My name is Ashley Dayton and my mother has Stage IV Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I started this blog as a way to share our story in hopes to help others – but more importantly as a way to release my hurt, anger, frustration and fear.
At 40 years young, my mom’s dream of having a child came true. She gave birth to a beautiful (I may be bias!) little girl, who was a spitting image of her father. I had the best childhood as an only child. Hugs were always there to heal my hurts and her words always encouraged me to try again. She cheered me on at every sporting event and never missed one. She taught me life lessons when I made mistakes. Most importantly though, she always made sure I had fun. People always ask me, did you like being an only child? My answer is ALWAYS yes, because I didn’t have to share all the love my parents gave me with anyone else.
Because of her, I know that I can always love more and strive more. She raised me better than anyone could have raised me, loved me unconditionally, let me learn on my own but always caught me when I was about to fall. She has seen me through the good times and the bad and always has been there when I needed her the most. Like when I would call her at 2 AM saying I wanted to come home because my bed was more comfortable than the floor OR when she bought plane tickets for me once a month for a year so that it would make my homesickness a little easier.
But in September 2012, our world changed. My best friend, the strongest woman I know; my mom was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer and opted for a double mastectomy. After a surgery that seemed like a lifetime she was on the road to recovery. She went through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. She laid in a hyperbaric chamber weekly – hoping and believing that this would cure her. This would cure our family. And it did, for a year, or we thought it did.
In January 2014, we embarked on what we thought would be her final surgery. A way to close the hurt we felt. She underwent a 22 hour reconstruction surgery. Physically and mentally exhausted we were thankful it was over. I thought, my mom is back. She is going to drink wine with me, instigate my shopping habit and be cancer-free. But a couple days later, it all changed… once again. The next chapter was being written and we weren’t ready.
The doctor said – “I’m sorry, but I found something that just didn’t look right during the surgery. I sent it out to be biopsied and it hurts me to tell you this, but it’s cancer.” I sat there with my mom next to me, in awe. Tears started rolling down my face. I started sobbing. This was truly the first time I was scared. I was scared for my mom and my family. How could we go through this again? We had a plan. We would take a family vacation, we would drink wine, we would laugh.
It turns out there were two tumors, one behind her breast bone and one on the left side of where her breast used to be. It was once again Triple Negative Breast Cancer, and a different form. Each tumor reacted differently to treatments. At this point we asked not to know the stage, for fear it would only feed our mind with ammunition. Instead, we were going to beat this, just like we had so many times before. (Note: My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46 and had a lumpectomy – but this story is not about the first time, it’s about the last time.)
Breathe. I remember telling myself every time there was a doctor appointment. Breathe. Every time there was a scan. Breathe. Every time there was a test. Breathe. Breathe.
I would tell my parents, I hate your doctor. He isn’t doing enough. He isn’t giving us options. He isn’t giving us support and he sure as hell is not fighting with us. And then, when the tumors kept growing and the treatments kept not working – we arrived at Yale – Smilow Cancer Hospital – looking for help. Chemotherapy was the answer, but there were options. There were trials. There were different forms of chemotherapy – an injection, a pill, etc.
But we still had hope. There had to be a cure, because any one who knows my mom knows she’s a fighter, she has a personality that cannot be copied and a laugh that is infectious. She is a positive person, that always believes there is something to be thankful for.
As 2015 came to an end, I prayed that 2016 would be different. A cure would be found and we would put this behind us, again. We would move on.
2016 began and the only piece of my prayer that was answered was that 2016 would be different. Different is an understatement. Hard is a better statement. In January 2016, we found out this year would be the hardest of our lives. My mom’s cancer was Stage IV Triple Negative Breast Cancer and there was no cure. There were options for treatment that could help keep the tumors at bay, buying us time. But we had to understand that our life would be different from that moment in January.
In and out of Yale Smilow Cancer Center, my mom would say her name was Susan “Yale” Trabka. Giving us a laugh, or two… But the reality was my mom was sick. The funny thing is I never thought of her as sick before this. Before this, she didn’t even have cancer (in my mind) it was just a couple tumors that needed attention. I was in denial. We were all in denial. We were blinded.
We were told our time was limited. And all I could do was cry. We all cried until there were no tears left. My mom, the matriarch of our family, the glue that holds us together, was really sick and there was nothing we could do.
But there was something we could do. We could enjoy our life with her. We could laugh, we could cry and we could sit in silence. We could create memories that would last forever. And so we did. My boyfriend at the time, now husband, proposed and we planned a wedding in 26 days. My dream, my mom’s dream, my dad’s dream and my husband’s dream came true – having my mom see me marry the man of my dreams. The man that would take care of me. The man that would take care of all of us.
This is where my blog begins.
Mom, you’ve been through more than anyone can understand, but through it all you’ve kept a smile on your face. Through surgery after surgery and treatment after treatment you’ve somehow always found a way to laugh. You’ve taught me life isn’t always as bad as we think it is, instead it teaches us to be stronger.
Mom, thank you for being my best friend. I couldn’t begin to express everything you have done for dad and me. You have been a solid rock for me during every hard time – always willing to listen and do whatever you can to help.