We All Have A Part To Play

ANC is an important medical term in cancer:  Absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is a measure of the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights against infection.  A normal ANC is above 1,500 cells per microliter. An ANC less than 500 cells/µL is defined as neutropenia and significantly increases the risk of infection.  The bone marrow is where all white blood cells are produced.

Looking back in time I am absolutely amazed at Ashtyn’s circumstances prior to being hospitalized. A few weeks before getting admitted to the hospital, Ashtyn did feel sick.  Mostly she was just tired. Very tired.  But she tried to go about her normal activities.  Though she missed over a week of school, she continued going to church on Sundays, piano on Mondays, youth group on Tuesdays, and family parties.  On January 19th, 1 ½ weeks before diagnosis, she felt awful but insisted on me taking her to the L.D.S Draper temple with Chandler to do baptisms for the dead.  The day before going to the hospital she went to the humanitarian center with her youth group.  Ashtyn also attended school the day she went to the hospital and had plans to clean a neighbor’s house the following day.  She had the strength within to push through extreme fatigue to accomplish the things she wanted.

Why is this so remarkable?  Several reasons.  The day she went to the hospital Ashtyn’s ANC was 200.  Two Hundred!!!!!!  Cancer patients aren’t allowed to leave their room without a mask with an ANC that low.  They aren’t allowed home until their ANC is at least 500 because of the likelihood of infection, and even then they aren’t allowed to go to school or church for fear of exposure to illness.  Ashtyn came to the hospital with an extremely low white blood cell count but wasn’t sick with any “normal” illness.  I have no doubt it was a complete miracle that she didn’t come in with pneumonia, the flu, or some life-threatening illness from public exposure.  Her entire school was riddled with illness.  Morgan was even home sick with a severe sore throat.  What a blessing it was to be able to come into the hospital and be able to tackle the diagnosis of leukemia without the complications of having to battle a difficult infection.  When Ashtyn was admitted to Primary Children’s they immediately put her on the immunocompromised floor to protect her from infection.  She was also given 2 units of red blood cells because her hematocrit was so low.

How was she functioning at home with such low white and red blood cells?  And how on earth was she not sick with an additional illness?  Total Miracle.

Ashtyn has been on chemotherapy now for 9 days.  Chemotherapy kills cancer cells as well as fast growing cells.  This means that chemo harms cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract, and hair follicles.

It isn’t a coincidence that the day after Ashtyn visited her siblings she started feeling the effects of chemo.  Chandler, Morgan, and Ethan needed the image of Ashtyn being healthy and comfortable so they could envision that through the difficult times.  Today Ashtyn began showing signs of the effects the chemo is having on her body.  Her ANC is 0.  She has no ability to fight infection. Throughout the day I worried that she might be coming down with an infection.  Her temperature was slowly rising and it just didn’t feel right.  By 8 pm she was 100.5.  The doctors treat for infection when her temperature reaches 101.  She also had a nosebleed today due to her low platelets and had a platelet transfusion.  Her mouth has become extremely sore over the last 16 hours with the start of mucositis which is also affecting the lining of her throat.  It is difficult for her to swallow and is painful to eat.  She drank a Slurpee and threw the entire thing back up.  With all the things she is dealing with, she stayed strong today and tried so hard to stay positive.  In the evening, though she wasn’t feeling very well, she addressed all her valentines for her 6th grade class.  Ashtyn decorated her own Valentines Day box for school earlier this week.  She worried that her classmates would forget to give her Valentines cards since she won’t be there.  Ashtyn asked me to email her teacher and make sure they don’t forget her.  Though I knew she wouldn’t be forgotten, I sent her teacher an email anyway.

Ashtyn Making Valentines Day Cards For Her Class

Ashtyn Making Valentines Day Cards For Her Class

Ashtyn hasn’t been losing much hair yet.  She did stand in front of the mirror today and while holding her hair back, picturing herself bald, she cried. “I don’t want to lose my hair.  I will be so ugly.”  “Ashtyn, when you are bald you will be stunning.  Everyone will be amazed at your glow and beauty.  When you are told how beautiful you are, people won’t be saying it just to be nice, they will mean it.  But you won’t see it.  Over time I hope that you do.”

