FEATUREOctober 2022

Ashleigh Ahrens, Advocate

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By Deborah Vietor

In 2019, Ashleigh Ahrens was diagnosed with HER2 positive stage 4 Metastatic breast cancer, treatable but not curable at 32.

Since then, she has received a hip replacement, single mastectomy, takes 14 chemotherapy pills daily, has received brain and breast radiation, and will have immunotherapy every three weeks for the duration of her life. Treatment at times has changed as it stopped working or affected her heart. Currently she faces lung surgery.

With a deep clinical knowledge and understanding of this disease, Ashleigh remains undaunted. Fully appreciating this life is similar for many others in her position, she supports and advocates for others, and does not allow it to define her.

The trajectory of Ahrens life was recently altered in such a positive way. It began with a simple poster she created for a WNBA game with the Las Vegas Aces playing the Seattle Storm in the final game of the regular season. “Living with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Meeting Plum #10 is on my bucket list.” (Plum, an Aces player is an Olympic Gold Medal winner from San Diego, like Ahrens.)

A media storm ensued with Kelsey’s mom texting her a picture of Ashleigh from the broadcast and Kelsey tweeted the picture with “Hi, can someone help me find this person?”

Peter Chabot, a fan sitting courtside, offered to try to make this happen, giving her a ride to the game the following day.

Speaking to KTNV-TV about the experience, Ashleigh shared that meeting Plum would “mean a lot” to her, noting “You don’t have as many opportunities. You don’t have the same stuff as Make-a-Wish like kids do.”

“I just became so much more appreciative of every day,” she explained. “The little things didn’t bother me anymore and you hug your loved ones tighter.”

Saying it was a pleasure to meet her and giving her a big hug, Plum added, ”I just appreciated her for coming and told her to let me know, whatever you need, I’m here.”

The game culminated in a thrilling 109 to 100 Las Vegas victory. After recording 23 points and four rebounds, the sharpshooter bent down to untie her shoes for Ahrens to take home and brought with her a t-shirt.

“I loved her as an athlete before this weekend,” Ashleigh told Insider. “And now I love her as a person.”

The feeling is mutual.

“I can’t even truly express what it means, just the fact that, of all people, she felt pulled to want to meet me,” Plum said. “For her to feel in any way that I’ve impacted her in this fight and in her journey, I mean, I was teary, just at a loss for words.”

“She inspired me, so I think goes both ways,” she added.

Nearly two million impressions on Ashleigh’s response to Plum’s tweet appeared with many new followers across her social media.

Plum said “ln terms of the grand scheme of life, life is so much bigger than basketball.”

Ashleigh has been interviewed by many news sources, including News 3 Las Vegas, Fox 5 News, KNTV 13, Business Insider and Inside Edition.

She was quoted by Business Insider that sacrifices have included not having kids and choosing not to pursue graduate school.

“You can only really live from scan to scan, every three months,” she said. “At 32, it took so many opportunities from me.”

Accelerated in school, graduating from UNLV in Psychology with honors, Ashleigh was an amazing athlete in club soccer, basketball and softball. Today, Ashleigh works for Vista High School with challenged teens, loves her position, learning and teaching, the kids love her as well.

She loves spending time with her fiancée Courtney, and the two plan to be married in December at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, with all proceeds donated to the animals. Her attributes and contributions are surpassed only by her love of family, friends and their menagerie of pets. In addition to the Aces, Ashleigh follows the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team.

Recently she visited Utah, Yosemite, Montana, Yellowstone, Detroit, Chicago, Indiana and Ohio. Her plan is to visit the Northern Lights, Boston, Niagara Falls, and other places, demonstrating how important it is to live your best life.

Plum gifted Ahrens with her basketball shoes, pink, teal and green, coincidentally the same color of the ribbon for Metastatic Breast Cancer. Pink is traditionally the color of the ribbon for breast cancer. For metastatic, green is added representing triumph and teal represents healing and spirituality.

How do I know this? Because Ashleigh is my beloved daughter, a true mensch reminding me daily of what is most important in life.

“A mother’s journey begins before you are born, when I hold you in my heart, Culminating into holding onto a never ending, unconditional love.”

How to Support

METAvivor is a national non-profit organization dedicated to stage IV metastatic breast cancer research with hope of transitioning the terminal disease to one which is survivable and manageable with a good quality of life, providing support to those living with metastatic breast cancer. Founded in 2009, METAvivor has funded 166 metastatic breast cancer research grants totaling $23.15 million. For further information, visit metavivor.org.

Sharsheret is a nonprofit organization with the goal of supporting Jewish women with breast cancer and ovarian cancer. For more information, visit sharsheret.org

Susan G. Komen’s “MORE THAN PINK WALK” is held Sunday, November 6, 2022. According to David Vaught, PhD., Senior Manager of Research Grants at Susan G. Komen, Komen’s mission is dedicated to conquering aggressive and deadly breast cancer, investing nearly $1.1 billion in breast cancer research. Currently, 72% of Komen-funded research projects are focused on metastatic breast cancer and other aggressive and deadly breast cancers. For more information, visit komen.org.

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