Ashley V: a Portrait of Courage

Navigating the pivotal journey from the moment of diagnosis of Breast Cancer, Ashley V's story emerges as a beacon of resilience, guiding through the intricate paths of the disease. As she navigated the twists and turns of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, her narrative transcends mere survival, embracing profound courage and self-discovery. With each step, Ashley confronts the darkness of illness and unearths the radiant spirit within herself, casting aside fear to embrace a new chapter of strength and celebration. Join us as we share the transformative narrative of Ashley V, where every moment becomes an affirmation of hope and every challenge a testament to the unwavering power of the human spirit.

We felt it important to share Ashley's story and she so graciously agreed. In doing so we came up with a series of questions that we hope will serve as inspiration for anyone who finds themself on a similar journey. In her words, Ashley shares her truth in detail about her life-changing diagnosis.


  • There are so many versions of cancer.  Can you share your diagnosis?  

I had estrogen receptor-positive invasive ductile carcinoma of the breast. It was grade 3, which is an aggressively growing type. I had just turned 38 at the time of my diagnosis. 

  • How did you discover your diagnosis?

It was discovered on my first screening mammogram. My mom had breast cancer at age 47 and the recommendations for me were to start mammograms 10 years prior to her diagnosis. With COVID and work, I put it off thinking it was just a formality to start my screenings. They warned me that they often see things on the first mammogram that they need to bring you back for, since there's no old ones to compare to, so I wasn't concerned when they called me back to get some more images. I had an ultrasound the same day and the radiologist said he was concerned about cancer. The following week I had a biopsy, which I got the results of the day before Thanksgiving 2021. I could barely feel the lump, even though it ended up being 2.6cm. It was way up against my chest wall, and it would have needed to be a lot bigger for me to find it on a self-exam. This is why screening is so important! 

  • Can you share what it was like when you first received the diagnosis?

It was terrifying. I have two kids who were 7 and 5 at the time. I was so worried about them growing up without a mom. My husband was with me at my first appointment and asked the doctor if I was going to make it. She said my cancer was very treatable, but it was going to be a rough treatment. The worst part in the beginning was all of the waiting. Waiting for test results, waiting for surgery, waiting to see if I would need chemo. 


  • How did you find strength during your treatment? 

My husband was and is the most amazing support to me. I am so fortunate to have him as my partner. My kids were also the sweetest during my treatment. They would check on me daily, asking how I felt. My youngest would give me scalp massages when my hair had fallen out. 

  • Were there particular moments or experiences that stood out to you during this phase?

I had a lumpectomy, I went through 20 weeks of chemo, and 3 weeks of radiation. I had good days and bad days. Chemo was definitely the toughest. There were days where I could barely get out of bed. I have never felt such profound fatigue. I remember ringing the bell at the end of chemo and radiation. They were such big milestones at the time. My husband and my youngest shaved my head when my hair started falling out. I remember feeling so strong and empowered with my head shaved. 


  • Were there any sources of inspiration that helped you during the tough times?

I was fortunate to have a neighbor friend who had recently gone through breast cancer treatment. She was such a great source of inspiration and comfort throughout my treatment. It helped so much to have someone who could understand what I was going through. 


  • How did you feel about reaching the one-year milestone after beating breast cancer?

It was a great feeling, but also scary. When you're going through treatment and immediately after, you feel a sense of safety from the treatments. As time passes and you get farther way from treatment, it's gets a little scary. I'm about to have my next screening mammogram, 2 years out from diagnosis, and it's still an emotional process. 

  • What advice would you give to others going through a similar journey?

It's a tough road, but remember it's only a small blip in your life's timeline. The best thing that came out of my diagnosis was that it realigned my priorities. I had gotten very immersed in my job, at the expense of my family time. My diagnosis put this into perspective for me, which I am very grateful for. My new favorite phrase is “life's too short!” I no longer put off the things I want to do in life. I also was fortunate enough to find a job at the cancer center where I was treated, and am so happy to be working alongside those who cared for me during my journey. 


Emotional Impact:

  • How did it feel to have this photoshoot after such a significant milestone?

It was very empowering. I felt strong and beautiful. It really felt like a full-circle moment. There's so many physical impacts that surgery, chemo, and radiation have on your body, and it took me a while to love my body again. This really helped reinforce that self-love and confidence. 

Symbolism in the Photos:

  • Were there any specific elements or symbols incorporated in the photos that hold special meaning for you?

I did not want to edit out my port scar. It is a part of my story and a reminder of what I have overcome. 

  • What was the significance of celebrating your birthday alongside marking your victory over cancer?

I did this photoshoot to celebrate beating cancer and also my 40th birthday. Many people look at getting older as a bad thing, but I'm just so happy to be able to celebrate another year. I feel so fortunate to be celebrating another birthday.

Message to Others:

  • What message or impression do you hope these photographs will leave on those who see them?

We are oftentimes so hard on ourselves. Seeing yourself through the eyes of someone else, especially someone like Shira, can provide such a confidence boost. I hope others will see strength and confidence in my photos.

As a portrait photographer, I am deeply moved by the profound responsibility of documenting such a significant moment in the life of a cancer survivor like Ashley. It was a privilege for me and my team to create something meaningful and everlasting for her. Photographing Ashley was not just an assignment; it was an honor that has left an indelible mark on us. Her bravery, confidence, and resilience have forever changed us, deepening our appreciation for life, sisterhood, and love. We hope that Ashley's story will serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for anyone facing a similar diagnosis, reminding them that courage and strength reside within each of us, waiting to be embraced in the face of adversity.

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Let's Connect

Hello, I'm Shira W. Rose, a Feminine Portrait Photographer based in metro Raleigh-Durham, NC. Based out of Raleigh-Durham, NC...I'm Shira W. Rose, a Portrait Photographer for women. I specialize in capturing women authentically as beautiful, powerful, confident beings.

For every woman who wants to feel beautiful, reconnect with their confidence, and reacquaint themselves with that certain sparkle that makes them feel beautiful, I want to be your photographer. I invite you to a personal session with me. It's a step towards the SELF-LOVE REVOLUTION... and I promise, it will change the way you see yourself.

Looking so forward to connecting with you!

Studio Wardrobe by Shira W Rose Studios

Hair & Makeup by The Esti Method

Shira W Rose Feminine Portrait Sessions include hair & makeup by The Esti Method

**About the Author:**

Specializing in elegant Boudoir, Maternity, and Fine-Art Beauty photography, Shira W Rose is a compassionate Feminine Portrait Photographer based in Raleigh Durham, NC, With a profound understanding of the complexities of life's journey, Shira creates a nurturing space where individuals can express themselves authentically. Whether celebrating milestones or embracing moments of reflection, she approaches each session with sensitivity and empathy, honoring the unique stories and experiences of her clients.

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