Ashtyn is currently on quite a few medications.  She takes medicine at least every 2 hours throughout the day and night. She is coming to the end of taking her three different chemotherapy drugs (doxorubicin, cytarabine, and etoposide).  Other drugs include “Voriconazole” a prophylactic antifungal medication, “Septra” a prophylactic antibiotic,  Colace to keep her bowels moving, mouthwash to help with mucositis in the mouth, eye drops to prevent infection in the eyes.  Zofran, Benadryl, Phenergan, and Ativan for nausea.  Oxycodone and morphine for mouth and throat pain.  I am so grateful for all the medications that play a part in helping her get better.

At 8 pm Ashtyn’s Bishop and Stake President came to visit.  Before leaving they asked Ashtyn if she wanted a priesthood blessing.  She accepted.  They put their hands on her head and the Stake President gave her a blessing.  The blessing started out sounding generic to what she was in need of.  He blessed her that the doctors would be inspired to treat her properly and that she would have peace.  Soon though the blessing didn’t seem generic to me anymore.  His voice changed and with power he said,  “I command these infections and illnesses to leave your body.”  He proceeded to bless her with the ability to tolerate everything in her future.  She will feel pain and discomfort, but blessed her that she will never have more than she can bear.  Afterwards I asked him what he thought when he commanded her illness to leave.  He didn’t remember what he had said so didn’t know what it meant.  But I knew exactly what he meant.  Of course she still has cancer.  That wasn’t what he commanded to leave.  I believe she did have an infection of some sort, and whatever infection she had was healed using the power of God.  By midnight her temperature had stopped climbing and instead had come down from 100.5 to 99.5.

I believe everyone has a part to play in helping Ashtyn, and each individual’s role, whatever that may be, cannot be filled by someone else.  It truly is an orchestra with all “instruments” needed.  As her church leaders left I asked them if they would please keep her in mind.  If they ever feel to come and visit her, to do so right away.  If ever an impression comes to mind concerning Ashtyn, to please act upon it.  I am asking the same from Ashtyn’s Army.  If you ever feel to say a prayer, or share her story, or write a note, or send an encouraging letter, email, thought, or quote, please do so.  If you are inspired to write a song, or poem, or help my family and Ashtyn in any way, I ask you to not ignore your intuitions.

Before going to bed Ashtyn had tears in her eyes and with the most sincere and tender voice she said, “Thank you mom for staying in the hospital with me. I know you’d rather be home.”  “Ashtyn, there is nowhere I’d rather be than with you.”  Surprised, she asked, “Really?”  “Really.”
And that is the truth.

Ashtyn woke up at 2:30 am in quite a bit of pain in her mouth and throat.  The only thing she could manage to say was, “Mom, can you get on facebook and tell everyone to pray for my mouth so I can eat tomorrow?”   She has faith in God and in her Army.  So do I.

After Another Days End

After Another Days End

Join the discussion 28 Comments

  • Leslie Borzea says:

    I have been following your blog faithfully and am absolutely amazed at all of your courage and strength…especially Ashtyn. You all are in my thoughts more than not and I know that you all will make it through this! Ashtyn is a fighter and she refuses to give up!…and that is incredible! Keep your heads held high! You all are very strong and inspiring.

    <3

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Leslie! Ashtyn is fighting through a difficult day with strength and courage because of the support she is receiving. Thank you!

