Sister's Six-Year Anniversary

On August 4th, 2006, my older sister, Brittany, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a type of cancer that happens from the spread of disease from one lymph node to another. Brittany was just going to be a sophomore in high school when she was diagnosed. In the spring of her freshman year, she developed a really bad cough which everyone thought was just a typical cold. She started to lose her appetite with every meal, but my parents forced her to eat anyway. Lastly, she had trouble breathing, which her doctor thought was just asthma.

In the summer of 2006, my family rented a Cape house for the month of July to be near our family friends. Brittany felt so sick the whole month and had to stay at the house while the rest of us sat on the beach, went boating, took trips to Martha's Vineyard, etc. She started to get worse and worse. It got really bad on the last day of renting our Cape house, so my parents decided to take her the doctors once again, even though they had already taken her so many times, because they knew something was seriously wrong. Brittany's doctor said she would need to go get a chest x-ray at a hospital, so she did. The hospital then took an x-ray and decided she needed to stay overnight at Children's Hospital in Boston. Brittany had to stay overnight at Children's because of the results of the chest x-ray; her lungs were filled with fluid, which was why she had a horrible cough, lost her appetite, and couldn't breathe.

The night of August 4th was when she was diagnosed and the night I found out. I was only going to be in fourth grade, so I didn't really know what cancer was at the time or what the dangers of it were. My parents had to constantly be at the hospital, so my twin sister and I spent most of the month of August at my parents' friends' Cape house going on their boat, using their jet skis, shopping, etc. Brittany came out of the hospital a month later.

via Instagram - the day Brittany (in between my parents) came home from the hospital. This was before she started chemotherapy.

That whole year was really hard for our family. My mom had to take Brittany to the Jimmy Fund every Friday for chemotherapy and eventually radiation. Every Friday, Emily (my twin sister) and I would walk to our family friend Kathy's house (she is the one whose Cape house we stayed at in August; her and her husband live three houses down from us) every Friday, who would then bring us to school because she was the nurse at our elementary school.

Out of those nine months that Brittany had cancer, the worst time was when she had to get her hair cut. It was September, and the chemotherapy caused her hair to fall out. It got worse and worse as the month went on, and her hair was eventually falling out in chunks. My parents couldn't stand to see her so upset anymore about her hair, so they thought the best thing for her to do was get it cut. When Brittany went to get her hair cut, obviously everyone in the hair salon could tell what was going on with Brittany. As the hair dresser was cutting her hair, everyone in the hair salon started to cry. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. There wasn't one person who didn't feel upset or moved by this. It was incredible. Brittany didn't lose all of her; she had a pixie-type hair cut, but her hair was rather thin and wispy. That's why she ended up getting a wig and used it every day throughout her sophomore year.

Even though those were the hardest times my family has ever been through, it really showed us such amazing friends and family we have. A couple of our family friends set up a "food chain" where people signed up to cook dinner for us different nights because obviously my parents didn't have the time to cook dinner. Over forty families and friends cooked dinner for us, so people came each night with food and dessert. It was actually pretty exciting because we would always wonder who was going to come and what they made for us. Our family and friends were always willing to help us during that time.

So now that I've shared that whole story, I'll let you know why today is so important. On May 17th, 2007, Brittany was announced cancer-free. That day was probably the best day of my family's lives. So much stress, worry, and sadness was lifted from us that day. We celebrate this day every year by going out to dinner. Even though Brittany is cancer-free, there is still a chance that her cancer could come back sometime in her life, but we pray that it doesn't.

At twenty-two years old, Brittany is now a beautiful, grown woman. She graduated from UMass Amherst last Saturday (as shown in the picture above), and I couldn't be more proud of who she has become. She attended the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, and she now has a job that she'll be starting in October 2013 as a tax accountant for Ernst & Young (where she'll be making big bucks!!!)! Brittany's experience affected her deeply, but she didn't let it get in the way of achieving goals and accomplishing great tasks. I love you, Britt!


  1. Ashley, this post was so sweet and touching. I might have even shed a tear or two :) I'm so happy that your sister is doing better, and that she has been able to achieve her dreams! What a great story!

  2. Ashley,
    This is so wonderful :) I'm so happy for you and your family, what an incredible thing to overcome! You must be so proud of your sister and what a fighter she is :) Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching story, it honestly made my day a little better, and made me more grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones.

    1. Aw, thanks V! We're all so proud of her. I'm glad it made your day a little better :)

  3. Love love love this! Proud of your strength girly!!
    Love you!!!

  4. Ashley, this is so inspiring! I'm so proud of you and your family!


  5. Just found your blog through Quincy Bulin - reading this I was tearing up. I go to UMass Amherst too!

    1. Aw I'm glad my story made you tear up! That's so cool that you go to UMass Amherst :)