A friendly smile and kind welcome is what many notice first about 20-year-old Ashley Entwistle, the newest face at Escape Salon & Tan in Stacy, Minn. However, it’s what’s behind her smile that makes her impressive. The second child born to Cody and Susan Entwistle of Forest Lake, Ashley was diagnosed with Desmoid Fibro Matosis, a rare form of cancer, at the age of 15. A sign from her grandmother above her closet door sums up her attitude about the situation: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Cancer didn’t stop Ashley Entwistle from moving through the chapters of her life with grace. She learned to endure circumstances, overcome obstacles, and live her life to the fullest every day. A dynamic and tenacious young woman this local lady is a survivor and a joyful inspiration. As she prepares to celebrate her third year of remission, she shares a bit of her journey.
“I was having trouble breathing during dance,” she recalled. “The doctors diagnosed me with asthma, but when I kept having troubles they did a chest x-ray.”
That chest x-ray revealed a basketball-sized tumor in Ashley’s chest.
“We didn’t know . . . we didn’t know what would happen,” she said.
The young dancer’s treatments started immediately. By the time her cancer was finished, Ashley had received three different types of chemotherapy: Tamoxifen & Sulidac, Vinblastine & Methotrexate, and Gleevec. While she was no longer able to fully participate in dance team, after her chemo treatment she did go to the school and sleep on the stage while the girls practiced their moves.
“It was hard (not being able to do what they were doing), but it was nice to be there. I like being around people even if I can’t be doing whatever they are doing.”
In addition to the chemo Ashley had two major surgeries. The first was in March 2009 in Minneapolis to de-bulk the tumor. The second happened January 2010 in New York. That surgery was to implant a radiation seed, but the tumor was still too large. Instead, a portion of the tumor was again removed; the radiation seed was not planted. The scars on her chest are noticeable in a t-shirt, and she tries not to let the people who stare bother her.
“Once at the state fair I could see everyone staring at me as they walked by, so I put my tank top straps up over my ears,” she giggled. Her sense of humor being one of her many attributes.
Cancer any time is not easy, but in high school – that must be so difficult. How did she do it?
She explained, “It was easier than people think. Everyone knew what was going on and seemed like a friend. I could bring a blanket and bucket to class.”
What an illustration that gives of the joy that comes from being a part of a loving and supportive community. Ashley’s dark days appear to be blessed with many moments of light.
One of her chemo treatments included 30 days of Proton Radiation in Houston, Texas. This treatment was very focused on Ashley’s tumor and the safe parameters around it. Her mother and father split the time with Ashley in Houston. While she and her mother stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, in the midst of chemo, Ashley realized what she wanted to do when she was done with high school.
“There was a day where all the moms, and me since I was the oldest of the kids in the house, got to go to a Michael Kemper Salon and get our hair done. We could get trims, cuts, styles – whatever. I got a trim and some bangs. To know how good it feels to get your hair done . . . I was pretty sick at the time; I was carrying around a bucket, and to get my hair done – if you look good, you feel good. Someone donated hair that day, too. It was an emotional experience for everyone to be able to do something for themselves.”
A news clip of that special day that started Ashley’s passion to become someone who helps other people can be found online: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/html5/video?id=7424901&pid=null§ion=null
After completing the Proton Radiation cycle, Ashley returned home with her parents to Minnesota. Her good friend Hannah threw her a 17th birthday party complete with a tumor piñata, and Ashley enjoyed a celebration with all of her friends from school.
Just before her 18th birthday, Ashley had a wish granted by Make-A-Wish: Her very own 14 foot 5-person pontoon boat to enjoy with friends and family.
After Ashley Entwistle graduated from Forest Lake High School in 2011, she went to the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis graduating in 2012. In addition to studying hair at the Aveda Institute, she spent two weeks at the National Laser Institute in Dallas, Texas studying skin care. Ashley now works full-time at Skin Medical Spa in Blaine, and part-time at Escape Salon & Tan in Stacy.
October 12, 2013 she and her parents participated in the first Desmoid Dash 5K helping to raise money so people don’t have to suffer from Desmoid Fibro Matosis, the same rare cancer Ashley faced. She explained on her Facebook, “It’s been a long four-and-a-half years worrying about my future health. I hope to someday have a cure so a young girl like I was doesn’t have to live with a scarred up chest and pain throughout daily activities.”
Ashley Entwistle’s dream is to one day work for a spa specific to servicing cancer patients. For now, she enjoys the variety of clients she has the opportunity to interact with in Stacy, where she spent some of her childhood years. A young woman who loves her nail polish and shoes, Ashley Entwistle also loves small towns, country music, hunting, fishing and the beauty of the people she’s surrounded by.
While speaking to Ashley about all she’s gone through, all she has learned and everyone who loves her, she gushed about the beauty and maturity of her younger sister, Brianna. Perhaps the younger sister learned from the older sister because Ashley herself seems to shine from the inside out. Preparing for the anniversary of her diagnosis date March 3rd, we congratulate Ashley on three cancer-free years, and wish her many, many more. How wonderful Ashley Entwistle is brave enough to share her journey with cancer continuing to raise awareness and give back what she can. How wonderful her clients have her to consult when it comes to conquering beauty obstacles. And to think, her passion for her career began with one salon giving back to one group of individuals facing difficult times. What a gift.