By Ashley Dedmon
(Blog Part 3)
Over time, my story has evolved from the hardest time of my life to discovering my life’s purpose. Only God knows my ending, and through His strength and my family’s support, I will continue to educate others and equip them with the tools and resources needed to make informed decisions regarding their health. My mother’s battle is my battle, so my daughters do not have to battle. I pray this genetic mutation ends with me, and I plan to LIVE and educate others along the way. If you have been blessed with the gift of knowledge and experience, you must gift it to others.?
From 2016 to the present, I have enthusiastically worked in my community as a Patient Speaker with Myriad Genetics, where I speak to physicians about the importance of genetic testing in their practices and other healthcare professionals on the importance of screening for family history. In this role, I enjoy speaking with survivors, fighters, and caregivers about genetic testing and reduce cancer risk for their family members and the next generation. I believe it is important to educate the next generation on the importance of personal and family health history, early detection, and self-care, to be equipped and empowered to make informed health decisions.
In 2018, I authored “The Big Discovery.” The story of a breast cancer diagnosis serves as an educational tool to assist families and children navigating through a breast cancer journey. I was inspired to write this after my journey as a young child with two parents with cancer, my own journey as a BRCA2 previvor, and a mom. This resource aims to help facilitate one of the most difficult conversations a mother could have with her children to help them understand the importance of early detection, testing, and a breast cancer diagnosis. The treatment process is introduced but is left open so families can navigate through their options and make informed decisions. “The Big Discovery” is a resource for non-profits, hospitals, and other cancer organizations. The book’s foreword was written by board-certified breast surgeon Sandra Templeton, M.D., of Houston Methodist Breast Surgery Partners.
In 2018, I was also asked to serve as a cancer research advocate. As a research advocate with Houston Methodist Research Institute, I work with researchers to ensure high-quality research that is sensitive to the priorities of cancer patients. I also aim to break down programmatic silos by identifying common themes, thorny issues, capacity building strategies, metrics and measurements, and new engagement models. There was a time I did not see myself in scientific research but I have developed an intellectual curiosity and the constant quest for medical cures and health equity in the African American population continues to drive me and my work. I serve on various health equity projects and committees, and I believe everyone deserves a chance at achieving optimal health and to do that, we must eliminate health inequities and health disparities. We must keep moving that needle!
I am an active member of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institute of Health (NIH) Physical Sciences-Oncology Advocacy Network, Texas Breast Health Collaborative, The National Breast Cancer Coalition, the Penn Medicine: Basser Center for BRCA Young Leadership Council. I actively volunteer with Susan G. Komen Houston on breast cancer projects and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) as a peer navigator.
In 2019, I delivered a TEDx Talk (The Generational Impact of Cancer: BRCA2+), where I discussed my family history of cancer, my experience as a young caregiver which led me to genetic testing, and the impact it had (and continues to have) in my life. I shared my most vulnerable thoughts after losing my mother, hearing of my father’s diagnosis, and finding out I was BRCA2 positive. I shared my ten years of aggressive monitoring and what led me to have a preventive double mastectomy and the emotional and mental impact it had on me (my womanhood, motherhood, my self-confidence, inability to breastfeed, intimacy, etc.). Finally, I discussed how I overcame the emotional and mental impact of my parent’s diagnosis, navigating through my own journey and how I have been positioned to Educate, Equip, and Empower others who have been impacted by cancer (fighters, survivors, previvors, caregivers, and supporters).?