Ashley Hallford was living the life she had dreamed of. She had just started her career and gotten married to her husband, David. She had also just gotten pregnant with her first child and life couldn’t be any better. One day, the now 35 year old felt a bump on her neck. Her doctors thought it was a salivary gland infection that would shrink with antibiotics.
But the lump kept coming back. With time, it became hard and painful. Ashley got worried and went back to her ear, nose and throat specialist and requested a biopsy.
In November 2007, when the results of the biopsy came out, Ashley’s life took a complete turn around. She had cancer.
Four days after the cancer diagnosis, Ashley was induced at 33 weeks, and delivered a healthy baby boy named Harley.
Shortly after the delivery, surgeons removed a softball-sized tumor that had grown around Ashley’s jaw bone and muscle. They also removed a portion of her jaw muscle and severed a facial nerve.
About a month after her surgery, doctors still didn’t know what kind of cancer Ashley had. “We could not determine the origin of her tumor. We consulted with other doctors all over the country, but couldn’t figure out what it was.” Dr. Debra Miller of Southeastern Medical Oncology Center said.
During that time, Ashley Hallford began to experience extremely bad headaches and double vision. An MRI showed that she had a brain tumor. “It was a really scary time. It was about two weeks after Christmas, and everyone else was so happy.” Ashley recalled.
A second full-body MRI showed the cancer had spread to her lungs and liver. At that point, the doctors decided to stop trying to figure out what type of cancer Ashley had and focused on treating it. She started chemotherapy and radiation in January 2008.
A month later, the tumors were still growing, and doctors decided to try another form of chemo. “After a recurrence, the chances of her body responding to treatment were slim,” said Dr. Debra Miller, who had diagnosed Ashley’s cancer as stage 4.
“That’s when they asked me to start taking pictures, videos and writing a journal for my son. My handwriting was terrible and I could barely see.” Ashley said. The brain tumor caused her right eye to go blind.
Ashley’s mother and mother-in-law helped to take care of baby Harley. He husband, David, was working around the clock as a firefighter.
The family’s church and community started fasting and praying for her. They also brought meals five nights a week.
In July 2008, the results from a round of scans shocked everyone, and they were just the beginning of more miracles to follow. “My oncologist said, ‘I’m just going to read what the report says: The radiologist reports that there’s no evidence of disease present. She told me that it meant the cancer was in remission.” Ashley said.
“I was crying. I had hoped it would be positive news, but it was nothing short of miraculous,” Ashley Hallford added.
“I was completely overwhelmed. I was ecstatic… Even now, it does seem to be miraculous. I think many factors, including prayers, played a role in her recovery.” Dr. Miller told TODAY.
Ashley finished treatment in spring of 2009. After not being able to breathe very well due to tumors that had spread to her lungs, she was finally able to walk again. Eventually, her right eye re-opened.
Another miracle was on the way! Ashley and her husband wanted another child, but the chemotherapy had thrown her into full-blown menopause.
There was nothing doctors could do to help, so they suggested using a surrogate. The following week, before her esophageal surgery, tests indicated that she was pregnant!
Ashley gave birth to a daughter, Grace, in October 2012.
In May 2016, Ashley was preparing for a now routine brain MRI, when a mandatory pregnancy test came back positive! Another miracle! She delivered their third child, a boy named Eli in January 2017.
“It doesn’t seem real,” Ashley said, reflecting on the past 9 years of her life.
Ashley says her faith, the amazing support from her doctors, friends and community were the secret to her recovery. Her advice for anyone suffering right now, “You have to remain positive. Doctors gave me a few weeks to live. Don’t give up. I didn’t lose hope. Don’t ever quit fighting,” she said.
Ashley says it was all God’s doing that she is still alive and miraculously blessed with a beautiful family.