"I'm only 30 and I think there's a tendency for young people to just not think they're at risk for something like this."
My name is Ashlee Townsend.
I'm originally from a tiny town out in western Oklahoma and I spent some time in Mustang, but when I graduated high school my parents bought a house out in Guthrie and we all fell in love. I went to Oklahoma State University and visited them there all the time then bought a house of my own there as soon as I could.
I love Guthrie because it's a true community. Some small towns are full of people who have lived there forever and they don't really like new people. Not Guthrie. It's like a big family here and everybody is involved in everything to make it the best place to live. I feel like it's more of a relaxed getaway. I love to travel and I like visiting other small towns but there's just no place like Guthrie.
My favorite Guthrie memories have been made at the Gentlemen of the Road tour, the annual Bluegrass Festival and all the Red Brick Night events. I love how everybody gets together to socialize and listen to music. One of Guthrie's hidden gems is Trill Tavern. It's a little music venue that hosts incredible musicians. They don't have concerts all the time but when they do it's just the most unique experience. Everyone should experience that.
If I were to recommend an ideal Guthrie day to someone it would definitely start with a cup of coffee at Hoboken and include antique shopping, a tour of the Scottish Rite Temple, a stop at Double Stop Fiddle Shop and dinner at Gage's. I eat there way too much. I could spend a lot of down time in Guthrie because I love old houses. If you like old homes, visit around Christmas and do the home tour. You'll see the most unique properties around town.
I've never been so grateful for the unique community I've found in Guthrie than since I was diagnosed with cancer. I was diagnosed in July of 2014 with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I was just 26 years old. I was nursing my youngest daughter, Josie, and I noticed a little spot on my breast about the size of a pencil eraser. It seemed odd but my doctor wasn't immediately concerned. After a few weeks of tests here and there it was finally determined it was cancer. I started chemotherapy immediately and did that for seven or eight months as the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes. By the following February I had a lumpectomy and then that summer I went ahead and had a mastectomy at the suggestion of a different surgeon. I was briefly told I was in remission but never had a clear scan. At the end of last year they did a liver biopsy and found a spot that was cancerous so I'm still undergoing treatment for that.
Cancer is so strange. I'm only 30 and I think there's a tendency for young people to just not think they're at risk for something like this. That took a little while to get used to. Having two young kids made it even more complicated because of course I want to be here for them. But everybody is going to die. Nobody can escape it, I am just trying to postpone it and have a good attitude while I'm here. I don't know if it has been this situation in my life or living in Guthrie but I have such a different view on things the last couple years. I was just going through the motions before. Since getting diagnosed, I just live for now and I try to cram so much more into my days. I love that I live in a community that feels so homey. I can go to Boutique 206 or Rick's and know that I'm going to run into people who know me and care about me. That feels good.
If I could say anything to other young people or anyone who thinks they're not at risk for cancer, I would just tell them to be proactive and monitor their health. I didn't push my doctor initially when I felt something might be wrong because I just felt young and invincible.
The thing that really impacts my attitude the most is my faith in God. He's the only one who knows what's going to happen. I had a low point when I was told about the liver cancer because they guessed I had just three years to live. For a few days it was all I could think about. I lost sleep. I was just a ball of stress. But the doctors don't know everything and there's new treatments every day. Only God knows my future and that does bring me some comfort.
My biggest supporters in this have been my friends and family. My kids, Jaxson and Josie, bring a lot of humor to my life. They're so accepting. I lost my hair during my first round of treatment and they were so young so they just thought it was normal. They actually thought I looked funny when I started to grow my hair back. I'm grateful they have been young enough that I don't have to explain a lot to them. They're really flexible about me getting help taking care of them for treatment and that's a good feeling. Everyone in town has stepped up to help in different ways. My friend Heather has had fundraisers for me. My hairdresser raised the money to buy me a wig when I lost my hair. Everyone has just been so supportive.
Attitude has made as big a difference in this as any treatment. No matter who you are or what your circumstances are, negativity and stress can be a real killer. Have a positive outlook and your circumstance can look so different.
That's what I love about the GuthrieAmerica brand. It’s a constant source of positivity. Everywhere I go in my shirt I get asked where GuthrieAmerica is and it just makes me smile because I'm so proud of my town. Heady gave me a GuthrieAmerica shirt when I went to Aspen on vacation last year. Now I have it in every color and I love wearing it everywhere. When you live in a hometown you love, you want to wear that everywhere.
I want to shoutout to my awesome parents, Dan and Joy Newton. They're the most supportive people I know and I get my positive attitude from them. They're always encouraging me to do what I love. They love Guthrie as much as I do. Isn't it awesome that they didn't move to Guthrie until they were 50 years old but it's such an accepting town that you can move here at any point in your life and be accepted and everyone makes you feel like it's been your home forever?