NEW LEXINGTON — While most kids were out having fun during the holiday break from school, one New Lexington Middle School student was at home dealing with the fact she’s been diagnosed with ALL — acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
In addition to dealing with what can be one of the most stressful times of the year for parents — dealing with shopping for presents, gathering all the food for the holiday meal and trying to raise a family — the Atherton household has also been dealing with chemotherapy treatments and numerous visits to the doctors office or hospital.
It was on Oct. 22, 2018 when Ashley Atherton, a local seventh grade student, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This not only turned her life upside down, but also her family members and friends as well.
Although she didn’t really have any symptoms, Ashley did complain of aches and pains and was taken to a local hospital. However, she wasn’t getting any better and was finally taken to Children’s Hospital in Columbus. That’s where the family received the devastating news of her diagnosis.
“This has definitely been a whirlwind of emotions and quick actions on the doctors and hospitals,” stated Tricia Atherton, Ashley’s mother. “It seems to have brought the entire family closer though. The support from family, friends and the community is amazing.”
Through all of the anguish and heartache of being told she has leukemia, Ashley has been amazing throughout the situation, according to her mother. Other than headaches and nausea from the chemo treatments, Ashley seems to be doing quite well, considering the situation.
“I’m very proud of how she’s handling it,” Tricia commented. “She’s doing good and still in good spirits.”
On Nov. 22, Ashley had a bone marrow biopsy, which came back with no cancer cells; however, the cancer is still detected in her blood.
“Sometimes I feel so helpless,” Tricia told The Perry County Tribune. “There’s nothing I can do to take away her pain. I hate feeling this way.”
Throughout the process, there have been good days and bad days; there have been ups and downs; and there has been joy and heartache. However, for the most part Ashley is handling the situation like a trooper.
There have been a few setbacks — the chemo is attacking her immune system so she can’t go outside or be around a lot of people. Ashley won’t be able to attend school until next year — at least that’s what the family has been told at this point. Another setback is trying to get Ashley’s blood numbers up to where they need to be to move on to the next stage of chemo treatments.
Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that affects the body’s white blood cells. White blood cells help fight infection and protect the body against disease. However, in leukemia, some of the white blood cells turn cancerous and don’t work the way they should.
As more cancerous cells form in the blood and bone marrow, there’s less room for healthy cells. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) occurs when the body makes too many lymphoblasts, such as in the case of Ashley Atherton.
ALL is the most common type of childhood cancer. This type of leukemia can affect different types of lymphocytes (B-cells or T-cells). Acute lymphoblastic leukemia develops and gets worse quickly; however, with the advances in therapy and clinical trials, the outlook is promising. With treatment, most are cured.
ALL is a cancer that affects the white blood cells; these cells fight infection and help protect the body against disease.
Patients with ALL have too many immature white blood cells in their bone marrow, which crowd out normal white blood cells. Without enough normal white blood cells, the body has a harder time fighting infections.
Approximately 3,000 people younger than 20 years of age are diagnosed with ALL every year in the U.S.
Symptoms of ALL include:
• Frequent infections
• Easy bruising
• Bleeding that is hard to stop
• Flat, dark-red skin spots due to bleeding under the skin
• Pain in the bones or joints
• Lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach or groin
• Pain or fullness below the ribs
• Weakness, fatigue
• Loss of appetite
• Shortness of breath
For a single mom of three children, having one child diagnosed with a disease can be a hardship. To help with the medical costs, a benefit is scheduled for Ashley on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Ludowici Roof Tile. There will be a silent auction as well as a live auction; 50/50 drawing; and food and drinks.
The benefit will be held in the Factory of Ideas building, 4757 Tile Plant Road, beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19. However, cash donations can be mailed to People’s National Bank, 110 N. Main St., New Lexington, Ohio 43764 — be sure to earmark the donation for the Ashley Atherton Benefit Fund.