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My journey to becoming the new co-chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council began five years ago at the age of 27 when I walked through the doors at the Moffitt Magnolia campus for treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia.

My life until that point was that of a typical 20-something. That world was torn apart when I was diagnosed with an aggressive but treatable cancer. Over the next few years I went through what seemed to be an endless cycle of appointments, chemotherapy, inpatient and outpatient treatments.

During a particularly painful and discouraging period, my mother and I stumbled upon Thursday coffee hours in the Owl’s Den on the Moffitt Magnolia campus. I met two peer visitors who sat and listened to me. We shared a few laughs and tears over the course of an hour. When I came to find out they were current patients and working professionals who were taking time to give back in this way I thought, "That’s going to be me when I get through this!"

When I was well enough to resume work part-time, I began volunteering as a peer visitor just as those two who gave me hope during my outpatient treatment had done.

This opened opportunities for me to listen and speak with my peers going through similar experiences, be part of the voice for adolescents and young adults with cancer, provide feedback on marketing materials per my working background and eventually serve on the Patient and Family Advisory Council.

As the recently nominated co-chair of the Council and third year serving, my goal continues to be representing patients and families through my own experience, observation and discussion. I recently had the opportunity to attend the Seventh International Conference on Patient- and Family-Centered Care in New York City on behalf of the Council and as a Moffitt patient.

It was a wonderful opportunity to see how other institutes are starting to shape their care with the patient and family at the heart of everything. It was an affirmation of the strong alliance the Council and Moffitt staff has had for more than 10 years; our purpose can be accelerated with partnership.

I look forward to many years of working together and warmly welcome our newest patient advisors who generously give their time and voice to our community. I would also like to acknowledge the immense dedication and passion our outgoing co-chair, Bob Wilson, had for this institute. I hope to make him proud.

Editor’s note: As Ashley ended chemotherapy treatments, she set a goal of taking a trip to Mt. Everest. Ashley proudly checked it off her list in April 2016.

Content for this story is from PARTNERS fall 2016; a newsletter of the Patient and Family Advisory Program. For more information about the Patient and Family Advisory Program, please email or call 813-745-1390.