  • Tara Mogle says:

    Ashtyn,

    I have thought a lot about you this past week. My son has a brain tumor and had to do a year of chemotherapy. I just want to remind you that, you can do hard things. Being sick is not fun, being in the hospital gets boring, it all just seems so yucky….but I know that Heavenly Father knows you. He knows your parents, and brothers and sister. He knows that you can do this. He is watching over you and will help you through every step of your journey. You will come out of this cancer experience a better person. You will have more love and compassion for life than you ever thought possible. I know that that having cancer is hard and there are lots of hard things that come along with it but keep trusting in your Heavenly Father. There are so many people, strangers like me, who are praying for you. We are thinking of you and want more than anything for you to feel that. You can do this girl!
    much love from a stranger in St. George,
    Tara Mogle

  • Addi Hewlett says:

    This story is so moving. It truly touches my heart. How your daughter and whole family can be so strong through all this is beyond me! I look up to you and have never even met you! I am one Brittany Delgado’s friends and stumbled upon your story through Facebook. I am just so touched. I would love to send your daughter a card, where should I address it to?

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you so much Addi! You can send it to Primary Childrens Hospital addressed to Ashtyn Poulsen 4th floor ICS room 4415.
      Thank you for thinking of us.

  • Sarah McCown says:

    Beautiful Ashlyn,
    I want you to know, I think of you everyday and evening! You are in my heart, thoughts and prayers constantly! I know you don’t remember meeting me. Your brother and my son, Joe Juliano played football together a few years ago. I got to know your mom a little bit at practices/games. I thought then, what a cool mom she is! I cry everytime I read your blog, when I finish reading my spirit is touched and my heart is full! I am so glad you you have your, very cool mom! She and your family love you very much! You are so Beautiful, and have enormous courage! I feel blessed to be in your army!

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you so much Sarah for your very kind words. That was a fun football season with some great memories 🙂 Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Thank you so much for reading her blog and for your families support. It means so much!

  • Rachel Eckman says:

    Ashtyn-if you ever need a prayer just ask…me and my family would be happy to pray for you any time, any place, any where! I thought it was cute, the other day for dinner my middle daughter, Whitney (12) said the blessing but forgot to ask a blessing for you. My youngest, Chase (8) chastised her for forgetting! You have so many people pulling for you and praying for you who don’t even know you….remember that when things get tough. And remember my favorite saying…I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it! It’s gotten me through my rough times, even when I had thyroid cancer!

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Rachel!
      I hope you are also following Ashtyn on facebook under Ashtyn’s Army. I will be posting there her specific prayers she will need daily.
      We appreciate your families love. Tell Chase thank you so much for not forgetting Ashtyn and thank Whitney for her sweet prayers as well.

  • Joe Julilano says:

    hey 🙂 you probly don’t remember me but i was on your brothers football team i was just hoping you’d be alright I will try to send you somthing! im really sorry for what’s been happening lately and I just want you to know I’m here for you! and so is your army!!! 🙂

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Joe! Ashtyn needed those encouraging words today. She would respond herself but doesn’t feel well enough. Thank you for being a part of Ashtyn’s Army!

  • Ashtyn,
    You are the most sweetest girl I know!! And I don’t even know you all the way yet!! I am still getting to know you!! I read your blog everyday!! I wish I had a Facebook so that I could pray for you on what you most need!! I will be getting one in less then a month!! Every night when I say my family prayers, my family always forgets to pray that Ashtyn will get better, so when the prayer is over, I tell my family that they forgot you!! I always pray and think about you 24/7!! I have told all of my closest friends that you need more prayers and a bigger army, my friend Brynlee is now reading you blog with me!! We all love you and wish you the very best!!
    Question: When can I visit?

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Kira! Ashtyn was hoping to respond to messages today but doesn’t feel well at all. Thank you so much for not forgetting her in your prayers. Thank you for reading her blog and being such a support.

  • Lacey Warren says:

    You don’t know me and somehow I feel like I know you. Ashtyn you are in my prayers, thoughts and heart. You and your family are very strong and can get through anything you just keep your pretty head up.

    • Suzanne says:

      Lacey, thank you. We know each other in spirit. We are all on this earth together doing the best we can and that common ground help us feel like we know each other 🙂 Thank you for thinking of Ashtyn.

