EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- Every month on the 13th day, we're sharing the stories of those affected by cancer; it’s a collaboration between WEAU 13 News and Marshfield Clinic Health Systems. This October, we’re sharing the story of a local first grade teacher who found a new sense of confidence, overcoming breast cancer.
“Once you get the mammogram and get an ultrasound and put the radiologist on the phone and you hear the word ‘cancer,’ you’re life changes immediately.”
March 22nd, 2017, a life-changing phone call sent Karisa Ashland into shock.
“I was the one that did the monthly exams, I did the yearly mammograms, I exercise, I tried to eat right, there was no family history,” Karisa said. “So when you hear that, you're shocked. You don't want to believe it, yet you have to.”
But after finding a lump during an at home monthly exam, Karisa, a local first-grade teacher and mom of two, had to turn her fears into a fight.
“Pink wasn't a favorite color, but I always say pink is one of my favorite colors now,” she said. “That was another thing, I always wore pink to chemo.”
One out of eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Karisa's diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer led to 16 rounds of chemo, a single mastectomy and 25 rounds of radiation; forcing her to find strength, in what she knew she could.
“This is a saying we kind of live by, "whenever you don't understand what's happening on in your life, just close your eyes, take a deep breath and say, "God I know it is your plan, just help me through it."
Of course, she had her family right by her side. She’s standing strong as a role model for her two girls.
“Nobody wants their mom to go through this or worry about their mom. They were amazing, they were my rock; my whole entire family was.”
But aside from the physical and mental toll, Karisa also found her battle to be a social disposition.
“They would kind of give you three looks. They would not look at you, they just didn't want to make eye contact with you, like ‘oh there’s something wrong;’ or they’d give you that pity look, like ‘oh poor you;’ or that person that has been through it and they give you that look, like ‘you go this.”
And that's a message Karisa is hoping to build others up with.
“Hair is hair and it grows back. It might not look the same, but in the whole big picture you have to realize, you survived this, you can do anything.”
Karisa is back at work teaching now and with a new level of confidence.
“Do I want to do this again, absolutely not, but could I do it again, absolutely.”
Reminding others and inspiring them to stay strong.
“Do your annual mammogram. Do not push it off. It’s so important and your monthly self-exams, that's how I caught the lump I had. It was in the shower doing a self-exam. I can’t stress that enough to get those yearly mammograms.”
Karisa will most likely not hear the words cancer free for 7-10 years, as doctors say she is disease free at this time. Right now she has blood work done every three months to make sure it doesn't come back. Karisa continues to stay strong, stressing her message of getting your regular checkups.
This story is sponsored by Marshfield Clinic Health System.