By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Treating teenagers for cancer is tricky.
Aimee Jo Ayshford, the honorary survivor at the Delano Relay For Life, knows firsthand as someone who was diagnosed with Stage IIIC germ cell ovarian cancer at the age of 17.
“Teenagers are probably the most forgotten when it comes to cancer,” Ayshford said. “It’s tricky to deal with because do you put teenagers in pediatrics or with adults?”
Ayshford’s story began when she started getting sick and having side pains in December of 2012.
She was first told there was nothing wrong, and then told constipation was the culprit.
But, the pain didn’t go away, and she found herself in the emergency room Jan. 15, 2013.
“The doctor told me I had an abnormally large pelvis for a 17-year-old,” Ayshford said. “Those words forever changed my life and simultaneously saved it.”
An ultrasound found a lump on her left ovary and a CT scan showed it was a tumor.
“My world stopped,” Ayshford said. “All I could think about was when was I going to fit surgery in with my busy and active schedule?”
She delayed surgery to Jan. 24, 2013, so she could compete in her first varsity show choir competition. Surgery confirmed her diagnosis and chemotherapy began.
She called her chemotherapy port one of her best friends and she still has memories of everything she went through with the device.
“I still remember the drug names, the side effects, how long they needed to be infused, and which ones I got which days,” Ayshford said.
Her side effects were limited, and she believes it was because many people were praying for her. Nonetheless, she still had hiccups.
“There was the day I couldn’t start my week on chemo because my numbers were too low, the day I had to stay two hours longer to get a small dose of magnesium, and the day I almost needed a blood transfusion,” Ayshford said.
Her chemo ended April 29, 2013, and she was put into remission and declared cancer-free May 29, 2013.
Though she has been in remission for more than two years, that does not mean she hasn’t had struggles in that time.
“As a cancer survivor, going through remission for me is just as tough, if not tougher, as going through chemotherapy,” Ayshford said. “I experienced fear, anxiety, frustration, and changes in my body that many other survivors go through as well.”
Remission is a mental war for many survivors, Ayshford said. Anniversaries of the dates when survivors were diagnosed with cancer, had surgery, began chemo, ended chemo, and were declared cancer-free can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
For Ayshford, remission triggered anxiety and depression.
“You’re constantly worried the cancer might come back since there’s no guarantee it will stay away,” Ayshford said.
Adding to her anxiety were fears that she may not be able to have children, as well as lung complications that made her wonder if the cancer had spread.
She is working through the worries that come along with remission and speaks out for others dealing with similar struggles.
“I was determined to be an advocate for those dealing with cancer, but would have never guessed how much it would touch me,” Ayshford said, reflecting on losing a friend to cancer in ninth grade.
She is thankful for the support she and her family has received throughout her struggles with cancer and remission. She also thanked the community for coming together during the Relay For Life.
“I want to thank each and every one of you for coming out tonight to support the American Cancer Society and their fight against cancer,” Ayshford said. “Together, we can work toward getting rid of cancer once and for all, so one day, no one has to go through what I did.”