‘I get to be me again’
When Ashley Benoit learned she had breast cancer at just 24 years old, she turned to M Health Fairview for expertise, compassion, and hope

Name: Ashley Benoit
Diagnosis: Invasive carcinoma breast cancer
Care team: Anne Blaes, MD, M Health Fairview oncologist and researcher at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota; Todd Tuttle, MD, M Health Fairview surgical oncologist and Regis Chair for Breast Cancer Research at the U of M Medical School

Her mindset at diagnosis: “It was a shock. Cancer in my family wasn’t really a thing. Why would cancer be something I even considered? I had this diagnosis, but I didn’t feel any different. I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t look sick. The idea of being defined by this disease was hard to accept. As I shared my diagnosis with other people, the thing I would always say was, ‘No matter what happens, I need you to treat me the same as always, because I’m not going to be defined by this. I’m still Ashley, and I want you to treat me that way.’”

Her first impressions of Anne Blaes, MD: “She made me feel like a priority. She made me feel like my story mattered, and she really listened to me and listened to what I wanted to take place. I remember feeling safe with Dr. Blaes.”

On fears about life after treatment: “At that time, I had dreams of getting married and having a family one day. And when you have cancer, it’s easy to think that those dreams and plans aren’t going to happen. I remember that being such a huge fear for me and thinking that this is something that, whoever I marry, I’m going to have to share with them … that I might not be able to give them biological children because a sickness that I didn’t have control over took that from me.” 

On fertility preservation: “I decided to harvest my eggs, and Dr. Blaes walked me through the entire process. Being able to rely on that hope and knowing that I could still be a mother in the future, that was very encouraging for me and filled me with confidence going into a relationship with my now husband.”

What she remembers from her final round of chemotherapy: “I remember leaving the hospital and playing the Destiny’s Child song ‘Survivor’ and feeling like I was on top of the world. I was blaring it from my phone as they wheeled me out in my wheelchair. I remember thinking, ‘OK, this is done. This is a chapter I get to close, and I get to be me again.’ I will always love that song!”

On life today: “Earlier this year, I did my annual checkup with Dr. Blaes in June, which put me at seven years in remission. It was such a special appointment because [my husband, Derrick, and I] got to bring our daughter, Jane, with us to meet Dr. Blaes. It really felt like a full-circle moment—being able to consider the past and look ahead to the future.”

Research allows people like Ashley to live full lives after cancer treatment. Make a difference with a gift to the Breast Cancer Innovation Fund.

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