This courageous mother is a living miracle. Being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer during her pregnancy, with faith and will to live on, she has survived and given birth to three adorable children!
Ashley Hallford, of Douglasville, Georgia, was pregnant for one month with her first child when she felt a bump on her neck in January 2007. It was first diagnosed as an infection that would disappear with antibiotics.
However, the “infection” didn’t disappear but grew bigger, and in November 2017, it became hard and painful. “What I could see was the size of a golf ball, on the front of my neck, right under my jawbone,” the mom told Today.
— People (@people) March 17, 2017
So Hallford went for a biopsy on Nov. 12, 2007, at 32 weeks into her pregnancy. It was determined to be stage 4 cancer.
Four days later, she was induced into labor at 33 weeks and gave birth to a baby boy named Harley, who was healthy and sent home two days after his birth. “The NICU doctor came in to see us, and he said that never in his career had he seen a 33-week term baby not go to the NICU, even for evaluation. That was just a miracle,” said Hallford, in an interview with Atlanta’s 11 Alive.
Soon after the labor, doctors removed a softball-sized tumor that had spread to her jaw. They removed a section of her jaw muscle and cut off a facial nerve.
Photo credit: Cassie Connelly Photography
Five weeks later, doctors told Hallford they still could not know what cancer she had. “We could not determine the origin of her tumor,” Dr. Debra Miller of Southeastern Medical Oncology Center, Jacksonville, North Carolina, said.
“Pathologists from all over the country studied the lump,” Hallford said. “They all agreed that it was a rare and very aggressive, possibly hormonally fueled cancer. But nobody could diagnose it.”
As Hallford had very bad headaches and double vision, she was scheduled for an MRI. After MRI checks, doctors found she had a brain tumor. Even scarier, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to her lungs and liver through a followup, full-body MRI.
Then, doctors decided to stop trying to determine what the cancer was, but instead, they began treating her, or “she’s gonna die.” Hallford began high doses of chemotherapy and radiation treatment in January 2008.
However, the cancer continued to spread. Hallford had innumerable tumors. Because the brain tumor had grown on her optic nerve, she lost vision in her right eye and could not open her right lid.
“That’s when they asked me to start taking pictures, videos and writing a journal for my son,” she said. But it was a difficult task for her at that time. “My handwriting was terrible and I could barely see.”
It was so tough that Hallford recalled: “I can remember begging God to let me die.” But even so, with the support of his family, church and community, she didn’t lose hope and continued fighting.
“In February or March 2008, at my church, they started praying and fasting, for the whole month,” Hallford said.
Before long, something miraculous happened. In July 2008, she took a scan that she thought would be her last one in her short life. But the result shocked everyone.
Her oncologist told her the cancer was in remission. “I was crying. I had hoped it would be positive news, but it was nothing short of miraculous,” said Hallford.
“Theoretically, with stage 4 cancer, you’re not curable,” Dr. Miller said to 11 Alive. Speaking to Today, Dr. Miller added: “Even now, it does seem to be miraculous. I think many factors, including prayers, played a role in her recovery.”
In early 2009, after undergoing six more months of treatment, Hallford was not only walking; her right eye also re-opened.
The couple wanted another child, but Hallford was unable to conceive because the radiation treatments caused her to go into full-blown menopause. Nevertheless, in 2012, another miracle happened—she was pregnant again!
“I was excited and at the same time really scared,” Hallford said. Suspecting that the cancer could have been hormonal as it occurred during her last pregnancy, she and her doctors feared the worst.
Fortunately, cancer did not recur throughout her pregnancy. She gave birth to a girl named Grace in October 2012. She was pregnant again a few years later and delivered a boy, Eli, on Jan. 20, 2017. “It doesn’t seem real,” Hallford told Today in 2017, alluding to the incredible journey in the past decade.
It was unbelievable to Hallford and probably everyone. The whole ordeal taught her to appreciate life. Having gone through all these ups and downs, she advised people to always remain positive.
“Doctors gave me a few weeks to live,” she said. “Don’t give up. I didn’t lose hope. Don’t ever quit fighting.”