My name is Emily Kujawski Birkl, and I am the sister of a strong woman named Ashley Embrey. She has given me permission to tell her story in an effort to lighten the burden that she will inevitably face with medical bills, and to also shed light on the fact that cancer can occur in seemingly healthy, young women.
I’ll begin by going back 10 years, when Ashley was 25 years old and a young mother to my 2 nephews,Darren and Jayden, who were 2 and 6 at the time. My sister found a lump in her breast during a self exam. She decided to tell her physician who then ordered a mammogram. The lump looked suspicious, it was biopsied and subsequently was found to be cancerous. Ashley had to undergo surgery to remove the cancerous tumor (lumpectomy) and went through grueling chemotherapy and radiation.
Since 2010, my sister has had yearly mammograms to detect any cancer recurrence. Everything had been clear for 10 years. But as a cancer survivor, the thought of it returning was always in the back of her mind.
In June of this year, Ashley went in for her yearly mammogram and got the call that every cancer survivor fears... they found something on the mammogram and needed to look at it further with a biopsy. We found out Ashley had breast cancer, again. We all were crushed. My sister decided to have both breasts removed and proceeded with a total mastectomy on July 27th, 2019. During that surgery, they removed a small portion of a lymph node to test for cancer cells. As with the first breast cancer, the lymph nodes were negative. Ashley was told she didn’t need chemotherapy and needed to continue her Tamoxifen. Ashley was doing surprisingly well after the surgery and things were starting to slowly return to normal.
Then, she suddenly became very sick with what seemed to be an upper respiratory virus/pneumonia. Ashley went to urgent cares and was put on multiple rounds of antibiotic therapy as well as steroids with little to no improvement. Finally, Ashley decided to go to the ED. There, they ordered a CT scan of her chest, which showed a lung nodule. She was advised to follow up very soon with her oncologist for a repeat CT, which she did, and the lung nodule remained, but this time looked even more insidious.The oncologist recommended a biopsy of the lung nodule...
My sister was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic cancer. The cancer from her breast has spread to her lung.
Ashley now has a long, treacherous road in front of her. She will need a PET scan to rule out any other sites of metastasis. She will also most likely undergo lung surgery with a cardio-thoracic surgeon to remove the cancerous area. She most likely will have to go through chemotherapy again. We will know more in the weeks to come.
My sister is a strong, resilient woman whose strength is nothing short of amazing. With the support of her wonderful boys, her loving boyfriend Steven, family, and friends, we will support her as much as humanly possible.
Thank you for supporting my sister during this difficult time in her life. With your support, it will alleviate the financial burden with all of the tests, scans, procedures and surgeries she may incur.
- Jo Ann Kujawski
- carol fortune
- Cindy Tignor
- Janice Hollan