Garrett fought cancer, thrives

Ashley Garrett struggled with osteosarcoma, but now enjoys life as a sophomore nursing major. | Photo by Anne Richoux

By Bryn Younger, Assistant Life Editor

Young people often see themselves as invincible. They think they are too young to get sick or for anything bad to befall them. Ashley Garrett, sophomore nursing major, learned the hard way at age 10 that perception is not necessarily true.

Garrett spent her adolescent years in Memphis as an active child heavily involved in gymnastics. Because of this involvement, she often incurred injuries.  Still, when a knot appeared on her left leg, her family took her to the hospital to be examined. Within days, Garrett had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and was sent to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis to be treated.

“It was a blessing the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else and the bone hadn’t broken, because that’s usually the only way they find it,” Garrett said.

After 12 rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to replace her tibia with a metal rod, Garrett was cancer-free. She then underwent a year of physical therapy to learn how to walk on her leg again.

After a routine surgery five years later to replace the metal rod in her leg, Garrett believed she was finished with this trial. But last March the metal rod snapped as she was walking back from class.

“There was no reason why,” Garrett said. “It just snapped in half.”

Not only did Garrett have to undergo another surgery, but she also missed one month of school. Once back at Union, she used a wheelchair and needed people with her at all times to help her get from one place to another.  Her roommate, McKenzie Dorris, sophomore math major, was someone who was constantly with her throughout the process.

“This experience has taught me more what it means to be a friend, in that when your friends go through difficult times, you go through it with them,” Dorris said.

Her Chi Omega sorority sisters also helped her out a lot, she said.

“She’s one of my good friends, so it wasn’t a question of whether or not I should get involved,” said Kelly Rawls, sophomore elementary education major. “She needed help and we were able to help her.”

Though surgery came as a shock, Garrett was still able to catch up and finish her freshman year.

Now, her past struggle with cancer and additional surgery is a lesson that she said she believes has  helped her grow as a   person.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without this experience,” Garrett said. “It has grown my faith, and it has taught me God is always in control, and nothing is too big for him.”

Through all of this, Garrett also has learned not to let hard things take over her life.

“Hearing Ashley’s story was so encouraging,” Dorris said. “Her life is an example of one who does not let her circumstances dictate her life, but rather faces complications head on, displaying that her confidence is in Christ and not her present       trials.”

Garrett said, “I have not let my cancer or my surgery define who I am. Yes, I have a metal rod in my leg, but I’m just like everyone else.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.