Clorissa Ashley knows first-hand the importance of conducting breast self-exams and knowing your normal. Like many adolescent girls, she was inundated with charts and diagrams and instructed to do self-exams regularly, and today she is grateful that she made following those charts a routine.
At 25 years old, Clorissa left a marketing position in Kentucky to come back to Columbus, Ohio. She was working two jobs and had just rented a new home. She was motivated. She was optimistic. Her future looked bright.
On November 7, 2014, shortly after she moved back, Clorissa was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. She had no family history of breast cancer. This was not a part of her plan.
But Clorissa is driven. She is optimistic. She is a woman of faith. She knew she would persevere.
And persevere she did. In fact, the Saturday after completing 12 rounds of chemotherapy, she joined countless others in the fight to end breast cancer forever at the 2015 Columbus Race for the Cure. Her enthusiasm was palpable as she and her team fist pumped all the way to the finish line.
Susan G. Komen® Columbus is excited to announce that Clorissa will be participating in her second Race for the Cure as an Honorary Race Chair in 2016.
“You really don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” she shared with us. “I definitely took my breasts for granted.”
Clorissa credits Dr. Deepa Halaharvi with preparing her for her double mastectomy in November. Having also battled breast cancer, Dr. Halaharvi knows exactly what her patients are experiencing in regards to a changing sense of their femininity. She not only performed Clorissa’s operation and successfully removed the cancer from her breasts, but she was also able to prepare her for the more emotional aspects of recovery and embracing her new body.
Today, Clorissa feels blessed. A constant display of strength and positivity, she acknowledges that it hasn’t always been easy. Shortly after her diagnosis, she found herself unable to attend treatment five days a week and work both jobs. The bills started to pile up, and ultimately she lost her home. Worrying about her living situation on top of battling breast cancer was admittedly a particularly dark and trying time. She is continually overwhelmed with gratitude for her church community, friends, and family for opening their homes and their hearts to her when she needed them the most.
At a time when things felt uncertain, Clorissa took joy in helping others. She found herself maintaining contact with other women that had recently been diagnosed through social media, and they were able to share their experiences with one another. “It’s the little things,” she reminds us. Sharing tips about mints, lemon drops, exercises, and numbing creams and sprays really can make all of the difference to someone, and Clorissa is happy to help others going through the fight in any way she can.
One thing Clorissa is sure of is that her battle with breast cancer will not define her. Having been a dancer for more than a decade, her craft has only continued to develop over the past year. She most recently participated in a competition with Ohio Talent Seekers. Following the completion of her treatment, she looks forward to pursuing a marketing degree and continuing to advance her career. As this chapter of her life comes to a close and she bids farewell to cancer, Clorissa finds in herself a renewed sense of faith and determination to achieve her goals. We know her future looks brighter than ever, and we look forward to celebrating with this young woman at the Race for the Cure in May.
Join Clorissa and the rest of our inspiring Honorary Race Chairs at the Race on Saturday, May 14. Register today and begin your fundraising.