thank you for sharing your story…again. Even though I was there in the beginning, seeing it chronicled like this puts it all in perspective. God has a reason for everything.

    Big hugs my friend xoxo

  45. 61
    Sandra says:

    Thank you for being so open and sharing your journey with us. Your posts always are an inspiration – if you just tell your story like you did in this post, I am sure your listeners will feel just the same. Just concentrate on the message!

  46. 62
    Lori says:

    I once heard a pastor say that our test becomes our testimony, our mess becomes our message. God uses all things. This scripture comes to mind, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11 NKJV) Your testimony has, is, and will continue to encourage people, challenge people, and change people. That alone is why I believe that although everything in you is saying “No!!!” Your heart and your mouth said, “yes.” Thank you for sharing it all…to God be the glory.

  47. 64
    Jill says:

    Your message is loud and strong! You are so courageous Ashley, after what you have gone through a little public speaking should be nothing. I have known people with cancer, but your words have given me a new understanding of the suffering. Your pictures are difficult to view, but they speak volumes of your strength. You are the messenger. Thank you there are many more who need to hear your message.

  48. 65
    Tausha says:

    Ashley, I love this post! I also love how your posts reflect this change as well. You are a mighty woman and a blessing to me. You get your rear up there and just be yourself. Let God use you. I cannot wait to hear all about it!

  49. 66
    Centsational Girl says:

    You are an inspiration, I love how you open your heart and tell your story so honestly and in such a raw way, I applaud you for every day and every battle. I am in awe of your strength and persistence in the face of such hardship – sending you prayers and wishing you many more blessings.
    Always a fan,
    xoxo
    Kate

  50. 67
    Erin M. says:

    You make me comfortable with being honest in my own writing.
    You make me think and appreciate.
    You have changed my life.
    Thank you!
    Erin M.

  51. 68

    I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately because a friend told me this past week that her sister in law was just diagnosed with a molar pregnancy and they are doing a month of chemo in hopes to reduce the mass in her uterus before possibly doing a hysterectomy. I was left remembering my molar pregnancy and how “simple” it was with not needing chemo but also dealing with how complicated it could have been, and then I saw this post and my heart is so full right now. You are so amazing and I am so grateful I had you throughout my year wait after I had my molar. I had to stop reading your cancer posts sometimes because it was just too much. It honestly freaked me out sometimes that I too could develop the same kind at any time, but I couldn’t help but cry with you through your entire journey. You are so blessed. And your words are so beautiful. Thank you for keeping us with you every step of the way. Xoxo Meagan

  52. 69
    Kelly says:

    It’s funny that you say that about selfies…..I didn’t get one picture of myself during my treatments or without hair and that is my one regret!!! I really wish I had a picture! Be thankful! Love your blog!!!!

  53. 70
    Shivaun says:

    I cried.

  54. 71
    Ramona says:

    I think it is powerful that you have a photo journal of that time. We lost my sister in law to breast cancer which metastasized to bone and lung. It was painful to watch and nothing to what she experienced. There are so many thoughts in my mind after reading your post.

    I pray you do make it through without crying because your message is very powerful and should be shared. God bless you and your family.
    Merry Christmas, Ramona

  55. 72
    Fran says:

    You have written so beautifully about your cancer journey, it’s so full of honesty & truth. I’m so glad that you (finally!) had a happy end to your treatments. My Mum was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer 2 & a half years ago & is still here & still having treatment. She has had what her chemo doctor describes as remarkable results along the way. The results are fantastic but it’s so hard to see her go through the horrible side effects of the treatments. And for anyone who says that losing your hair is no big deal, I want to say “really? How about you try it & see!”. Merry Christmas & good luck with your public speaking, I’m sure you’ll be brilliant!

  56. 73

    Beautifully written, Ashley. One of the amazing things about your pictures it that you are smiling in nearly every one! xx

  57. 74
    Bri says:

    You my friend are the perfected example of these:

    Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~Romans 12:2

    Oh how you inspire, how you nurture and oh how you give Glory to God. So amazed by your strength, courage and heart. Thank you for sharing. What a blessing you are! I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you sweet, bold, beautiful friend <3

  58. 75

    So much I’d like to say, but instead, just know it’s good. Thank you for giving us a glimpse. God IS good. All the time.

