Ashley Roby is 14, a high school sophomore, and a breast cancer survivor. Yes, you read that right - a very young teenager has been treated for a rare type of malignant breast tumor. Phyllodes tumors make up only 1% of all cases of breast cancer and those usually occur in premenopausal women who are past their teen years and getting on with their careers and family life. Teenagers are usually dealing with dating, friendship, schoolwork, athletics, and body image issues during high school, so having to come to grips with a rare cancer isn't a standard part of the program.
Give this girl a lot of extra credit: she found the lump herself, she didn't panic right away, and when she noticed unusual changes in her breast she got help from her mother, Kim Dobson. These smart women were more than usually aware of their breast health because Ashley's grandmother passed away two years ago from a different type of breast cancer.
Ashley and her mother consulted Dr. Scott Borinstein, a pediatric oncologist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee. A few days later, Ashley had a lumpectomy. Sometimes a phyllodes tumor can appear to be a large fibroadenoma, which can cause breast pain but is a benign lump. Her surgeon was confident that this mass was not cancerous. But as Ashley began recovering from that surgery, her mother got a phone call at work - the lump was cancer.
Mother and daughter then had some hard decisions to make. Ashley opted for a double mastectomy, with plans for breast reconstruction to be done later on. In February, she had both breasts removed, and next week, she will have breast implant surgery. Kim Dobson has been coping as best as she can, staying strong and keeping her tears to herself. She not only worried about Ashley's health, but also about the financial side of cancer treatments. Kim works at a Sprint retail store, where a fellow employee told her about Sherry's Run, a local nonprofit that provides help for cancer patients. Founded to honor Sherry Whitaker, who fought and died of colon cancer, this organization raises funds that help pay for everything from medical bills to rent to groceries and utility bills.
Ashley was a participant in last fall's Sherry's Run, and she plans to run again on September 8th. That will be just 3 weeks after her implant surgery. This young lady plays basketball and knows how to play as a team member. She knows that it's better to get through cancer with lots of support. Thinking of her grandmother, she said, "I knew I could be strong. I just didn't know if I could be strong enough to get through it. I will make a way."
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