Ash­ley’s story: rare can­cer, over­whelm­ing loss, amaz­ing grace

The Taos News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Staci Mat­lock edi­[email protected]­news.com The Taos News

There is much more to Ash­ley Quin­tanilla than this story.

But this part of her story is about unimag­in­able loss and the Taos com­mu­nity that sur­rounded her with love.

Her fa­ther Scott Quin­tanilla was work­ing as a tile set­ter and sub­sti­tute teacher in Taos, earn­ing his teach­ing de­gree on the side, when his 12-yearold daugh­ter fell ill. Trips to hos­pi­tals to fig­ure out what was wrong had im­pacted his work for months. Fi­nally, in March, Ash­ley was di­ag­nosed with a rare form of can­cer.

She be­gan chemo­ther­apy treat­ment May 10 in Al­bu­querque.

“She will need to go through treat­ment for an en­tire year and it will in­clude ra­di­a­tion treat­ment and surgery. Through all of this we will do what­ever it takes to lessen the side ef­fects .... ” wrote Scott Quin­tanilla in a Go­FundMe page he had set up to raise money for the mount­ing ex­penses. “The cost along with the con­stant travel to var­i­ous hos­pi­tals will be tremen­dous.”

“...Ash­ley is the only child we know of with em­bry­onal rhab­domyosar­coma in the en­tire state of New Mex­ico,” he wrote of Ash­ley’s can­cer. “Ac­cord­ing to doc­tors at (Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Hos­pi­tal), they have not seen a case in three years. In the en­tire coun­try and in­clud­ing Europe, there could be as lit­tle as 250 cases di­ag­nosed this year,” he wrote.

In late May, Ash­ley’s mother, April Brown was mur­dered in a triple homi­cide. Two men were ar­rested and charged with the deaths.

Though Quin­tanilla was no longer with Brown, they shared two chil­dren: Ash­ley and Jus­tice. “I am now

100% her care­taker, which is a full-time job and then some,” wrote Quin­tanilla in an up­date to the Go­FundMe page. “Her mother had come up and vis­ited her a few times and was go­ing to try to get some things to­gether, so she could maybe start help­ing.”

Now, he wrote, “My only job for the en­tire year will be to take care of Ash­ley and her needs.”

“Dur­ing this year we will have to fundraise all the money that we need to get through our life, which in­cludes travel to var­i­ous hos­pi­tals and keep­ing up with all of our bills and such,” Quin­tanilla posted in June in a Go­FundMe up­date. “Fam­ily and com­mu­nity have al­ready been amaz­ing. I have al­ways worked and have never been in a sit­u­a­tion where I’ve had to ask for this type of help. Any amount helps. But al­ways re­mem­ber take care of your fam­ily first. Prayers, of course, are al­ways wel­come, and even if you just want to post a nice com­ment that I can read to her, we love those, too.”

“Ash­ley is strong and I have no doubt in my mind that she will beat this!”

A few weeks later, Quin­tanilla posted an up­date. “Ash­ley has had so much love shown to her over the past few weeks, and we are so in­cred­i­bly thank­ful for that love. Ash­ley has shown me such courage and brave­ness over the past days and it is truly hum­bling.”

“The doc­tors have told Ash­ley and I how our lives, most likely, will be very dif­fer­ent and that we should start putting our sup­port group to­gether. Ash­ley will need con­stant care and in­tense treat­ment over the next year or so. She will also need me by her side a lot of this time.”

His up­date is that of a fa­ther deal­ing con­stantly with the un­known, in search of an­swers. “This has all been a bit sur­real, and I am still try­ing to get my emo­tions in check and wrap my mind around the whole thing,” Quin­tanilla wrote in the Go­FundMe up­date. “All the things we have to de­cide over the next few days much less weeks seem so over­whelm­ing. My abil­ity to sup­port my fam­ily, school­ing for Ash­ley, treat­ment for Ash­ley, how to keep the needed level of par­ent­ing with my other chil­dren?... the list goes on and on. There are still so many ques­tions that need to be an­swered. We have lots of fam­ily and friends that are al­ways step­ping in, but re­sources will al­ways be needed.”

The com­mu­nity helped with dona­tions, bake sales, con­cert fundrais­ers, gift cards, gro­ceries, words of en­cour­age­ment and more.

The fam­ily had good news in early fall. “Yes­ter­day, based on a CAT Scan .... we re­ceived the news that Ash­ley’s tu­mor has de­creased in size by as much as 66%! Yes, this is the best news we could have re­ceived. We are all ec­static! Most of you have helped us in some way or an­other— and de­serve credit in this jour­ney of ours!”