  59. 76
    Heather D says:

    What a beautiful post! I admire you for being so open and honest through your struggles. I’ve followed your blog for a while now and have been reading through your cancer journeys. Thank you for sharing your heart. <3

  60. 77
    Arneta says:

    Well Ashley, sounds to me like you have your message … That was a beautiful story… Your story…full of miricales, Gods grace, His love, His strength… Wow…. Just so full of the Hope He offers…His redeeming Love…the way He pursues us as His children. I was trying to recall when it was that I began following you and your journey…. You were/are so open and honest… Talking and sharing everything!….lol…. What a gift for those that were/are walking in similar situations….. To be able to read the truths of cancer, how it affects the everyday things others may not want to talk about.
    Well done His good and faithful servant. ❤️

  61. 78
    shelley says:

    The photos are worth a thousand words! I am so glad you posted them bc we see how far you have come! The BEST part is you have a precious relationship with the Lord and it is bringing others to see He is our sustainer!
    You are a great blessing and always have been since you were born. I love you forever, mom

  62. 79
    Joy T. says:

    Just say a prayer before you head to that stage – you’ll do great and God’s wisdom and grace will flow through you as always. Moving reflection post today, I can only imagine how surreal it feels to look at the pre-cancer you. I came to Christ just days before my son started a long trial of being diagnosed with a rare kidney disease (that he got from me). God knows when we’re headed for a storm and he finds us and opens up the shelter of his embrace. I’m sure you feel the same as I do, I couldn’t have made it through that time in my life, or any of the subsequent trials we’ve faced and will face, without my faith in God. It’s hard to look at pictures of my life before my son was born, I was a different person – I know what I used to think and believe and it feels so empty by comparison. It feels like I was living with a touch of self-loathing but I never *felt* self-loathing at all! Thankfully, we are only to live our lives today and look forward to tomorrow b/c I’d have a really hard time reliving my past with what I know to be true. All my best wishes to you!

  63. 80
    Kipton says:

    Thank you for sharing, Ashley. I have so much identification with your story. “God does not cause suffering, but he uses it to reach us.” I was physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually bankrupt at the age of 30 – three years ago. I was completely empty.

    You, your blog, my friends, my family, and most importantly, God, have helped fill me up again. I start my day with Jesus Calling – thanks to you. I am having Christmas with my family for the first time in six years – a miracle. I am giving my father a copy of Jesus Calling – a true miracle.

    I Choose Joy.

    p.s. Just signed up for a subscription to Guideposts! What a great idea.

  64. 81
    sarah s says:

    You Rock Girl!!!

  65. 82
    Helen says:

    Not cancer, thank God, but severe and challenging life altering situations have brought me to my knees and to church as often as possible, and to my simpler self. I have so often tried to Choose Joy (you inspire me!) and have mostly failed. But yesterday in church, for no particular reason (yeah, right!) I suddenly became Grateful. Without all of these challenges I wouldn’t have learned or continue to learn what I need to learn. Yesterday’s sermon mentioned that God does not give us what we want. He knows better. He gives us what we need. Yay for God. So thankful! Because I obviously am “want challenged” and He does give me what I need instead. The quote “we are not humans on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey” is true.
    “Jesus, reach for me. Spirit, strengthen me. God, catch me.”
    Thank you for letting me read your blog and be inspired and encouraged!

    • 83

      Well I just love that Helen….thank you for sharing: God knows better. He gives us what we need. This is why I keep my journal handy when reading comments! So much inspiration and wisdom to start my day. Thank YOU.

      • 84
        Helen says:

        Thinking of you today as you give you testimony in church. It will be awesome!
        Just read this poem and want to share with you:

        Peace

        Do you think peace requires an end to war
        Or tigers eating only vegetables?

        Does peace require an absence from your boss, your spouse, yourself?
        Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
        Some other time than now?
        In some other heart than yours?
        Peace is this moment without judgement.
        That is all.

        This moment in the heart-space where everything that is, is welcome.”

        Peace is this moment without thinking that it should be some other way
        That you should feel some other thing
        That your life should unfold according to your plans.

        Peace is this moment without judgement.

        This moment in the heart-space where everything that is, is
        welcome.

        Dorothy Hunt

  66. 85

    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life. Reading it helped me to put things in perspective. Merry Christmas Ashley!

  67. 86
    Melinda in NC says:

    I’ll admit I didn’t read all the comments so this may have already been said….Read THIS…verbetum. There is nothing more than can be said then what you just said here. Amazing, so true and such a blessing. I agree that God does not cause suffering, and I believe he doesn’t even want us to have to suffer but if that is a way to wake up our mind, open up our hearts and bring the Holy Spirit into our lives then so be it. And if we grasp that opening then we will no long consider it suffering but Pure Joy…Choosing Joy.

  68. 87
    Kristin S says:

    Ashley, this post. Beautiful.

