Ashley’s Story: The start of a long-term documentary project

Squeezing a stress ball shaped like a brain, 23-year-old Ashley Bissel awaits her second of 28 radiation treatments June 29 at the University of Colorado Hospital TomoTherapy Treatment Facility in Lone Tree. © Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

Today, the Columbine Courier published the start of a long-term documentary project. About a month ago reporter Emile Hallez Williams and myself set out to document the life of Ashley Bissel. Ashley was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of brain cancer called astroblastoma. In the last 10 years, only 12 cases have been diagnosed. Since her diagnosis, she has had the tumor removed and is now undergoing a series of chemo and radiation therapies to recover. The photos that accompany the story, which you can read here, are from her second radiation therapy treatment. Ashley is a strong person and with the support of her friends and family she should make a full recovery. I want to personally thank them for allowing us to tell her story during such a trying time in their lives. Many more photos and additional stories will be published in our ongoing coverage. You can pick up the Columbine Courier on news stands in Southern Jefferson County or visit us online at Thanks.

Ashley sits nervously on the table before her therapy. © Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010
DeVon Bissel comforts her daughter, Ashley, before she begins her radiation therapy June 29. © Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010
A heavy, radiation-resistant door slowly closes as Ashley waits for radiation therapy to begin. © Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010
Ashley lies motionless on the table as final adjustments are made before treatment. © Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

9 thoughts on “Ashley’s Story: The start of a long-term documentary project

  1. Hi best wishes to Ashley! My step-daughter was diagnosed with Anaplastic Astroblastoma stage 3 in February of 2009.She just turned 11 this week (September 17th, 2010) and has already had surgery with a total gross resection, 32 sessions of radiation therapy and just finished her 6th round of oral chemo. I have been trying to find other stories or support groups of children with her type of cancer but it is almost impossible b/c it is so rare! Can you tell me where I can find additional updated information of Ashley’s journey or other children with this type of cancer? Thank you !

    1. Barbie, I will pass on your kind wishes to Ashley. We at the Columbine Courier have been chronicling her story for the last several months. You can check out our second installment of her story at As for additional information I’m afraid this is as new to me as it is to Ashley. The truth is, there is a lack of documented cases. We had a hard time researching this story for that reason. She attends a local cancer support group but is the only Astroblastoma survivor. Ashley has endured a lot and still has a lot left to go before she can finally relax. Keep checking back here and for additional stories. Thanks.

    2. Barbie,

      My daughter, Katie, had just turned 4 years old in September of 2007, and she was also diagnosed with a stage 3 anaplastic astroblastoma. She had a total gross resection and 33 radiation treatments. She had a 12 month course of both oral and intravenous chemotherapy. She has been off chemo since January 22, 2010. She turned 7 years old on August 21st! We are right at 3 years after initial diagnosis.

      The Dr’s are currently watching an area on her scans. She is receiving her next MRI this Thursday (10/7) and we pray that there is no change/growth in this area. Other than this area that the Dr’s have been watching since the end of May, Katie has been doing wonderful. She feels great and is currently in 1st grade. She does have some memory and learning issues but is in a “regular” classroom and receives some special education teaching.

      Treat everyday as a gift. Our prayers go to your step daughter and her fight with this awful disease.

      You can try some “Google” searches on the Web. They say mostly the same thing. The most important thing medically seems to be that it was a gross total resection. Studies both in the US and abroad think that radiation also helps and if it is a stage 3 tumor, chemotherapy is recommended.

      We live in the Durham, North Carolina area and so we go the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University. There are wonderful Doctors and nurses there.

      1. My daughter is Ashley Bissel. I was very touched when I read your stories. I pray that the scan on 10/7 has no change/growth. I feel your pain at this horrible disease. Ashley has a website It has helped her to write down her feelings and document her journey. I will pray for your children daily. If you would like please get ahold of us please write in her caringbridge guest book. I would be happy to talk to you and offer support.

        Sincerely, DeVon

      2. Andrea,

        I a mother of a 3 yo just diagnosed with anaplastic astroblastoma. Could you tell me what chemotherapy and radiation therapy Katie had? What was the localization of the tumor? Was RT it local or craniospinal? have you considered proton beam therapy? The hospital we are in had experience with only one such a case and we are trying to get as many information as possible about the treatment.

        Best wishes to Katie and Ashley and Barbie’s step daughter! How are they doing now?

    3. Barbie, my niece was recently diagnosed with this same tumor and is currently getting treatment in Boston. Any suggestions or tips for treatments I can send on to my sister?

  2. Jakibytu,

    Katie had localized RT. Her chemo consisted of an oral chemo pill, Tarceva daily and alternate rounds of Temozolimide (sp?)which is a pill and two different IV chemo’s one of which the name is escaping me and the other was Avastin. I don’t know where your daughter is receiving treatment, but would ask her current Dr’s if they are in contact with the brain tumor center at Duke, St. Jude’s and other major pediatric cancer/brain tumor treatment centers.

    My prayers are with your little one. Katie’s scan in October was “clean”, an area of concern was gone. I credit the prayers of so many for this. She continues to do well and we feel so lucky.

  3. Great news! Such a relief to hear about positive cases, you know? I think of Katie very often since I read this. Could you tell me what was the name of you Doctor?
    Best wishes!

  4. Hello. Katie’s pediatric neuro oncologist is Dr. Sri Gururangan and her neuro surgeon is Dr. Gerald Grant. Both are affiliated with the Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University in Durham, NC. Both are excellent doctors and have a wonderful bedside manner and rapport with both children and the parents. I hope you and your little one have care as good as we received with Katie. Take care and keep faith! AD

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s