“It was frustrated because I knew something was wrong with me.” Ayshford said. “These are all the symptoms of ovarian cancer, but I didn’t know that at the time.”
It’s not surprising that doctors didn’t immediately jump to ovarian cancer.
“It’s very rare for a teenage girl to get it,” Ayshford explained.
“Ovarian cancer can affect women of all ages. The risks increase as women age. The biggest percentage of women who get ovarian cancer are postmenopausal, 55 and older,” Gavin said.
“Aimee Jo has a type that is more prevalent with young women. It can be particularly challenging for young women. They feel alone.”
Last January, an ER doctor noticed Ayshford’s distended abdomen and felt a mass. Surgeons removed the fast-growing mass and one of her ovaries a week later.
She went through chemo but still attended school and participated in show choir. She was setting goals and making plans throughout treatment, family and friends say. She attended prom and tackled schoolwork. She even took part in the show choir’s performance in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry stage.
Family friend and show-choir mom Angie Rice helped Ayshford with hair, makeup and wigs for performances.
“She is super-positive and just honestly one of the sweetest, nicest girls,” Rice said. “For the people watching her go through, it was a humbling experience to see how she went through it with such humility and dignity — never asking for anything,”
Family, classmates, teachers and friends have rallied around her with a fundraiser and sitting with her during chemo sessions. Her brother and a dozen of his college friends shaved their heads when she lost her hair during chemo.
“Her collectedness was part of her coping,” Blake said. “She’s an amazing woman. At times, she was providing emotional support for other people. … She is terrific at advocating for others. My one prayer for her is that she’s able to advocate for herself emotionally.”
Ayshford said one of the hardest parts was slowing down and sitting around. She said she watched a lot of romantic comedies with happy endings, pinned ideas for her future life on Pinterest and focused on her relationships with friends and family. She still has one of her ovaries and her uterus, so her dream of one day having children is still intact.
“For a 17-year-old, she’s doing fantastic,” said her mom, Dianne Ayshford. “She’s had her moments of crying, but then she picks herself up.”
Dianne Ayshford said she supports her daughter’s decision to be a public face for ovarian cancer awareness.
“It’s good for her to talk about it and let other people, especially girls, know if you have all these symptoms, you should get it checked out. It’s not one of these cancers where you can get a test,” Dianne Ayshford said.
Ayshford has been cleared of cancer but is still dealing with some complications.
As she starts her senior year, she’s catching up on schoolwork and preparing for college visits and taking her ACT.
“I’ve learned so much about my life and myself,” Ayshford explained. “Even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, it will work out in the end.”