By Jacob Mahaffey
& Beverly Keller
A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing journey. Some people allow it to end their lives while others use it to carry on and propel themselves forward.
And that is the story of Ashadee Miller. This Holmes County resident is poised to fight and has been doing so for the past year.
The daughter of a minister, she was born in Trinidad. Miller moved to the United States when she was just five years old. She has been married to her husband Morgan, whom she met in New York City, for 13 years. Together they have two children, son Darius, age 9 and daughter, Daniella, age 4.
Miller’s cancer journey began in September 2017. A few months earlier she felt a tiny bump under her arm. She thought it was from working out too much or too hard and must have been a lymph node that popped out. She noted she needed to take better care while working out as to not hurt herself.
You see she had a surgery over a year before that left her with one ovary. That change and shift in hormones left her depressed, deeply depressed. Miller looked for a solution and decided it was a great time to get fit. She lost 40 pounds and became a fitness instructor at Berlin Resort.
Miller noted that she mentioned the tiny bump to her husband and her mom. “It was a God thing that I even mentioned it,” she shared. “It was only a half a centimeter. It wasn’t painful.”
A month later in August 2017, her mom inquired about the bump. “I said it was gone,” Miller said. “But a few days later, shaving in the shower, I felt it again.”
A few days later, at a doctor’s appointment for her daughter, Miller decided to mention it to a doctor. “I had taken my daughter in for an appointment at Holmes Family Medicine and said something to Dr. Kim Hill,” she said. “She took me right into a room and looked at it.”
The doctor didn’t seem too worried about it but Miller shared her concerns. “We agreed it was a concern because I found it,” Miller said. “She ordered an ultrasound to be done at Joel Pomerene.”
A few days after the ultrasound, Pomerene called and told her that it looked good and to follow up in about six months. Dr. Hill’s office also called and said the same. “But when I was talking to the nurse, I asked if this was 100 percent ok,” Miller recalled. “The nurse stopped and said nothing is 100 percent. If you want 100 percent, we should do a biopsy.”
That took Miller to the next stop in Wooster. Dr. Peabody performed the ultrasound-guided biopsy. “That was a Monday,” Miller remembered. “He was great and I went home. He said they would call on Friday with results and I was good with that.”
On September 28, 2017, Miller’s phone rang and she saw it was Dr. Peabody’s office. “At 8 a.m. my phone rang, and I had it on speaker at first because I thought it was just a reminder and then I realized he was really there and talking,” she said of the phone call that changed the course of her life.
“I hung up the phone and screamed,” Miller explained. “Then I realized I had a son who needed to get on the bus to go to school. I had a husband who needed to be told.”
That morning, with a lingering diagnosis, life went on. “I got my son on the bus,” Miller said. “I put a movie on in the living room for my daughter. I took my husband into my daughter’s room and told him.”
Since then she has undergone a total of 11 rounds of chemo. She has been hospitalized for five days with bone pain from chemo side effects and a bad allergic reaction. Miller has suffered the side effects, struggled.
She chose to have her case transferred from University Hospitals to The James Cancer Center in Columbus for a second opinion. She also wanted a closer option for radiation as The James operates a satellite out of Wooster Community Hospital.
After consulting with The James, Miller had a double mastectomy in April. A considerable amount of time was spent healing in hopes of bolstering her body for the impact of radiation.
She completed 30 radiation treatments that were administered every single day except weekends. As a result, she experienced an uptick in her chronic anemia. A host of other immune system problems also reared their heads.
After all of this treatment, Miller learned that only six percent of patients with her type of cancer, Stage 3, Grade 3, respond to chemo and radiation. Miller’s cancer has been known to grow and morph quickly and often hides behind organs. She had a 5 cm malignant calcification on her chest wall.
“It’s sneaky,” Miller described. “It’s very fast, aggressive.”
She noted that chemo and radiation aren’t her only options for therapy. “There were other options, but the impact of those drugs are intense,” Miller explained. “I talked to others and they told me about the effects. My new doctor at The James told me my quality of life would decrease.”
That statement was a game changer for Miller. “I’m choosing quality of life but I’m praying for quantity,” she shared.
Even though on a whole, cancer treatment has come a long way, Miller’s cancer is different. “There is no cure for this cancer. And most people are considered in remission if they have five years without cancer,” Miller said. “For this one, it is 20 years. They have seen it come back at 15 years.”
With all of this information at hand, Miller and her family have decided to opt for immunotherapy in Mexico at Hope For Cancer. This therapy is administered every day for about three weeks all day in order to target cancer cells.
Hope For Cancer is known for having good success rates with this type of treatment and Miller’s type of cancer. “I know someone who went through the treatment and seven years later, they are doing great,” Miller shared.
Unfortunately, there is a financial aspect to the treatment. In order to do this, they need financial support. The goal is to raise $70,000 by October 8.
Currently, their plan is to leave October 8 for treatment and stay down there through October 30. When she returns home, Miller will bring with her monitoring machines. She will have to go back for a two-day check-up in six months.
Right now a fund they have set up has a balance of $35,000. “I’m shocked and extremely humbled by the outpouring of support. This is God’s grace,” Miller said reflectively. “He’s been holding us for the past year and He continues to hold us.”
Miller isn’t letting her cancer diagnosis stop her. She just looks at it as an
other part of a story with an amazing author. “I don’t know where my story will lead or when it is over, but I know who is writing it, God,” she exclaimed. “This is my semicolon, not a period.”
This story originally appeared in the October 3, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.