Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Dedmon, MPH, CHES®
Ashley, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are.
In 2003, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and unfortunately lost her four-year battle at the young of age 52. Shortly after my mother’s battle with cancer, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 53. He elected to have his prostate removed and is currently doing well and is one of my greatest supporters. I knew that the odds were against me as I was born into three generations of women affected by breast cancer. After dealing with my mother’s battle and witnessing my father deal with prostate cancer, naturally, I believed I was next. It was then that I took immediate action. My OB/GYN suggested genetic counseling and screening for the BRCA genetic mutation. At the age of 22, my Myriad BRCA Analysis revealed, I was BRCA 2 positive. I began working with a high-risk oncologist as my life began to revolve around ultrasounds and other screenings. After a ten-year journey of surveillance, my husband and I decided that we needed a new plan of action. In December 2016, I underwent a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction the following March.
I am unsure if I received the BRCA 2 gene mutation from my mother or father. Although there are multiple cases of breast cancer on my maternal side, I could have inherited the gene mutation from my father. The simple blood test I took not only saved my life, but gave me knowledge, and empowered me to know my options and make informed decisions.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Early on, I encountered medical personnel who said, “you are too young for these preventive services” and advised me to “come back at the age of 40.” Waiting was out of the question for me. Being high-risk, I wanted to be proactive and not reactive. There was also the expense of the treatments, such as genetic testing, screenings, and prophylactic surgeries. I chose to do what was best for me and avoid the costs associated with developing cancer.
The physical journey for me was not bad, but the recovery took time. My mind would tell me I could GO, GO, GO, but my body said NO, NO, NO! I had to learn to listen to my body and my doctors, so I could recover safely and properly. I attribute my quick recovery to living an active and healthy lifestyle. One of my fears was that my husband would not look at my body the same, but he shows me every day he loves my body. There were moments I cried and still cry, as I think about not being able to breastfeed again. I was fortunate to be able to breastfeed my daughter, and I am glad to have shared that experience with her. I also struggle with the appearance of my scars, but my husband has shown me to embrace them. I could not have made it through this process without him. I have learned to embrace my scars, because they tell my story…and that is, I have been “gracefully broken” and rebuilt with strength.
I was not ready for the emotional journey. There were moments I felt less than a woman, because I felt my breast defined me. I learned to remind myself that my mind, character, and strength, define my womanhood just as much as anything else. On this journey, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges, but along the way, I have discovered my strength and purpose, and all glory goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Fortunately, I have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but I am a carrier of the BRCA 2 gene mutation and my chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer are much higher than the average woman. Since my mastectomy, I have reduced my risk of developing breast cancer by 90 percent. When my husband and I finish having children, we will consider a prophylactic oophorectomy, a surgery that removes the ovaries, and further reduces my chances of developing cancer. Right now, I am taking one step at a time.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Pink Legacy 50/50, LLC – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
In 2016, I founded Pink Legacy 50/50 to share the complete story of my mother’s battle with breast cancer as well as the sacrifice I made for my own daughter with my decision to undergo prophylactic surgery. As a former caregiver of two parents with cancer and a proud “previvor,” I believe my purpose is to help and serve others. My mother was an educator, and I pray that my work through Pink Legacy 50/50 will ensure her legacy carries on into the future.
Educate| Equip| Empower: The Pink Legacy 50/50 E3 Model represents a progressive framework that is designed to meet women where they are, and guide them through a continuum that facilitates, disease awareness, health surveillance, and self-efficacy in behavior and preventative practices. Our official program launch is Summer 2019.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am working on two children’s books that are scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of this year. They are the first in a series that I believe will be a great resource for women and families. I also plan to pursue my doctoral degree in the future, so I am working on narrowing my focus.
I currently share my journey with hundreds of women and empower them to know their family and personal health history, have collaborative conversations with their doctors, and make informed health decisions. For speaking request, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a patient speaker for Myriad Genetics where I share my story with doctors and other medical staff on the importance of hereditary cancer screening. I volunteer for Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) as a peer navigator, a patient advocate for the Center for Immunotherapeutic Transport Oncophysics (CITO)- Physical Sciences-Oncology Network (PS-ON), and a Heredity Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) and Got Boobs? Ambassador. So, I stay pretty busy!
My passion is connecting with women because we cannot do this alone. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone “like you,” and by that, I mean, women who are fighting, surviving, and previving cancer and other disease states. I have built a network of “supportive communities” to help connect women “like me” and blessed they are a part of my life. There is power in partnership and collaboration. I look forward to the work that lies ahead. It has become my calling.
- Website: www.pinklegacy5050.com (October 2018)
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @pinklegacy5050
- Facebook: @pinklegacy5050