July 9, 2010 is a date that will forever be ingrained into the mind of Ashley Russell Welch.
This date is not representative of happy times like many memorable dates are. Instead, this date is the day that a 27 year-old, mother to a beautiful, 5-year-old daughter, Tanna, would hear the words that every woman fears – “You have breast cancer.”
A couple of months before her definitive diagnosis, Welch was in the shower and felt a knot in her arm pit. She went to see her doctor and was given antibiotics for what was thought as nothing more than swollen lymph nodes.
When the knot remained for weeks after the initial visit, Welch went in for a biopsy. At this time, she was living in Georgia, so she had to travel back and forth for her doctor visits. The doctor called and told her she needed to come back in for a checkup. About two weeks later, Welch made the appointment, came back to Tazewell to her doctor’s office where she says “I got a hug and then the news.”
Welch asked her doctor to call her mother, Debbie, who came straight to the office. “My momma came and melted with the news,” recalled Welch. “I was OK with it. My only thought was, well, I can beat it or go out with a bang!”
Often time, cancer patients ask, “Why me?”, but Welch had the opposite reaction. “Better me, than my mom, daughter or sister,” rationalized Welch.
Her treatment plan came in the form of chemotherapy and radiation which brought weakness and sickness – feelings that angered the once active mother who now could not even pick her daughter up from school due to the effects of the medicine. “I have always been a go getter and tough and I finally just had to become submissive to the fact that the drugs were stronger,” admitted Welch.
Welch credits her recovery to God and her family.
“God gave it to me and brought me through it,” explained Welch. “The experience has taught me that being weak and less strong at times is OK. It’s OK to be scared and it’s OK to not always have life “together”. Most importantly, I learned that the bond between my family was close to unbreakable.”
Welch is now 30, finishing up her college degree and has a clean bill of health despite the fact that she still has a lot of pain from the residual effects of the treatments. She still has two years before she is completely in the clear but says “no doubt, I will be just fine.”