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Modeling After Thyroid Cancer: The Reminder I Got From a Photo Shoot

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Ashley standing alone against a white wall looking and gesturing to the right
Photo by Elsa & Co. Photography

One year ago I was in between surgeries on my thyroid. I’ve thought a lot about the kind of person I’ve become since then.

I remember how terrible the lead up to the first surgery was — I was between finals, acting on set for a few student films and pretending nothing more stressful was going on in my life.

I remember the fear I felt after the first surgery, when I heard the right half of my thyroid was cancerous and how I’d need that second surgery to remove the other half, as well as a treatment of radioactive iodine.

Photo by Elsa & Co. Photography

I like to describe myself as an entertainer — I went to school for filmmaking but am constantly looking for opportunities to act, sing, model and perform. I was so worried when they sliced open my neck all of those opportunities would go away.

I was scared they would damage my vocal chords so I could never sing or project on a stage again. I was scared the scar on my neck would get me turned down for various modeling and acting opportunities. I was scared the dependence on medicine every day would prevent me from being able to make films in case I got too tired from needing to change doses based on my body’s needs.

This year has been a whirlwind. Last summer was a mix of constant fatigue and pain and having my body accept what is now the new normal.

Ashley looking off to the right and pulling on her hair wearing a mask
Photo by Elsa & Co. Photography

I made my way across the country to Los Angeles for my fall semester and managed (successfully) to take classes, hold an internship and explore a new place. This first step helped me realize that maybe I shouldn’t have been as fearful as I was.

At the beginning of 2016 I made my way to the Pacific Northwest and, even though I was still a bit tentative, decided I needed to pursue those things that made me happy. Armed with my supportive family, boyfriend and dog, I started throwing myself into every opportunity, and it helped, a lot.

I recently got some photos back from a shoot where that scared girl was able to show confidence and happiness. I was nervous my photographers would notice my scar, but instead I received compliments on my hair color and makeup application. No one mentioned the squiggle on my neck.  

Ashley fanning hair out surrounded by leaves
Photo by Molly Joy Photography

Those pictures reminded me how strong I am and how my battle scar shouldn’t and won’t stop me from achieving what I want to. Only my lack of trying can do that. I know dealing with this condition will be a life-long issue, but I can’t let that stop me from doing all the things I want to do. I refuse to let it.

Ashley holding hair in front of her face in front of flowers.
Photo by Molly Joy Photography
Ashley with closed eyes with a black background
Photo by Lenn Photography

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself in regards to a cancer diagnosis. What would you say or wish someone had told you? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

Originally published: May 18, 2016
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