A mountain district attorney has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, she's speaking out about the importance of early detection -- urging women not to delay testing due to the pandemic.
Life was going along just fine for 42-year-old Ashley Welch, the district attorney for North Carolina’s seven westernmost counties, until her administrative assistant was diagnosed with breast cancer last year who then pressured Welch to get a mammogram.
“She kept on and on and so I went to go get one," DA Welch said. "Sure enough, I had breast cancer, which I would have never known but for her."
It was hard to believe and to come to terms with.
“We don't have a family history of it. I didn't have symptoms. I kept thinking they'd made a mistake and I was going to wake up and it wasn't going to be true,” she said.
Suddenly, a prosecutor had to prosecute a plan of action and find a medical team in the mountains.
“Luckily there’s a great center in Hendersonville with Pardee and so I was there.”
A month ago, Welch had surgery to address stage two breast cancer.
“Decided to have a double mastectomy, and then I start radiation in a little over a week,” she said.
Welch said that's to address the cancer that spread to her lymph nodes.
“It will help make sure that we treat it appropriately. It doesn’t come back.”
She has a promising prognosis for a full recovery.
“It is very good. It is very good."
She'll be watched carefully the rest of her life.
“This is now part of my story.”
Welch is resolved her story will continue with getting back to work, in time, as district attorney.
“That's one of my life's callings.”
But, aside from some limited work from home, it’s a time to pause.
“Get through the holidays and I have to be careful because of COVID.”
She has a target of mid-January of getting back in the office. This Thanksgiving, especially she says, is a time for gratitude.
“I’m so grateful to my administrative assistant that stayed on top of me, my family and my husband and my friends, law enforcement.”
Welch said it’s also a time to urge women to get checked.
“I'm hoping to show women too that you can have this, and you can keep going and you don't need to just stop.”