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Ashley's story

How One CrossFit Athlete Championed Cervical Cancer Before Becoming A Mom

After her wedding in 2012, Ashley was a 28-year-old newlywed ready to check things off her bucket list before starting a family. She was in the best shape of her life and preparing to qualify for a global CrossFit competition, but after many years of abnormal pap smears, she had to get a colposcopy. When her biopsy results came back, Ashley was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

"It hasn't been an easy road, but I want what I want, and I will do what I have to do to get it," said Ashley.

Fortunately for Ashley, her cancer was detected early, but the typical treatment for patients at this stage is either a radical hysterectomy or radiation therapy with chemotherapy.

"In either instance, the patient cannot conceive afterwards," said Dr. Dwight Chen, a gynecological oncologist at El Camino Health, "For Ashley, we performed a radical trachelectomy, which removes the cancer and most of the cervix, but preserves the uterus."

The procedure was conducted in April 2012 with assistance of the DaVinci robot. Dr. Chen made some small incisions to insert a high-definition camera inside Ashley, which gave him a magnified, high resolution view of the surgery site. Ultimately, the operation was successful. Dr. Chen was able to preserve Ashley's fertility and she was cancer free after surgery. She beat cancer without ever going through chemotherapy.

"I am beyond grateful and do not take that for granted," said Ashley.

Despite a successful trachelectomy, recovering from surgery was a challenge for Ashley. She was nauseous and lost a lot of the muscle that she worked so hard to build, but she was still determined to compete in CrossFit at the international level.

"It was a slow recovery," she recalled, "it was definitely an effort for me to walk around the block, but I slowly progressed to two times around the block, and then a quarter mile."

Ashley continued to make progress with her training, and within a few months, she finished second in the Northern California regional CrossFit competition and qualified for the 2013 global competition. As soon as she checked becoming a world-class athlete off her bucket list, she was ready to take on the biggest challenge of all – motherhood.

Almost immediately after the competition, Ashley and her husband met with fertility doctors in hopes of starting a family. She underwent a procedure to remove scar tissue from her uterus in 2014 and began IVF in January 2015. By October, she welcomed her first son. Dr. Chen was in the room during the delivery.

"It was special to have him there for the delivery, he is one of the reasons why we were able to have a family," said Ashley.

In February 2018, Ashley welcomed a second baby boy. The busy mother of two may be retired from the competition circuit, but still works out at the CrossFit gym on a regular basis has remained cancer free for nearly a decade.

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