Some miracles last longer than others.
The most recent one experienced by Ashley Allen a brain scan that showed her "clear" of cancerous tumors was short-lived.
The Payson 4-year-old has now been found to have at least five new and inoperable tumors in her brain. Her doctors have estimated that, "at best," she has from four to six months to live.
"But it's never hopeless, because there can always be more miracles," said Ashley's mother, Tracey Allen. "That's what the neurologist said, even. And I believe in miracles. I mean, it's been a miracle that we could just bear everything that's happened so far."
Ashley, whose fifth birthday is Tuesday, was first diagnosed with a lemon-sized primitive neuro ectodermal tumor (PNET) near the rear lower interior of her skull last November. A few months after it was removed during a seven-hour surgery, doctors found and removed a second tumor the size of a walnut from the rear upper part of her brain.
Grueling chemotherapy treatments and bone marrow transplants followed. But it was the first and extremely aggressive recurrence that kept the Allen family and Ashley's doctors from breathing easily, even in the face of the "clear" Magnetic Resonant Imaging (MRI) scan of her brain that was taken Aug. 1.
The first sign of more trouble to come arrived two weeks ago Sunday, when Ashley suffered a seizure. A new MRI was taken, and a mass was found in her brain that was thought to be scar tissue from her surgeries.
The following Tuesday, the Allens returned to the Valley for an additional scan. Wednesday, they received a phone call from Ashley's neurologist, Allen said.
"He told me that they'd found a couple of little tumors that are inoperable because they're too small. Then he called Thursday and said it's worse than we thought. There are at least five tumors.
"I said, 'Tell me. What does this mean?' He said, 'It's grim. Four to six months, at best.' But they really don't know. They're just speaking statistically."
Tracey and her husband, Frank, are not banking on statistics, though.
"Our doctor has put us in touch with three top neurologists, one in San Francisco, one in L.A. and another in Maryland," Tracey said this week. We're going to send all of the MRIs to them and hope for a miracle. What else can I do? I don't want to have any regrets. I'll go anywhere for this little girl. I'll do anything for her.
"No, actually, we do have our limits. I'm not going to agree to anything where the chances of her becoming a vegetable are high. I wouldn't do that to her. I can handle anything, but I'm not going to make her life awful.
"I've always said that Ashley is in the hands of God. Whatever his will is, that's what will happen. I have to concentrate on the fact that I have four children that are alive right now. And if one has to go to heaven, then I thank God that he gave her to me in the first place."
Tracey Allen began to cry.
"But I ask God, 'Why did I get somebody so special that you need her back?' I think things like that. I'll always wonder what I ever did to deserve her in the first place. I still think she has special things to do in this world. She's just that kind of person. She's the brightest thing in my life. It's hard. It's so hard.
"But I accept whatever God has in store, because I trust him. I do. I trust him. And when I think of Ashley going to heaven, I get OK. I get peace.
"But I get so scared that I'm going to ruin my other kids' lives because I'll be so sad. I pray that God gives me the strength to be happy without her."
As her mother spoke, Ashley had been in another room, watching the Family Channel and playing with her brand new Yorkshire terrier puppy, Taco, whom she loves because "he's got really big ears," Ashley said.
But now the little girl as ridiculously cute, adorable and healthy-looking as ever, despite her chemotherapy-depleted head of hair had another activity in mind.
"Mom, I want a bath," she said, her arms loaded with floating toys.
"OK, sweetheart. I'll get one started for you. You know, Aunt Cindy's going to be here soon, and I think she's got presents for you."
"You know," Tracey said to her daughter, "a lot of people love you. Do you know that?"
Ashley didn't answer. Instead, she stared at the floor and pretended to be shy.
"Do you know that? Do you?"
Ashley could no longer keep up the act. She looked up. Her face broke into a huge smile.
"Yes, you do know," her mother said. "I can tell."
Monetary donations to help the the Allens can be deposited at Compass Bank, account no. 76206740.