Meridian Star

October 20, 2013

Woman puts up silent fight for life

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —      Ashley Helena Roberts from Choctaw County, Ala., has Aplastic Anemia, a disease in which the bone marrow, and the blood stem cells that reside there, are damaged. This causes a deficiency of all three blood cell types: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Aplastic refers to the inability of the stem cells to generate the mature blood cells. The disease occurs most commonly in the teens and twenties, and also among the elderly. The cause is unknown.

    Since the age of 14 when Roberts was first diagnosed with the condition, her mother, Cathy Carpenter, has watched, at times with awe, as her daughter has fought through difficult treatments and procedures.

    "I just don't see how she has done it up until now and how every day she continues to find that smile, that inner strength to carry on," Carpenter said. "She is an inspiration to me and most everyone who meets her."

    In 2009, Carpenter said Ashley developed a severe liver lesion that ruptured and nearly took her life. Ashley had to spend weeks in intensive care, overcome kidney failure, a collapsed lung, liver resection, and on top of that, had to learn to walk again.

    A normal day for many people is getting up, eating breakfast, going to work and coming home to supper with the family.Roberts' day is far different.

    Roberts spends part of her day helping other disabled people reach their goals. At night, she spends 10 hours undergoing blood chelation therapy due to an overload of iron in her body from the blood transfusions she must endure to survive. Carpenter said her daughter needs two blood transfusions every two weeks, as well as platelets.

    "Most people who meet her never know she is undergoing all this," Carpenter said.

    Yet another blow came earlier this year when Carpenter and Roberts were told recent blood tests revealed the anemia had progressed into Myelodysplastic Syndrome. The only option now is for a bone marrow transplant.

    Carpenter said Roberts has to make a choice between excellent facilities in Houston, Texas or New York to get her bone marrow transplant. When she decides which one, the facility will then try to match her with a donor.

    "She is leaning toward Slogan Kettering in New York," Carpenter said. "We will probably fly out in the next few days and talk to them again. We've been there before."

    Despite all these hurdles, Roberts has completed high school, earned a BA in History from the University of Alabama, and is currently getting her MA in Rehabilitation Counseling. Roberts intentionally chose a career path that would allow her to use her experience to help others.

    Carpenter knows that her daughter's battle is long from being over.

    "She is 31 years old now and engaged to be married," Carpenter said quietly. "I just want her to receive the best care possible and to be the happy young woman she is today. She is such a blessing to so many people."

    Friends and family are sponsoring a donation drive by selling decorative mailbox bows and sponsoring a gun raffle to raise the needed funds for Roberts long recovery. Additionally, cash donations may be made for Ashley Helena Roberts at any Regions Bank and First United Security beginning the week of Oct. 20.

    For more information contact Cathy Carpenter at 205-215-7313.