Ashtyn loves to cheer, but in April 2018, she was wobbly and dizzy during practice.
When she then started having frequent headaches and vomiting, it was cause for concern – and an appointment with the pediatrician.
“But meanwhile,” said her mom, Kiara, “Ashtyn had another episode at daycare and I thought, 'Why is this happening? Why is she vomiting so much?' So I called a friend, and she suggested we take her to an eye doctor.”
The eye doctor sent Ashtyn to the ER where an MRI was performed.
Days later, Ashtyn had a diagnosis of medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer. The oncologist immediately recommended St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
My first thought was, is this the end for my 5 year old?
Our world was instantly flipped upside down. You never think it might be you one day. You never think in a million years it will be you.
Families, like Ashtyn's, will never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.
Initially, Ashtyn’s mom, Brittney, wanted to pursue treatment locally.
I thought staying close to home was the better idea but, in my opinion now, that would have been a mistake because, although I have faith in our system there, St. Jude made the process an entirely different experience.
“The program is well thought out, and this terrible situation is less stressful on parents than it could be," continued Brittany.
Being a physician herself, Brittany realizes just how different the St. Jude model is. “I’m experiencing medicine completely differently than I ever have before,” she said.
Ashtyn participated in a commercial for the 2021 St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign with actress Yara Shahidi
Kiara, too, is thankful they came to St. Jude.
“I knew St. Jude specialized in cancer, and I knew that there would be kids just like Ashtyn here, so she wouldn’t feel different – she’d be more comfortable,” commented Kiara.
Vivacious Ashtyn underwent a second brain surgery after arriving at St. Jude as well as proton therapy and chemotherapy. She also received physical and occupational therapies and even started kindergarten through the St. Jude school program.
Ashtyn warms everyone’s heart.
She has now finished treatment and returns to St. Jude regularly for checkups and scans. She is also a proud big sister to her new baby brother.
Kaira and Brittney describe Ashtyn as full of energy and sass, and hope that she’ll grow up to touch other people’s lives, as St. Jude has touched theirs.