Four-year-old Ashley Allen has cleared the highest hurdle yet in her fight against brain cancer.
The Payson preschooler who's undergone two surgeries for brain tumors, more than two months of chemotherapy and grueling bone marrow transplants has been given a so-far-so-good bill of health following a critical Magnetic Resonant Imaging (MRI) scan of her brain.
"This was the real important MRI, and they found nothing at all," said Ashley's mother, Tracy Allen. "Her Tucson specialist will do another one in November, but he basically told me that if the tumor was going to come back, it probably would have come back by now."
Ashley was first diagnosed with a primitive ecto plasmic tumor near the rear lower interior of her skull last November. A few months after that lemon-sized tumor was removed, doctors found and removed one the size of a walnut from the rear upper part of her brain.
It was that aggressive recurrence that had the Allen family and Ashley's doctors worried about her latest test results.
"But when the MRI came back and was clear, it was such good news for all of us," Allen said.
If the MRI had found another tumor, Ashley would now be preparing for more bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy.
Instead, she's home playing with her brothers and dogs and bouncing back from the ordeals she's experienced thus far.
"I'm not a strong person, but I get strength from Ashley," Allen said. "She's so strong. I don't think I could do what she's done ... She has no fears, she doesn't have nightmares. She has actually made all of this easy or certainly easier than it could have been. She's an amazing child, she really is.
"Ashley is so in tune with what's going on ... she never questions any of this. And she knew the tumor hadn't come back before the MRI. I had been getting nervous, so I kept asking her if she thought it had come back, and she said, 'No, Mom, it's not back.' And then it wasn't.
"Could she really feel it? I don't know. But she says she could."
Although the tumor has not returned, it could still make a reappearance. Even if it doesn't, Ashley won't be declared completely out of the woods for at least another five years.
"But if the November MRI is clear, I think I'll be ready to let my guard down a little bit," Allen said.
"My husband, Frank, doesn't have his guard up at all, because he just believes she's going to be OK. He had a dream that he walked her down the aisle, and he just says, 'She's going to grow up and get married one day.'
"And Ashley talks about how she wants to be a pediatrician and have two kids and live in Scottsdale. She has all these plans, and she's not even 5."
All of these things are good signs, Allen said, but in this situation, there aren't enough good signs to totally alleviate a parent's worst fears.
"What scares me is, what if she gets sick again, and there's nothing they can do, and I have to tell her?" Allen said. "That's the thing that's hardest for me. I just hope that I'm wasting time thinking about things like that.
"But you know, there are people out there who are walking miracles. And who's to say that Ashley isn't going to be one of them?"
Anyone who would like to donate auction or raffle items to raise money to help offset Ashley's medical bills and other expenses can call Bobbi Hlavacek at 472-7498. Monetary donations can be deposited at Compass Bank, account No. 76206740.