Fighting cancer with faith: 12-year-old with leukemia receives strength from strangers' prayers (+video)

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

Suzanne Poulsen spends her time with her daughter, Ashtyn.

Fauset Photography

When Suzanne Poulsen received a call from her daughter’s elementary school informing her Ashtyn was sick, she knew something was seriously wrong.

Ashtyn had been sick with flu symptoms for about a week-and-a-half and had spent most of her time in bed, missing several days of school.

Poulsen doesn’t take her children to see the doctor very often, and Ashtyn thinks going to the doctor is scary; however, both of them agreed that a doctor needed to be seen.

The Poulsen’s drove to the local Insta-Care where results from Ashtyn’s blood work showed a low white blood cell count.

After grabbing a few personal items from home, they made their way to Primary Children’s Hospital where they soon received news that changed their lives: Ashtyn was suffering from Leukemia.

It took four long days for the oncologists to diagnose Ashtyn with a specific type of leukemia. There are two kinds: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

The CT scan revealed Ashtyn was suffering from minimally differentiated myeloid Leukemia, which affects between 2 and 3 percent of all AML cases.

Although Ashtyn didn’t have regular AML, the doctor’s determined they’d treat her as if she did, which meant 10 days of chemotherapy and 20 days of recovery.

As a 12-year-old, Ashtyn had plans to finish sixth grade. She had plans to enjoy her friends, Justin Bieber music and upcoming family vacations; chemotherapy was not part of her plans, and she was scared.

In the midst of these dark days, family members and friends gathered together as supporters and a Facebook page called Ashtyn’s Army was created. Poulsen, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often posts on the page and requests specific prayers to be said for Ashtyn.

Encouraging thoughts are published every day on the page. The posts say things like “I pray for you every single night” and “You have an entire army behind you.” Even complete strangers have joined the group and continue to pray for Ashtyn.

“Every time I’ve asked people to pray for something specific on her Facebook page, it comes about,” Poulsen said. “Physically, everything she’s asked, she is blessed with. Even if the pain doesn’t go away, she is at least able to tolerate it.”

Ashtyn’s biggest supporters are her parents and her siblings.

Although it’s difficult to have a positive attitude, her family continues to have faith that everything will work out.

Her 13-year-old brother Chandler and 10-year-old sister Morgan find comfort by praying and reading their scriptures daily. Six-year-old Ethan isn’t quite old enough to fully understand the situation, but he really misses having his sister and mom at home with him.

“I’m really proud of the positive way my kids have handled this huge change in their lives,” Poulsen said. “I’m grateful for the outpouring of help that has been received on their behalf. People bring meals, clean my house, drive them (the siblings) to their activities and get them out of the house to have fun.”

Poulsen is constantly with Ashtyn, living her life alongside her daughter.

“When she’s really sick, I just do what she does,” Poulsen said. “When she’s throwing up, I’m holding her hair. When she’s coughing up mucus, I’m handing her Kleenex, and if she’s sleeping, I’m rubbing her feet with lotion.”

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