Ashley Dedmon: Previvor with a Passion

Ava, Ashley, Cameron and Callie Dedmon.

FOCUS COVER STORY | By Patti Parish-Kaminski –

After nearly a decade of increased surveillance after learning she was Breast Cancer Gene (BRCA2) positive, a leading genetic marker for breast and ovarian cancer, Ashley Dedmon determined that she would not battle cancer as her relatives had.  Instead, Ashley decided at 21 years young, she would be proactive and live her life to the fullest as a previvor.

A Family History

In 2003, Ashley’s mother, Dr. Lynn Armstrong, was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer.  The life-long educator lost her four-year battle at the young age of 52.  “My mom was so dedicated to her students,” said Ashley, who proudly shared that Fort Bend ISD honored her mother’s commitment to children and their education by naming Dr. Lynn Armstrong Elementary in Missouri City in her honor.  “She was the principal at Blue Ridge Elementary, and she passed away on the last day of school.  She would to go to the hospital, get a blood transfusion, check out and go back to work.”

Shortly after Dr. Armstong’s battle with cancer, Ashley’s father, an athletic coordinator at Baines Middle School, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 53.  He elected to have his prostate removed and shared with Ashley that her great grandmother also had breast cancer.  “I knew my mother and grandmother had breast cancer,” said Ashley.  “Now I knew that a third person on my mother’s side of the family had the disease along with my Dad’s diagnosis.  I was fearful about what that meant for me.  My family history showed me that people were dying.”

Genetic Testing

At only 22, Ashley reached out to her OB/GYN who recommended genetic counseling and screening for the BRCA genetic mutation.  “I was graduating from college, my mother had passed, my dad was just diagnosed – I was feeling a combination of grief, excitement and uncertainty.  It was overwhelming.”

Ashley’s Myriad BRCA Analysis, a simple blood test, revealed that she was BRCA2 positive.  That put her on an informed path of increased surveillance.

“Patients who carry a genetic mutation that increases their risk of breast cancer begin screening at a much younger age, and they are put on a course of high risk screening every six months with both mammograms and MRI’s,” explained Sandra Templeton, MD, FACS, Medical Director of Breast Surgery at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.

Within 10 years of increased surveillance, Ashley was teaching, got     married and had her first daughter.  “I was putting everyone and everything ahead of my own health just like my mom,” said Ashley.  By 2016, she was empowered and ready for a new course of action with her health.

Mitigating the Risk

Ashley Dedmon with breast surgeonDr. Sandra Templeton.

Ashley Dedmon with breast surgeon Dr. Sandra Templeton.

In the summer of 2016, Ashley began searching for doctors to perform a preventative mastectomy, and she found “the one” in Dr. Sandra Templeton.  “I knew Dr. Templeton was the right doctor for me as soon as she walked in the room,” shared Ashley.  “She spent 45 minutes talking with me and listening to my concerns.  I’m a visual person, and she took the time to literally draw out what the mutation meant and what reconstruction would look like.”

Ashley and her husband, Cameron, did not take the decision for a mastectomy lightly.  They had one daughter and had plans for more children.  “I wasn’t really prepared for the mental and emotional part of my journey,” shared Ashley.  “You don’t realize until you see the scars, and what was once there is no longer there.  That’s when it hit.  It was incredibly difficult.”

Ashley had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy in December 2016 and reconstructive surgery the following March.  She had her faith, determination and support from her family, friends and Dr. Templeton to help her get through this difficult time, and now, she is continuing her family legacy of teaching.  “I want to educate others and equip them with the tools and resources needed to make informed decision regarding their health.”

Ashley Dedmon with her mom, now deceased, Dr. Lynn Armstrong.

“Ashely was very astute and understood the risks and benefits for herself and her family,” said Dr. Templeton.  “Ashley is not just my patient.  She is a beautiful friend and not a cancer survivor.  Ashley is a previvor.”

Living Life to Its Fullest: A Previvor

Dr. Templeton explained that a cancer previvor is a person who takes action to reduce or eliminate a genetic cancer detected by testing before the cancer develops or is detected in his or her body.   Essentially, previvors beat cancer before it starts.

Ashley’s mission as a previvor is now her life’s work.  While coaching at Baines Middle School, she married her passion for students, education and breast cancer awareness by educating female athletes about their breast health and having her team participate in Susan G Komen® walks.  She also coordinated on site mammograms at the Baines campus for teachers to get screened during their conference period.  And now, she works at a non-profit and is pursuing her doctorate in public health addressing disparities in genetic counseling and testing.

Ashley is also relaunching The Big Discovery, a book she authored in 2018 that has been used as a resource for non-profits, hospitals and cancer organizations.  The book serves as an educational tool to assist families navigating through a breast cancer journey with characters of color.  The book is available on Amazon and through Ashley’s website:

“This is not a path I chose, but it’s a path that chose our family,” shared Ashley about her advocacy work.  “I take the lessons I’ve learned from my parents to help others. We all deserve an opportunity to seek the care we need and for it to be equitable.”