I am a proud cancer previvor. I have gracefully broken and rebuilt with strength.
Learning of Her Gene Mutation and Risk for Cancer
Ashley was just 22 when she learned she was BRCA2 positive, a leading marker for breast and ovarian cancer. Her mother had been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer and unfortunately lost her four-year battle with the disease at the young age of 52.
Shortly after her mother lost her life to breast cancer, her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 53. He elected to have his prostate removed and is currently doing well. He is one of her greatest supporters and was there for her as she struggled with the fear of believing that she was next to develop cancer. She always felt that the odds were stacked against her, having been born into three generations of women affected by breast cancer.
Genetic Counseling and Testing May Have Saved Her Life
Experiencing the pain of losing her mother and watching her father deal with cancer moved Ashley into action. Her gynecologist suggested genetic counseling and testing, and it was not surprising that she tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation. She believes that this simple blood test not only saved her life, but it empowered her and helped her find the knowledge she needed to make informed medical decisions.
Her Surgery Journey
At the age of 22, Ashley began working with a high-risk oncologist. In order to stay on top of her health, she began annual mammograms and transvaginal ultrasounds and rotating breast ultrasounds, and MRIs. After a ten-year journey of surveillance, she and her husband decided that they needed to explore other preventive options. In December 2016, at the age of 31, she underwent a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy followed by reconstruction in March 2017.
At the time of her surgery, she was physically ready. She listened to her doctors, and she had been living an active and healthy lifestyle, and so she recovered quickly. However, she was not ready for the emotional impact of her decision. She had always been a confident woman, but she began to question her womanhood. “Am I still beautiful? Am I still a woman? Will my husband still be attracted to me?” were all questions she asked herself.
Ashley realized these were normal feelings and that she was putting undue pressure on herself. Her husband loved her, and he loved her body. With the love and support from family, friends, and her faith, she was reminded that her body and her breasts did not define her. Her strength, character, and self-worth defined who she is as a person and as a woman. Today, she has learned to embrace her scars.
“I know I made the right decision and know that I have been gracefully broken and rebuilt with strength. I now have a daughter and another baby on the way, and I have no regrets. I am grateful to be living as a healthy previvor.”
In all that you do, Educate, Equip and Empower,
Ashley Dedmon, MPH, CHES®
Ashley Dedmon is a native Houstonian. Ashley holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from Prairie View A&M University. She also earned a Master of Public Health from Florida A&M University and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. She is an advocate for all health and wellness efforts. She believes everyone deserves a chance at achieving optimal health, and to do that, we must eliminate health inequities and health disparities.
In her professional role, Ashley is a Public Health professional. She coordinates a collaborative that mobilizes policy action to curb childhood obesity. Prior to her current role, Ashley served as a Community Outreach Specialist for a major healthcare company, where she managed corporate and strategic partnerships, grants, volunteer efforts, and various community outreach and public health endeavors. She also spent ten years as a physical education and health education teacher and health curriculum writer in the Texas Public School System.
Ashley is affiliated with numerous organizations such as Missouri City-Sugarland Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., The Women’s Fund of Houston, Houston Black Leadership Institute, Class VI, Greater Houston Black Chamber, a member of The Greater Houston Women’s Chamber Health Network, serves on the health and wellness committee at her church, and serves on a myriad of professional workgroups and committees.
Ashley has received awards and recognition for her work in the community and business acumen. A few awards include Houston Business Journal 2019 40 Under 40, 2018 She’s Happy Foundation Breast Cancer Celebration of Life Award, and others.
Her greatest accomplishment is being a wife to her husband, Cameron, for six years, and a mother to their two daughters.
Her mission is to proactively engage and educate the next generation of young women on the importance of personal and family health history, early detection, and self-care so that they are equipped and empowered to make informed health decisions.