Since my breast cancer diagnosis back in February (the day that turned my life upside-down), I have been given so many opportunities. I have used my platform at moreClaremore to spread the message of the importance of annual, early mammograms. I have been blessed with new friendships by so many women traveling a similar path. That’s the thing about cancer; everyone’s journey is so incredibly different.

I’ve done my best to be strong and put on a brave face throughout everything. Honestly, I’m grateful that my outcome was as successful as it was, while so many are still fighting every day. It could have been so much worse.

This year, probably because of my obnoxiously repetitive social media outbursts about early detection, I was honored at the Leading Ladies Awards. That humbled me, and I was so touched to be chosen. I was asked to speak at the grand opening for the Northeastern Oklahoma Cancer Institute, where I was the first patient to ring the bell. That was an honor, as well.

But this week, something else happened that gave Travis the opportunity to get video of me crying in front of other people. Again.

Claremore Fire sells breast cancer awareness shirts each October, and they donate the proceeds to local cancer charities. Sarah Kelley Hayes from the Claremore Fire Auxiliary called me recently to ask if I could come be in a photo about their shirt sales, along with two other Claremore women who are dealing with breast cancer. Of course, I said yes.

Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the fire station, only to be told that the department had chosen to divide this year’s t-shirt proceeds between Susan McGill, Ronica Warden, and myself. For anyone who’s dealt with a major medical issue, you know that the bills rack up immediately, and every dollar helps tremendously.

I am beyond thankful to the Claremore Fire Department, and am so blessed to be part of such a wonderful community. Claremore truly is home, and it has my heart.

I know Susan and Ronica feel the same way.

Thank you, CFD!

-MCM Staffer Ashley