COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOWK) – Ashley Fernandez is 31 years old, and 19 months ago she learned she had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. What started out as a lump in her breast, turned out to have spread to her lymph nodes and then her bones before they caught it. By then, it was too late.
Doctors told her she had 18-36 months left. It was the most heart-crushing thing Ashley’s husband Carlos had ever heard; but he says she didn’t allow the diagnosis to bring her down, instead she has stayed positive about her situation.
“As soon as you want to feel slumped, you can’t because she’s smiling and we’re moving on and making plans to go and visit and travel and do things,” said Carlos.
Taking time away from living life to the fullest, Ashley and Carlos were at the Ohio Statehouse Wednesday for the Metastatic Breast Cancer Day of Action hosted by Susan G. Komen Columbus. This annual event has a duality to it; it simultaneously commemorates the efforts and strides that have been made, while also pushing lawmakers to do more.
Dozens of advocates came to the Statehouse to meet with lawmakers, some like Ashley to share their stories, and to press for more resources and better outcomes. As recently as this year, there were fears that a program designed to give low-income women access to screenings could be eliminated.
Work done by advocates helped ensure that it was maintained in the State Operating Budget. Wednesday, Ashley was well enough to attend the event and had her usual bubbly, energetic attitude ready to go.
“I remind myself every day, that I am not a statistic; I am myself, and none of us have an expiration date on our foot,” said Fernandez. “There are days where it’s not as peachy-keen, but today is not one of those days.”
She says when she had an opportunity to talk with lawmakers she had a simple message for them.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done so far, but there is still work to be done,” said Fernandez.
Work that may have to go on after she is gone; and if that is the case, she hopes that it will ultimately benefit the women who develop breast cancer in the future. Until then, Ashley and her beaming smile are sure to light up every room she walks into, that is if she has anything to say about it.
Ashley’s husband is a member of the U.S. Air Force. They were in Alaska and about to relocate to Japan for a duty assignment when they learned of Ashley’s condition. According to Carlos, the Air Force has been very accommodating, and their family and friends have been an amazing support group for them. He is currently stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base so they can be closer to family from Chicago who can help with the couple’s daughter when needed.