“I was unstoppable, and almost every trip after chemotherapy, I went to the gym and then had a big entrée off the local restaurant menu. Cancer had nothing on me. No matter how sick and tired I’d feel, swollen legs, swollen feet, discolored fingernails, discolored toenails, and hands peeling, still I SURVIVED.
Them breasts not here anymore, but I am!
In November of 2015, I came out with my story through subliminal Facebook statuses. Statuses of strength and courage, as I have always done throughout my life on social media. Yet these certain statuses were directed to me personally. I didn’t say, ‘Hey, guys, I have cancer.’ They were more so like, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ No one knew just yet what I was referring to, but having peace within myself, I thought maybe I was going to actually be okay. Maybe I would be the fourth charm out my family that would beat this deadly disease.
In the years 2011, 2012, and 2013, I had lost three close family members to cancer. Not my type of cancer, but all three were different deadly forms. Then it was my turn. My turn to face the news that I had to stop everything I was doing. Stop everything I had a vision and passion for, to do a year and a half of treatment, radiation, and surgery to remove both breasts.
I was fortunate enough to remember throughout my childhood into adulthood the card my grandmother had placed below the showerhead of the master bathroom. You know the one, with the funny-looking woman who had one arm lifted and the other hand touching below her breast. My first time seeing it, I followed the instructions on the shower card instead of reading it and somehow managed to remember to do the same thing during my moments of boredom laying across the bed after a good shower. I’ve had noticeable signs of cancer in my early 20’s, such as tenderness of the breast but the most noticeable one was my right nipple turning inward and the color of my areola being pitch black. ‘What in tarnation is happening here?’ I thought.
I scheduled a doctors appointment and walked into urgent care to see what the issue was and all I would get out of doctor was, ‘It is fibrosis of the breast.’ I was instructed to go get a mammogram, although being in my early 20’s, it would be difficult to detect due to the tissue being denser. Then I started to notice a huge decrease in my weight. My hair wasn’t growing past my shoulders. ‘Wait, I am losing weight?’ I can eat for a family of four and should have been as big as a horse by then. Something wasn’t right, yet I still went on with my everyday way of living and ignored the comments that I’d lost weight.
It was the day I was at work and literally could not lift my right arm past my neck that took the cake. At the time, my only means of transportation was the bus, and during that winter, I always waited for the bus to arrive. This time, something was completely off. I stood waiting in the cold and it felt as though something in my chest, below the right side of my breast, was tightening up. Twisting and turning, burning and hurting big time.
The bus arrived and after stepping into the heated public transportation and putting in my bus fare, I felt a release. This time, a warm sensation and then a pop. Not a pop I could hear, but a pop I could feel. Immediately, my eyes closed as if someone gave me a sleeping pill and I lost my balance reaching out for the seat. I sat down, grabbed my phone, and called my older cousin, asking her to meet me downtown at the hospital.
The doctor checked my breast out and referred me to a breast specialist. I made my appointment with her and her immediate reaction after feeling under my armpit, asking me a few questions, and applying pressure to the lump was that I need to get a biopsy. ‘Waaaaait a minute! Do you mean to tell me I have to go through a so-called small procedure where they surgically remove tissue from my breast while I am wide awake? I don’t get put to sleep?’ Like Kevin Hart said, ‘She wasn’t ready,’ because nope, I sure wasn’t. I went forth with the biopsy and waited approximately three days to receive my results.
I am often asked this same repeated question of, ‘What was your reaction when you heard the news?’ You really want to know? You really really want to know. I was ecstatic. I knew I had cancer. Something lit up in me like a light bulb. A vision of me laying on my death bed prior to my diagnosis. I didn’t know why until I received that call to inform me that, yes indeed, I did have Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma breast cancer. I remember a tear dropping in remembrance of my mother. The joy of knowing after losing her at the age of 14, I could finally meet her again.
There I stood at the age of 25, receiving the best news of my life, but finding myself facing reality standing at the bus stop. As soon as I got on the bus, I walked towards the back of the bus, looking around with one particular question. ‘Who else has cancer?’ Do not get me wrong, I certainly broke down when the type of treatment and the length of the treatment I would go through was elaborated to me. I broke down to say, how in the world will I live? My family members died. How will I maintain my every day of living and financially support myself?
Do you know what I did? I worked a full-time call center job while attending treatment. Yes, I would leave during a break to go to treatment or go get my 48-hours to 72-hours after-treatment shot and made my way right back to work to finish out my shift. I took the bus as my main transportation, with as much support as I could get from my immediate family. I laid on couch-to-couch, not having my own place to live and even lived with my father, who couldn’t handle my situation to begin with. That in itself is another story.