They de­cided not to have surgery be­cause of the tu­mor’s lo­ca­tion. “We will fight it with pro­ton ra­di­a­tion treat­ment. There are only a hand­ful of places in the coun­try that pro­vide this type of treat­ment in the United States. We will be go­ing to Loma Linda, Cal­i­for­nia (outer part of Los An­ge­les),” Quin­tanilla wrote.

In early Oc­to­ber, Scott posted, “As al­ways we want to con­tinue to thank ev­ery­one for their con­tin­ued sup­port. We have felt so much love dur­ing this time and we are truly ap­pre­cia­tive….

“We have been in Cal­i­for­nia for three weeks and have three to go. We will hope­fully be home on Oct. 30. The pro­ton treat­ment here at Loma Linda is con­sid­ered to be one of the best in the coun­try.”

Quin­tanilla’s posts were those of a fa­ther feel­ing help­less to stop his daugh­ter’s suf­fer­ing. “We have good and bad days. It seems like ev­ery time we start to think we turned a cor­ner and she is feel­ing bet­ter, we get re­minded how in­tense and hard the treat­ment af­fects the body. This week we are re­minded again. On these kind of weeks we spend the day try­ing to fig­ure out what she can stom­ach and keep down. Such a feel­ing of weak­ness for me, be­cause there is noth­ing I can re­ally do to take the pain and nau­sea away from her.. all we can do is keep try­ing...”

Ash­ley was sched­uled for an­other round of chemo on Nov. 3. “The light is at the end of the tun­nel and Ash­ley is de­fy­ing the odds al­ready,” Quin­tanilla wrote. “The day that we re­turn to our reg­u­lar life and Ash­ley con­tin­ues her life into adult­hood is right around the cor­ner. Love and Peace.”

On Nov. 7, Scott Quin­tanilla died in a car ac­ci­dent near Ea­gle Nest. He was 46.

The world turned up­side down yet again.

Kiva Duck­worth-Moul­ton, one of Ash­ley’s aunts, posted to the Go­FundMe site a few days later.

“This is an up­date no one could have imag­ined writ­ing and post­ing. It has been nine days since we learned of Scott’s death. The shock has not yet worn off, but we carry on. Be­cause of Ash­ley and Jus­tice, we carry on.”

“Scott be­gan this fundrais­ing cam­paign when he re­al­ized he was sin­gle-hand­edly re­spon­si­ble for the care of his daugh­ter and son that in­cluded a com­pli­cated sched­ule of chemo­ther­apy treat­ments for Ash­ley’s can­cer,” Duck­worth-Moul­ton wrote.

“This cam­paign trans­formed into an in­cred­i­ble tes­ti­mony to the love in our world. The sup­port poured in from all over the world from peo­ple who have been touched by the story of April’s death, Ash­ley’s can­cer, and now, Scott’s death. As Ash­ley’s ex­tended and beau­ti­ful fam­ily, we will con­tinue to ex­press our un­end­ing grat­i­tude to ev­ery­one who has reached out with prayers, kind words, sym­pa­thy, money, food and love.”

As of Mon­day (Nov. 27), more than 600 peo­ple had con­trib­uted a to­tal of $54,456 to the fund, sur­pass­ing Quin­tanilla’s orig­i­nal goal.

“Ash­ley’s can­cer treat­ment will con­tinue through the spring,” wrote Duck­worth-Moul­ton, April Brown’s sis­ter. “The chil­dren are be­ing cud­dled and cod­dled and have a long road of heal­ing ahead. This fund will con­tinue to sup­port Jus­tice and Ash­ley’s med­i­cal and emo­tional care, and our fam­ily prom­ises that as an in­vest­ment in their fu­ture will be man­aged with care.”

In a phone in­ter­view, Duck­worth-Moul­ton said Taos had been “in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous” in help­ing Ash­ley, now 13, and Jus­tice, 17.

Lit­tle of what hap­pened makes sense, she said. “That Ash­ley and Jus­tice could lose both par­ents in the space of six months is mind-blow­ing. But at the same time, they are not alone in the world.”

On Mon­day (Nov. 26), she said doc­tors had just told the fam­ily Ash­ley’s chemo­ther­apy treat­ments needed to be ex­tended by six months.

‘They are not alone in the world.’

— Kiva Duck­worth-Moul­ton

Cour­tesy photo

Jus­tice Quin­tanilla, 17, and Ash­ley Quin­tanilla, 13, dur­ing a trip in Oc­to­ber to Cal­i­for­nia.

Cour­tesy photo

Jus­tice and Ash­ley with their mom April Brown.

Cour­tesy photo

Scott Quin­tanilla

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