REMAINING POSITIVE IN THE PLIGHT OF MS
In 2012, at just 28 years of age, Ashley was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). This was after a series of misdiagnoses starting in 2009 when vision in her right eye disappeared and was initially characterised as a retina issue.
"I saw tonnes of specialists and one of my ophthalmologists said to me, 'Maybe let's not rule out MS because optic neuritis can be a symptom of that'," Ashley tells Peninsula Living.
"I got the MRI results and it came back there were lesions in my brain that were specific to MS," she continues. "Then they did the lumbar puncture [spinal tap procedure) and that confirmed it was MS."
MS is a disease of the central nervous system that interferes with nerve pulses within the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, and at present there is no known cure. The disease affects more than 23,000 people living in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
"Right now, I can't feel my fingertips on my left hand," she reveals. "The right side of my body feels almost cold because of the numbness."
Having no hereditary links to the disease, the final diagnosis came as a shock to the 33-year-old and the rest of her family.
The Freshwater local led a very active lifestyle before her symptoms began to show.
"I used to do a lot of running," she reflects. "I used to run every morning on the beach and I can't do that anymore."
Seeing Ashley is Canadian and living in Australia as a temporary resident awaiting approval on her visa application, she Is not entitled to any available government subsidies.
Therefore, Ashley is attempting to raise the $120,000 needed for a hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) -a potential treatment for MS currently in its clinical trial stages that has had promising results.
"One girlfriend of mine got accepted to do a trial In Australia," she tells Peninsula Living. "It's almost like her MS has now completely disappeared. "It's the closest thing that they have right now to a cure," Ashley adds.
"Your body goes through five to seven days, five to eight hours of chemotherapy. They wipe [the stem cell memory] clean to be reprogrammed. The results are amazing," she explains.
Hugo's Manly ran a fundraiser for Ashley on May 31, World MS Day, donating more than $4,000 of their tips and profits to her cause.
"We're thinking about doing a charity run or a swim once it gets warmer and I also want to do a bigger event in November this year, so we're going to start planning for that," Ashley says.
However, the peninsula local reveals, since being diagnosed with MS, some aspects of her life have changed for the better.
"My outlook on life has altered in the sense that my denial has over time disappeared, and I am actively taking control of my life and health. I try to always keep a positive outlook and am always conscious of how I can help my mind and body heal.
"This disease has taught me to channel my focus and gratitude towards the good things that have happened, how fortunate I am in all that I have accomplished, and for the good things that are yet to come."