“ Rely on your family and friends as a network of support. You need them, no matter how independent you are. And make sure that as you go through your individual journey with this diagnosis, you let the people you love know you love them.
Ashley Piaskowski is another mAss Kicker dedicated to showing the world how to thrive after an unexpected tumor/cancer diagnosis! We had the pleasure of presenting with her at National University, Singapore in 2014. She is currently a Patient Enrollment & Outreach Coordinator at Heritage Health FQHC. In 2010 and 2012, Ashley was honored in the “Top 30 Under 40” in the North Idaho Business Journal. We were honored to reconnect with her and interview her for the MKF website.
mK: Thanks for doing this Ashley! What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
AP: When I woke up one morning to a spider bite on my neck, I immediately made an appointment to get it checked. After my primary care doctor asked me questions about my thyroid, he asked that I be seen by an endocrinologist. That was the beginning of my diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in March of 2007. Just four months after my boyfriend, now husband, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
mK: Crazy! What were your symptoms?
AP: I had symptoms as long as a year, maybe longer. But that entire year leading up to my diagnosis I was fatigued and my hair was thinning. It was fairly thick and just seemed to be coming out at a pretty rapid rate. I had a number of tests done but I was always in the normal range for thyroid levels. No one thought to look much further.
mK: Yeah, it’s always say it might be something else, “Thank God” they caught it! Why are you involved in cancer advocacy?
AP: Sharing experiences is powerful. Especially when something changes your life. It is important to connect with people about real issues and just relate with them.
mK: People need to know that life afterwards is not only possible, but people can thrive! What motivates you?
AP: Family, friends, and people motivate me. We have such limited time to experience and enjoy each other by making that time count.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
AP: Great question! Probably well over a year. I was so consumed with my now husband’s diagnosis I did the minimum for me to get myself through it. It took a long time to find our “norm” in the middle of all the chaos. It was nice to finally get there.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
AP: A good sense of humor or joke with friends makes me laugh, any movie that shows a real struggle can bring me to tears, and when people are ignorant and intolerant of actions that make other people feel badly, that makes me angry.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
AP: Hopefully more interesting things to come but I would say summiting Mount Hood in Oregon with First Descents. That program really opened my world to outdoor activities and pushed me to realizing what else I could do, even after a diagnosis.
mK: Cool! FD is AWESOME! What was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?
AP: Honestly, it was telling our friends and family about our diagnosis that was the toughest challenge. It just seemed so disappointing to bring this dark news with attention I didn’t want.
mK: OK, let’s get to know you… What is your guilty pleasure?
AP: Spending time with family and friends. And probably drinking wine!
mK: HAHAHA! Wine is in the Bible, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about it… j/k… Another weird question… If you could be reincarnated as any thing except another human being, what would you pick and why?
AP: Probably pick a turtle. They are pretty chill animals that live a simple life and seem like they have fun. Having a shell is also a plus!
mK: Michaelangelo always had fun! What do you like to do in your spare time?
AP: I enjoy running, biking, reading, volunteering and socializing in my spare time.
mK: Cool! What are you up to now?
AP: Working at a local health center trying to make an impact on our patient population base and getting involved in projects that are impactful to our community. And just trying to find ways to continue experiencing and living my life to the fullest. Nothing like an overwhelming situation to make you get perspective on your priorities.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
AP: This is not easy. Don’t feel bad about it. But take it in doses and rely on your family and friends as a network of support. You need them, no matter how independent you are. And make sure that as you go through your individual journey with this diagnosis, you let the people you love know you love them.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
AP: Keep on being awesome and kicking mAss! But seriously, it’s just so great to be part of a network of people who want to help out and be there for each other. Continue supporting great causes that are close to your heart and are meaningful for others. You never know what that could mean for the next person.
Thanks for doing this Ashley! Ashley Piaskowski: Out doors woman, turtle-lady, wine connoisseur, mountain climber, world traveler, cancer advocate, and great friend! We look forward to seeing what she does next. Check out the video from the 2014 trip to Singapore! The 2015 trip is in the works!