HER CANCER SYMPTOMS HAD BEEN PUT DOWN TO TEENAGE LAZINESS AND NOW HER LIFE WAS IN GRAVE DANGER.
BUT FORGET TRIPS TO DISNEY OR SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS, ALL ASHLEIGH WANTED WAS A DAD AND SO STEP DAD DAMIEN STARTED ADOPTION PROCEEDINGS TO MAKE HER DREAMS COME TRUE AND BECOME HER OFFICAL DAD BEFORE SHE DIED.
BUT THEN SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED AND 16 YEAR OLD ASHLEIGH BEAT THE ODDS RESPONDING TO TREATMENT AND GAINING A DAD IN THE PROCESS…
When teenager Ashleigh started spending more and more time in bed, doctors put her sleepiness down to typical teenage laziness.
Six months had passed before the horrifying truth was discovered. The pretty teenager wasn’t lazy, she had a giant brain tumour and several tumours on her spine.
She was 16 when last year she was diagnosed with a very rare type of childhood cancer known as ATRT with just a ten per scent survival rate.
The type of tumour she had was one of the fastest and most aggressive with one of the highest mortality rates in children. The main symptom was tiredness. Mum Marie was devastated. How could it have been missed for so long ?
For years step dad Damien, 30, had talked about officially adopting Ashleigh so along with her mum Marie they could be a proper family. Now faced with the bleak prognosis, it became more important than ever to make it happen to them and Ashleigh.
Her two younger brothers saw their dads but Ashleigh had never known hers. Other sick kids wanted trips to Disney or to swim with dolphins, all she wanted was a real dad of her own.
Ashleigh’s cancerous tumours were too big to operate on so she started immediate chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which made her hair fall out.
Her family were devastated that more than six months had been wasted while GPs had dismissed her as a lazy teen. She’d started coming home from school tired aged 15 and as the weeks passed she could barely keep her eyes open long enough to eat tea.
Once she’d enjoyed ice skating and shopping with pals, but soon Ashleigh was spending all weekend in bed dozing.
It was only after she fell down the stairs in a sleepy haze six months after first visiting her GP that her mum called an ambulance and she was rushed to A&E where doctors ordered a brain scan and MRI.
But the mass which a biopsy showed to be cancerous was growing too close to the brain stem to operate and so she immediately started chemo and radiotherapy.
Brave Ashleigh had lost all her hair by the time family gathered for a christening service at the hospital between treatments.
Step dad Damien sat proudly by her side as she was baptised. The adoption application gave them all something to focus on while Ashleigh battled through radio and chemotherapy.
Her loss of appetite meant her weight had dropped from seven stone to below four stone and she needed a feeding tube.
It was the hardest battle of her life but her dad was always there to keep her strong and take her out in her wheelchair when she felt like giving up.
But astonishingly six months on new scans showed the tumours were responding to treatment. They were shrinking.
Now Ashleigh is formally due to become Damien’s adopted daughter any day now and most recent scans show only tiny shadows where her tumours once were.
Doctors are hopeful it is scar tissue and she is getting stronger every day.
It’s a double celebration – step dad Damian adopted Ashleigh fearing she would die and against all odds she lived. Though it will be another four years before she can be told she is in remission.
Now they hope to enjoy being a real family while warning other parents to be wary of the signs of brain tumours after Ashleigh’s was missed.
Ashleigh said: ‘ I could have died because they thought I was just a lazy teenager. If it was spotted sooner I may have not got so sick. I went to the doctor and told them I was sleeping all the time and they basically asked: ‘what teenager doesn’t?’