Nurses inspire Ohio woman who beat cancer to become one of them: ‘We need people like her’
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Nurses have been shown to improve patient outcomes in terms of health, recovery and satisfaction in numerous studies — but in some cases, they also make a personal impact on people that can’t be measured in numbers.
Four years ago, Ashley Gibson, then 28, had earned a degree in theater and was working as an actor in Medina, Ohio, where she lived with her husband and dogs. But when she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2019, everything changed.
By the time Gibson’s treatment was over and she entered remission in 2020, she had decided to switch careers completely — and become a nurse herself.
“The passion and care I received from my nurses propelled me to follow in their footsteps,” she told Fox News Digital in an interview.
In the weeks before her diagnosis, Gibson started noticing large purple and black bruises showing up all over her body with no explanation. Then came nosebleeds and a constant, bone-weary fatigue.
“I was so tired and weak that in the middle of a workout, I would just lay down on the floor,” she told Fox News Digital in an interview.
Suspecting she might be anemic, Gibson saw her nurse practitioner for blood tests.
Hours later, she got a call that she should go straight to the ER at Cleveland Clinic Hospital.
By the next day, she’d been diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a type of blood cancer.
Although APL has a high survival rate after treatment, around 29% of patients die within 30 days of being diagnosed, studies show.
Cleveland Clinic immediately began forming Gibson’s care team to help ensure the best possible outcome.
Initially Gibson spent a month in the hospital, where she started blood infusions and chemotherapy treatments right away.
Dr. Hetty Carraway, director of the Leukemia Program at Cleveland Clinic, was Gibson’s primary oncologist who delivered her diagnosis.
“I didn’t want to stop receiving the comfort, care and security they gave me.”
Gibson also had a team of oncology nurses who cared for her throughout nearly a year of treatments, approximately five days per week.
“An acute cancer diagnosis can be devastating,” Carraway said. “Our leukemia nurses are some of the best care providers in all of oncology. Along with the rest of the multidisciplinary team, they provided empathetic, compassionate and holistic care, along with deep medical knowledge.”
When Gibson was at her sickest — dealing with bad migraines, bone pain and exhaustion — she credits the nurses for helping her through it.
“I was at a very dangerous point where I could have taken a turn for the worst at any point,” she said. “They were very positive and helped to lift my spirits.”
Over time, the nurses became her friends, she said.
“We got to know each other so well — we joked around and had nicknames for each other and even shared life stories.”
One of the nurses she became closest with was Sue Singleton. Gibson nicknamed her “Sunshine Sue.” A nurse for 40 years, Singleton said the impact was mutual.
“I felt an immediate connection with Ashley — she was adorable and the sweetest thing,” she told Fox News Digital in an interview. “Over time, we got to know each other so well, it was almost like we were family.”
“I was already registered for the nursing program before I even finished chemo.”
Gibson’s treatment was successful. Just one month after finishing her therapy, she was in remission.
Carraway credits Gibson’s diligence and dedication as a factor in her triumph over the disease.
“It’s not easy to have your whole life turned upside down at such a young age, but Ashley was committed to her therapy,” she said.
“Patients who immediately embark on therapy have a higher likelihood of being cured.”
Singleton agreed. “Ashley had a great outlook and never complained — she took it all in stride.”
Gibson was relieved to be cancer-free, but also surprised to feel a bit of sadness.
“I remember at the end, when the doctor said I was done with my chemo, I was crying because I didn’t want to stop seeing my nurses every day, and didn’t want to stop receiving the comfort, care and security they gave me,” she said.
Gibson did, however, receive plenty of support and care from her husband, parents, siblings and other family members during her treatment.
“I have an amazing support system of family and friends,” she said. “And we also have our two rescue dogs at home, who we treat like our little babies.”
With the end of Gibson’s cancer treatment came a new beginning.
Earlier, she had toyed with the idea of going to nursing school, but she didn’t think it would ever actually happen.
“I didn’t have a science background and I was daunted by all the prerequisites I would need to get into the program,” she said.
But once Gibson began her own cancer treatment, and as she witnessed firsthand the impact the nurses made every day, she felt compelled to make her dream a reality.
“I decided it was my turn to be the support system for other people,” she told Fox News Digital. “I was already registered for the nursing program before I even finished chemo.”
On May 13, some four years after beating cancer, Gibson will graduate from nursing school. She attended Cleveland State University, completing the accelerated BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program.
Carraway, her oncologist, believes that Gibson’s experience of being on the receiving end of care will help her become an even more effective and empathetic nurse.
“Having shouldered this burden and come through on other side in such a positive manner is so empowering,” Carraway said.
“My hat is off to Ashley — I’m excited to see her graduate and enter this space, where we truly need people like her.”