This wasn’t the way a 16th birthday was supposed to be.
As Ashley Krueger sat with her parents watching TV at home at about 10 p.m., a call came in from her orthopedist—she had a very rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma, and was to report to All Children’s Hospital first thing in the morning to meet with an oncologist.
Up until that point, Ashley had been an active teenager, even participating in the Black Knight Raiders, a very physically demanding sport at her school, Sarasota Military Academy. One of her parents, Pat Myers, explained how it was that they discovered on Ashley’s 16th birthday that she was actually a very sick young lady.
“She was a Raider for a year and a half, and in October of 2010, she ran a couple of miles with a telephone pole across her shoulders,” Myers said. “Then in January, I saw a golf ball-sized lump on her shoulder blade.”
Your Turn To Help: Visit a yard sale benefiting Ashley from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Sarasota Military Academy Get Details Here.
Myers and Ashley’s other parent, Cindi Krueger, a nurse, took Ashley to her pediatrician who then referred her to an orthopedist. Tests were run, waiting was done and then the 10 p.m. phone call arrived. Ashley had Ewing’s Sarcoma.
According to information provided by the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, though Ewing Sarcoma occurs infrequently, it the second most common bone tumor in children.
“It most often affects bones of the pelvis, the tibia, fibula, and femur, and can also begin in the soft tissues,” the foundation’s literature states. “This disease most often occurs in adolescents, with nearly half of cases arising between the ages of 10 and 20.”
As it turns out, Ashley’s run with the telephone pole across her shoulders had something to do with the cancer, though it was not the cause. Myers believes that the heavy pole actually broke through a sac under the skin, exposing the cancer that was there.
Ashley’s oncology doctors at All Children’s Hospital are not allowed to speak directly about her case, but the hospital did offer an explanation that seems to go along with what Myers said.
“Similar to osteogenic sarcoma, trauma or injury is sometimes involved with the site at the time of diagnosis. However, this trauma is thought to bring the condition to attention rather than to have any causal relationship.”
After her diagnosis, Ashley began a grueling year of treatments. During that time of traveling back and forth from her North Port home up to St. Petersburg and spending so much time at All Children’s Hospital while receiving chemotherapy, an interesting thing happened—she developed a whole new set of friends, including an especially close one.
Tony Colton, a McIntosh Middle School student who just turned 13, was at All Children’s receiving treatments for Clear Cell Sarcoma of the kidney, a condition so rare that only about 20 children a year contract it.
“Through the treatments, we met Ashley and her family,” Tony’s mother, CJ Colton said. “They were in the hospital a lot together—she was 16 and he was 12.”
Myers says that when children are in the type of situation these two were in, they are naturally drawn together.
“Tony, Ashley and several of the other kids have been through the treatments together,” she said. “At that time, there were a lot of teenagers on the (hospital) floor. These kids have been through so much together that age doesn’t matter—the bonds are so much closer than the age.”
Because Tony and Ashley became close friends, it was particularly tough for Tony when this past winter, Ashley developed a massive tumor on her Thymus Gland, an organ that lies just beneath the breastbone.
“The tumor was six inches big and was resting on her heart,” Myers said. “It had adhered itself to her heart, so it was inoperable.”
It was then discovered that Ashley had developed T-Cell Lymphoma. This news has hit Ashley and her family especially hard because according to Myers, the All Children’s doctors are not quite sure how to treat this new development and have referred her to the staff at Moffitt Cancer Center. Ashley’s doctor at All Children’s is also affiliated with Moffitt, though, and is considered to be a premier expert in pediatric hematology/oncology.
Though Ashley’s family has medical insurance, it does not nearly pay for the astronomical costs incurred by the treatments and travel expenses. Enter her friend Tony, who has taken it upon himself to raise money for Ashley and her family to help offset some of their expenses.
“He did a car wash in the beginning of October and raised $1,254 for them during the four hours,” Colton said. “He has spoken at her school several times and this weekend, we’re having a huge yard sale at her school.”
Tony said that the news of Ashley’s new cancer was devastating to her at the time because she had just gotten her port out, meaning that she believed she was getting better. A port is the small appliance installed just under the surface of the skin through which chemotherapy is administered. He said that about two or three days after she was diagnosed, he decided he needed to do something to help her and her family.
“There are a lot of expenses in a hospital, and she’ll need a bone marrow transplant,” he said. “I decided to help her out with some of the funds. I’m only 13, but I know I can make a big difference.”
How big of a difference? Tony’s mother says that the Pediatric Cancer Foundation uses him to speak to 500 to 600 people at a time about his experiences battling cancer.
“He’s an amazing boy,” Colton said. “He talks in front of a thousand people and doesn’t bat an eye. And he’s handled (the cancer) very well—he has never asked ‘Why me?’”
For the record, Tony is doing very well. He’s not completely out of the woods yet, but so far, his three-month checkups have been great. Ashley, on the other hand, is still very sick and headed to Moffitt next week to meet with doctors who will try to come up with a new plan of action. In the meantime, Tony will be holding down the fort here, by trying to raise awareness for the disease that has touched both of them and funds for his friend and her family.
While Ashley is preparing to begin a new treatment program at Moffitt, she remains a ray of sunshine for her family and friends.
“She smiles, she’s positive and she doesn’t complain,” Myers said. “She’s a true stoic—she lets us do the worrying for her.”
If you would like to help:
- Get your bone marrow match tested. Ashley will need a bone marrow transplant, and she has an O-positive blood type and part-Cherokee Indian heritage.
- Attend the yard sale this Saturday at Sarasota Military Academy at 801 North Orange Avenue in Sarasota from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Colton says she has four PODS full of items for the sale.
- Visit the donation page for AshleyVthat Tony Colton set up and give as much as you can. No amount is too small. http://www.giveforward.com/ashleysjourney