“I think until you've been put in a position that I'm in, we sometimes tend to take our lives and time that we have for granted.”
I'm Ashley stringer. And in 2017, I began having shortness of breath. And so I went to see a pulmonologist. And there were several tests done. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 34, which was a complete shock.
It was determined that it was best to have surgery to remove the cancer. And so I had surgery in 2017 to remove half of my left lung. And then in 2019, the cancer returned again in my left lung, and so I had radiation done to treat the cancer at that point. And so I continue to have CT scans every three months just following up on some nodules that are in both lungs that look suspicious for cancer. So and we just watch those every three months to see if they're growing or changing at all.
I mean, the journey overall has been certainly at a lot of ups and downs. And I'm just happy to be a three-year cancer survivor at this stage. When I got the news, I was just completely shocked because I mean, a young person who had never smoked, I didn't even think that lung cancer was a possibility for me. And so, it was very shocking. It was scary. You know, at the time, my children were three years old and seven years old, so very young. And I was just really scared, wondering if I would be here to raise my children. Would I be here to see them graduate high school and go to college, get married, all of those things that most people don't think about being a young mother and so just a lot of questions swirling in my mind about my future.
And a lot of the times thinking how long do I have to live? And just constantly worrying about that. So, you know, it's affected me in a lot of different ways, but it was very, very shocking and scary. And getting the news that you have cancer. Um, as far as long term feelings and struggles that I've dealt with, there's been a lot I would say, emotionally and mentally, you know, the biggest struggle is just trying to cope with that not knowing the future, you know, is the cancer going to come back and if it does, again, how long do I have, and then also since I get scans every three months, I'm worried a lot about what's the next scan going to show?
I actually have to travel down to Houston, which is eight hours away from where I'm at. And I also work full time and I have two young kids and so I just have I have a lot going on, right? So it's hard emotionally, I have nightmares a lot of the times. I'll just wake up wake up from a dead sleep and know the things that are in my mind. They're just scary about the future being so uncertain and you know, the reality that I might die very young, that's a real possibility and it's scary, but, um, you know, physically I do have some nerve damage from the surgery. And that that bothers me, not anything tremendously, but it's there. It's just kind of more of an annoyance. And I also have shortness of breath when I'm exercising because I do have reduced lung capacity. So that's something that I have to deal with for the rest of my life.
And on a positive note, I've changed my diet quite a bit. I always had a healthy diet, but I have a lot of food restrictions and just trying to you know, prevent the cancer from reoccurring eating very healthy. And that's a challenge with young children trying to limit what's coming into the house. But my diet has changed. But I mean, there's been a lot of positives to that, that have came out of my journey as far as just growing as an individual. In my faith, and in my personal relationships with friends and family, coworkers, just seeing the good and people that have been there for me for the whole journey, just supporting me in any way that I've needed help.
It's been really encouraging to have people constantly praying for me and just helping in any way they can. So that's been a huge blessing. And then just cherishing the time I have.
I think until you've been put in a position that I'm in, we sometimes tend to take our lives and time that we have for granted. And so that's something that once I received the diagnosis, I really was trying to make sure that I make the most of my time. Whatever time I have left you know, and being intentional with the time I do have and spending time with my kids and my husband and just really making the little moments count.