Ashley Lamiroult

Daydream Believer

    On August 5, 2007, Ashley Lamiroult celebrated her 15th birthday at MUSC Children's Hospital in Charleston. Presented with a diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia just two days prior, doctors predicted it would be her last chance to count candles. "She wasn't expected to make it through the month," said Ashley's mom, Marjorie Renteria.
    Ashley not only survived the month, she lived to celebrate her 16th birthday, hosting a party at her home, complete with oversized tiger, Bouncy. The unexpected entertainment caught her friends by surprise, to which she responded, "You gotta expect things from me."
Ashley's diagnosis came after she began noticing an unusual amount of bruising on her shins. "I didn't pay a lot of attention at first, because I was always swimming," she said. "I thought it was just from being active. But they kept turning darker." Then a certain bruise on her upper thigh caught her mom's attention. "She asked me why I colored it in. I didn't. That's when she took me to the pediatrician."
    A series of blood tests revealed the special form of leukemia, a rarity in the general population but even more so in adolescents. "I am exceptionally rare," said Ashley, explaining that most acute promyelocytic patients are either adults over 40 or children under 10. "They didn't know where to put me. It scared me a little, but I didn't want to let it show. I didn't cry for the first two months."
    Ashley began treatments, including all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) and a combination of two chemotherapies. "It didn't feel so real until the pain started," she said, describing excruciating muscle infections and massive headaches brought on by an allergic reaction to chemotherapy. To maintain a degree of control, Ashley shaved her head before her treatment could steal her dark mane. At the same time, pushing the thought of death to the back of her mind, she came up with a creative coping mechanism. "I daydream," she said. "A lot of the time, I just try and live in the moment. But when I feel very sick, I don't want to get down, so I think about when I'm 20 what kind of car I'm going to own. I look at magazines and imagine the kind of house I might have. I kind of picture what my future will look like - and I have to live to do it!"
    In addition to her dreams for the future, Ashley relies on humor to meet life's challenges. "I make fun of myself a lot. Hearing other people laugh makes me feel better," she said. "I get pity parties constantly. I don't want pity. I'm the same person; I'm just sick."
    Today, Ashley's leukemia is in remission. Like all of us, she has no promise of tomorrow. But her mind takes her to another time and place where she is an actress and/or a fashion designer. Citing actress Natalie Portman as a role model, she said, "I look up to her a lot. She went to Harvard. I want to go to college and do something that will give me a lot of options."
    Ashley will continue maintenance treatments this year, which means missing a lot of school. But she is determined to do whatever it takes to make her daydreams come true. Her message to the world? "It's easy to lose yourself in hard situations," she said. "I want people to know that they can believe in themselves and do anything they want to do."

Up Close

Born on: Long Island Moved to: Gilbert, Arizona at age nine Bluffton resident: three years Lives with: mom, Marjorie; stepfather, JosÈ; sisters, Faith, age 10 and Carly, age 13; half brother, Matthew, age 6 Describes herself as: quirky, eccentric, a jokester Typical teenage obsessions: boys and shopping She's passionate about: swimming Other hobbies: writing, painting and fashion design Favorite movie: The Notebook Favorite music: anything by the Beatles Favorite books: fantasy and comedy Wish come true: an appearance as an extra in the upcoming movie, Twilight.