I lost my hair and was devastated. My hair is my glory. My hair, to me, is my main attraction. My legs and feet swelled up with fluid and there was only one time I couldn’t attend treatment because the nurses and oncologists thought maybe I’d had a bad reaction to the chemotherapy. I had to wrap my discolored fingers up because of the pain and my nails were so black, they started to lift enough to remove. Nausea and vomiting started to take over and my headaches were too much to bear at times. But still, I would rise. I would push myself like never before and held on to God’s unchanging hand.
The best part of my journey is that I became an Honorary Chair of Susan G. Komen in 2016 and I joined a reality local television show as my last wish while making guest appearances at the local radio stations of Columbus, Ohio. I made it all the way to the final round of the reality show performing mime, just to let the producer know I had to drop out due to surgery. Not one person knew I had cancer. Some even thought I was bald by choice.
After every performance, I made my way backstage, trying my best not to look as though I was ready to faint. Deep down inside, I was in pain, I was weak, but I was encouraged. Today I am now 31 years of age and officially a five-year breastless breast cancer survivor. It feels like someone told me I couldn’t win, and I proved them totally WRONG! Even though my first initial reaction was, ‘Yes! I can go see my mommy now,’ I somehow got the courage to say, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ If I can fight my way through, trust me, you too can do the same. It’s all in the mind and heart.
To me, being breastless is all an act out of courage and determination. When I was informed that my right lymph node was infected and I would have to get my right breast removed, I was instructed to do both so the chances of breast cancer reoccurring would be slim to none. I went through the surgery with not a thought in mind of what life would be like after removing both breasts. Until I woke up from the anesthesia that is.
I woke up feeling like a champion. I woke up feeling unstoppable and untouched. I no longer had or have cancer. I was cancer-free before getting on the operating table and made the decision out of being educated and carefree. I am NOT in remission. Please do keep in mind, remission is a diminution of the seriousness or intensity of disease or pain, a temporary recovery. I beat cancer 5 years ago. It wasn’t temporary. It was PERMANENT. The crazy thing is, I waited 5 months after chemotherapy to remove my breast. I wanted to finish the competition. I was on the verge of winning!
After my breast surgeon reached out trying to convince me to go through with the surgery, I thought to myself, ‘What is more important? Winning the competition or finishing the race?’ The race of beating breast cancer. The race I had run so swiftly with grace and mercy each step of the way. Yes, I would love to die dancing because it has always been my biggest passion but as I continued to think of the goodness of Jesus and all he had done for me, my soul said, ‘Yes, let’s remove both breasts and continue to live with not one regret.’ I survived! I am still surviving.
No one told me I would experience ‘chemo brain’ months after treatment. No one told me I would experience depression and anxiety after beating the deadliest disease. I have my moments, to this day, where I put on a shirt and look at myself in the mirror, wondering what came over me to become such a bold individual. It’s honestly weird at times not to have breasts. I must be careful of how big my belly gets, or I will look like I am pregnant, since my appetite has not changed and I am still capable of being big as a horse. My hair grew back so quickly and so soft like baby hair, thin when pressed out and thick when it’s curly. I now say I am mixed with chemo and it fits me perfectly.
I stand confident in knowing I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me. I bounce back from depression and anxiety every chance I get. I believe it is okay to have those days, I just won’t be staying in those moments. My support system has helped me tremendously and the support received through social media has blown my mind exceptionally. I ask that my message gets around the world with intentions to help the next woman or man to survive:
Be encouraged to win, even if you will never experience cancer. Be encouraged, no matter what you may face throughout life. It is not as easy as it may have looked or sound, but it is worth getting through. You, too, can do what you never thought you could. Remember this one thing, it is all in the mind. It’s unfortunate that because of the different stages of cancer, being one through four, there will be those who will not make it but at least try. I almost gave up so many times, yet I kept trying and I remained mindfully determined.
You ever heard of the baking soda remedy? On an empty stomach, drink a glass of water with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed in and cut up a fresh lemon. Squeeze the juice into the water mixed with baking soda. Google it! Baking soda has alkaline in it. Alkaline kills cancer cells, depriving it of its oxygen. Please do note, it’s a regiment that should be taken once every two weeks due to your blood pressure. Research its full benefits for clear understanding. I am a witness of taking this regiment and was clear of cancer before getting on the operating table.
I, Clorissa Ashley, will now and forevermore be truly thankful I made it through what so many have lost their lives to. I speak volumes, as the voice of those who choose not to speak on their journey but instead want to be encouraged. I stand on the behalf of loved ones lost who are the true survivors and I stand alongside with survivors who are still alive to share this victory. I am available worldwide to be reached out to for advice and comfort but please do keep in mind I get my understanding from God who has chosen to save my life. Continue to step on this deadly disease with faith and understanding. Act now and live on.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Clorissa Ashley from Columbus, Ohio. You can follow their journey on Instagram and YouTube. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more like this:
SHARE this story on Facebook to help spread hope and raise awareness for early detection of breast cancer.