  • Laura Axtman says:

    Hi Ashtyn,
    This is Laura Axtman. I have been following your story since Sunday! I don’t know if you remember me, but I was your kindergarten teacher. You are the most beautiful, wonderful, sweet, and happy little girl. I am astounded by your extreme strength and your families love that shines through in each and every post. Sometimes I am having a bad day, but honestly I reflect on the strength you are demonstrating. I remember you as a little girl Ashtyn and I can say that I know you were one strong little lady, I am sure you are just as strong willed today! My family keeps you in our thoughts and prayers each and everyday. Thank you for the continued updates on this blog and Facebook, I read and reread them everyday.
    Love, Mrs. Laura Axtman

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Mrs. Axtman,
      I just read your post to Ashtyn. Of course she remembers you 🙂 She can’t talk much because of how painful it is to talk but your words made her smile. Thank you for reading her blog and staying updated. Thank you for your support and showing Ashtyn you care.

  • Carol Bee says:

    A good friend of mine, who has been responsible for raising money for the little girl whom Justin Bieber sang to before his concert here in Salt Lake, told me that the original Jolley’s Pharmacy has something which helps with the sores in the mouth. Hope this might help.

  • Jessica Mills says:

    Suzanne, I love your blog. I love your updates, they are always very powerful and touching. Can’t wait for your baby to feel better!!!! XOXOXO

  • Misti says:

    What an amazing family. Ashtyn, you are in our prayers. We are grateful to share this journey with you through this blog and are now proud to be part of your army. You are never alone.

  • Michelle Wood says:

    Suzanne, Ashtyn and family- I’m so amazed by your strength and example. I know I don’t know Ashtyn personally but I have included her in my prayers. Thank you for your faith and know that I am thinking and praying for you. Loves:)

  • Tessa Halley says:

    Hi Ashtyn, it’s Tessa from school. How are you feeling? I wish you where back at school, we all miss you. You always seemed to bring a smile to everyones faces. Hope you like the valentine treats. See you soon,
    Sincerely,
    Tessa Halley
    (a.k.a. Tessa from school)

  • Ellyson Bee says:

    Hey Ashtyn we got your Valentine’s thanks to Morgan the messenger. She came on the intercom and left an announcement that your valentines box is in the front of the office and that if people want to leave a valentine in it they can. We miss you at school and Amelia H. and I made up a pretend Ashtyn to fill in your chair for you when you are not there. Don’t worry we didn’t have P.E. yesterday because Devin’s dad talked to us about lacrosse but I would rather have played dodgeball or Pacman. Trust me you aren’t missing anything in school just word study, social studies, science, and the most boring of all MATH! (boring, boring, boring, and boringest. All of us at school wish you were here and hope that you will punch cancer in the gut and kick it in the face. Sephora says that she misses you and hope that you will get better as soon as possible. We all say HI!!!!!!!!

  • steph says:

    Im grateful for young spirits that keep me inspired! Im grateful that the power of the savior is being shared thru an amazingly strong young woman! Im touched by her simpleness and trust in the Lord! Thank you for the continued fight and sharing w all of the world the empowerment one young woman gives and shows!

  • […] is her temperature is a natural response to the chemo and mucositis.  Referring back to my post “Nowhere I’d Rather Be” I shared,  “ I believe she did have an infection of some sort, and whatever infection she had […]

  • Amy says:

    Ashtyn,
    You and your family are in my prayers. Losing your hair is the easiest part of this whole cancer thing! When you don’t have hair, people notice your eyes. The shower feels good on a bald head. Showering is faster and easier without hair. There are no more bad hair days. And when it starts growing back (my hair is about 1/4″ long now), it is great to rub your fuzzy head.
    I pray that you get relief from your mouth pain, and that you will have the strength you need to go on this journey. It is obvious the Lord is with you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Abigail Yeh says:

    Ashtyn I am sorry I haven’t talked to you lately, I just can’t accept that you have to go through all of this. I try to avoid reading this website because I every time I read it I can’t help but burst into tears. But your own words Ashtyn, have given me hope. I know you will come out stronger and braver than ever before. I love you and miss you so much! I know you will make it with everyone’s prayers, God’s help, and your hope to hang in there knowing you will conquer this awful disease. Love, Abigail <3

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