  69. 88
    Ilze says:

    You’ll do wonderful at church. I”ve followed you for some time, and you inspire me. I worked in admissions in a hospital specializing in cancer, and saw many patients in various stages, and every time I saw someone getting better, i was filled with joy, and gratituted. best of luck ahead. Merry Christmas

  70. 89
    Anna says:

    I hold you!
    Happy holidays from Italy,
    Anna

  71. 90
    Adva says:

    Great post, Ashley.
    You are an amazing person. The things you do in life are blessed! I wiah I had your courage to open up like this, even in the worst days of your life.
    I’m glad you’re a survivor.

  72. 91
    Tauni says:

    Ahhh. My sweet friend. You’ve blessed he lives of so many…

    I can’t tell you how often I thought of you when I was going through my “fun” bout with cancer. I told myself more times than you can imagine that if I could only be half as gracious and wonderful as you, everything would be okay. (Of course I also told myself I would die if I had to go through chemo because I wouldn’t look even a quarter as lovely as you without hair).

    Thank you for sharing your story and being an example to us all :)

    xoxo

  73. 92
    Shivaun says:

    Thank you, Shelley, for your beautiful daughter, Ashley. For shaving your head when she shaved hers…for praying her through…cannot imagine what it felt like for you, as her mother, to experience your daughter in a state of vulnerability, fatigue and weakness.

    Brett, thank you for being a caring & devoted husband through the treatments & when she was at sea, on the great ocean of the Hospital Cruise Ship.

    Sienna, thank you for being the best gift your mama ever received & the love of her life.

    Ashley: Gratitude, Love,
    Even More Laughter in 2014. Shivaun

  74. 93
    Melissa Jones says:

    I feel like I have seen you grow & change as I’ve read your blogs & prayed for you & your sweet family. You are an amazing woman! Thank you so much for all your realness and for wearing your heart on your sleeve. You have encouraged us all to Choose Joy & for you, I am thankful! :)

  75. 94
    Goldengirls59 says:

    Thanks for posting and bearing your soul. I, too, have gone through 2 life changing open heart surgeries for removal of benign tumors. It definitely changes you. Makes you more aware of your purpose in life and God’s comforting arms around us at the most difficult times. May you continue to get to know Him and His Son who sacrificed His life for sinners such as we. May you continue to be an inspiration to others around you.

  76. 95
    Ashley Clark says:

    Ashley, you are one of the strongest and most amazing women I “know”. I have followed you and your blog for what seems like forever and I’ve always been in awe of you and all you can do. I know that God has big things in store for your future and I can’t wait to see what they are!

  77. 96
    Barbara M. says:

    Though your experience was ‘worse’ than mine -I had cancer shortly before you did- mine wasn’t as dramatic a surgery, though it all still pretty much sucked. I call it God’s ultimate bitch slap – you’re right about moving too much, doing too much, trying to do it all. God said ‘sit down and relax or I’m gonna make you do it’…..aaaannnnd he did! Glad you’ve come through it and I love reading your blog.

  78. 97

    Every experience is a gift to the one going through it, but every experience shared is a heck of a good gift to everyone else. You are a very generous woman to have shared this open face, on internet, on your lovely blog. Words reach fast to us who own/read blogs. But photographs probably reach to everyone else faster. When it comes to presentations I’m like Steve Jobs (words and hand gestures only) or big bold photographs. Either way will be enough for your already powerful experience and message. Good luck and happy holidays to you and your family !!
    xo
    Lisa

  79. 98
    Amy Locurto says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I’ve been following you through this journey and love how brave you have been. You have always been an inspiration and I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday! Keep sharing your story.

  80. 99
    Chrystal says:

    So, so proud of you. You’re inspiring and real and I’m always proud to know you. Mwah!

    Chrystal (mommafo)

  81. 100
    Jen says:

    Thank you for sharing your story so openly! AND choosing joy despite it all???you are a true inspiration and touching so many lives. You have touched mine just by reading your story. Wishing you a happy and very HEALTHY new year!

  82. 101
    Cindy says:

    Thank you for being such a great inspiration Ashley, not only to me but to many. You will never know how much sharing your experiences has helped me this past year as I have battled through breast cancer myself. You have been a great example to me and I have loved reading your posts. Thanks for posting so many pictures. Unlike you, I took very few but my daughter, also named Ashley, persuaded me to take some mostly just to document the experiences. She was the one who showed me your blog. The day I lost my hair was probably one of the hardest for me throughout this journey, but I had watched your video the day before, the one where you had your hair buzzed off, and it honestly helped me to feel stronger in what was about to happen. I felt like I was taking control of the situation as much as I could, and it truly helped me to get through it. Thank you so much. I wish you well and the best of everything this coming year.

  83. 102
    LESLIE RAE says:

    I’m here…. Checking up on you. :) I loved reading your testimony. It was beautiful beyond words. Happy New Year….. I know God will use you in a BIG way this year!!