Having a vested interest in your appearance is not necessarily a bad thing — everybody wants to look their best — but, at times the societal pressure to be attractive can be overwhelming. For some people, oftentimes young women, being beautiful becomes an obsession that takes over all aspects of their lives.
For Ashley Trenner, that’s exactly what happened. In the pursuit of attaining what she believed to be the perfect appearance, she ended up losing sight of her priorities. Years of doing one specific activity finally caught up to her, and the woman fighting for her vanity was soon fighting for her life.
Ashley Trenner had a lovely childhood in a small town on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. Her two parents, Bob and Karen, were supportive and doting, and she grew up close to her brother Darin. By all accounts, she had a head start on life.
As a classic girly-girl, Ashley was in love with all things pink and glittery. She surrounded herself with things she thought were beautiful, and the character Hello Kitty adorned almost everything she owned.
Not only did Ashley strive to be surrounded by beauty, but she focused on being beautiful herself. She adhered to a strict vegan diet and exercised regularly. This seemed somewhat extreme to her family, but these habits weren’t dangerous to her health.
The people in Ashley’s life saw her as an exceptionally warm and kindhearted individual. She thrived as a young adult in her retail position at Nordstrom. One friend even cites a time when Ashley brought a dress in a certain size for a customer from her own personal closet.
Her genuine nature and desire to help others was in complete opposition with the harsh way she viewed herself. Throughout her life, she struggled with the demons of critically low self-esteem and bouts of depression.
That all changed, however, when she was in high school and her mother took her to visit the beauty salon. For the first time, she found a solution for the thing she hated most about herself: her skin.
As it was a special occasion — just before prom — her mother allowed her to enter the tanning bed. It seemed harmless enough. After just one session in the glowing blue chamber, Ashley would never be the same.
She began to tan more often. Usually before important events, or on vacations where she would be in a bikini. She finally felt like she achieved the look she always wanted. It wasn’t long before tanning became a necessity for Ashley.
Basking in the glow of finally feeling beautiful enough, she started visiting the tanning bed multiple times a week, sometimes every other day to maintain the skin tone she saw fit. Her friends and family saw there was much more to her than tan skin.
Much to the concern of her friends and family, she kept up her rigorous tanning schedule for years, always returning to the dangerous UVA rays emitted from the bed. She once stated, “I don’t care if I die from tanning, as long as I die tan.”
One day Ashley noticed something strange on her side. It was a tiny bump, less than a centimeter wide. She immediately went to her doctor to have it checked out, just in case it was a cause for concern. The results weren’t what she assumed.
Her doctor said the bump was not cancerous, but advised Ashley to have it removed anyway. She underwent the expensive procedure to have the benign lump taken out and went on with her life. Unbeknownst her her, this wouldn’t be the last time something like this would happen.
About a year later, another little bump appeared in almost the exact same place. Ashley did not have medical insurance at the time. Having exhausted her savings account from the first procedure, she chose to ignore the blemish assuming it would be harmless like last time.
In three years, the bump in question grew significantly and became painful. At this point, she felt it was necessary to consult her doctor. Maybe if she had gone in earlier, her life would have turned out much differently.
Ashley received the grave news that she had melanoma. This is a deadly type of skin cancer responsible for the deaths for about 7,000 people every year. It can be very treatable if caught in time, but if left to spread to the lymphatic system options are limited.
Her condition was advanced, and her doctor recommended surgery to remove the infected lymph nodes in her groin. On her blog she posted, “I thought I was invincible and would never get skin cancer.” How wrong she had proven to be.
Post-surgery, she recovered and began the horrendous process of chemotherapy. For months she was incredibly ill while undergoing treatment. Her suffering would not be in vain, as she was cancer-free for three years following the medical intervention.
Sadly, even after beating it once, the lump returned. Teary, she told her mother, “I think the melanoma is back.” What followed would be a series of painful and experimental procedures to rid Ashley of the cancer one last time.
After the failed treatments, Ashley decided to make something out of the time she had left. She began to speak out about what happened to her. She wanted to reach others who could potentially wind up in similar circumstances.
On her death bed in the final days of her life, she painted her nails her favorite color pink, donned her Hello Kitty blanket and did not mince words while speaking directly to the camera.
“I paid money to be in the position I’m in now. I literally paid to get this terrible disease that is killing me,” she stated as a warning to everyone listening. Her grim warning resonated with the watchers.
Not long after her interview, Ashley succumbed to her painful disease. Her friends and family were with her in her last moments and are relieved she is finally without pain. Though, the world is certainly more dim without her sparkle.
She accomplished what she set out to do. Her doctor even introduced new legislature banning indoor tanning facilitates for those underage. Her final wish was to help others, and she ended up doing so in a major way. Small changes can have a major impact.
Ever since Hana Yasutake was a young girl, the Fukoka, Japan, native was seemingly attached to the hip of her mother, Chie. Whatever Mom did, Hana was sure to follow suit.
By the time she was five years old, Hana began to wake up each and every morning at the stroke of six, just like her mom did. Although she was still so young, she was always an early bird.
But what made her want to get out of bed at such a young age while her friends were sleeping in? It was no simple task for most children. Still, Hana’s reason was simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking—and it was all because of Chie.
In 2001, Chie battled—and eventually beat—breast cancer. Sadly, it appeared as though her treatments had affected her ability to conceive. She and her husband, Shingo, were devastated.
Yet in 2003, after a stroke of luck, Chie became pregnant! Soon after, the couple welcomed Hana into the world. Hana was truly a blessing—a miracle baby. Yet shortly before her first birthday, Hana’s parents received horrible news…
When Hana was just nine months old, Chie learned that her cancer had returned. She had a half-inch-long tumor on her lung. This development was a devastating blow to the new family.
For the next several years, Chie battled the cancer. In an effort to take back control of her life, she began to document and blog about her struggle living with the disease. Her focus, though, was mainly on how lucky she felt to be a mother.
In one particular post, Chie expressed her gratitude for having Hana in her life, especially given her unlikely odds. “Meeting my daughter is indeed a miracle in my life. I treasure her with all my life, more than I love myself,” she wrote.
Chie knew that she would likely never get better. Nonetheless, she bravely addressed the issue head-on. “Whether I have cancer or not, I’m supposed to die first,” she wrote. “It can’t be the other way around. This is why I have to die without any regrets.”
It was at that point that Chie’s priorities underwent a serious shift. Suddenly, she began to focus on being sure that little Hana would be okay, no matter what. She wanted her to be able to care of herself in case she wasn’t able to be there for her.
“I just want to help [Hana] so that one day, when she becomes independent, she can take care of herself,” Chie wrote on her blog. To do so, she had Hana begin adhering to a daily schedule that mirrored her own.
Bright and early every morning, Chie would wake up Hana and get ready to start the day. They did laundry together and they cleaned together. Though most young kids her age would’ve rather slept, Hana delighted in spending this time with her mom.
Chie wanted Hana to know that, with the right tools, she would be able to do anything she wanted. “Your education is not complete without knowing these survival skills. As long as you’re healthy and independent, you can survive anywhere,” she wrote.
Most importantly, Chie stressed the significance of being able to properly prepare a meal. On her blog, she said, “Hana-chan, knowing how to cook is important in your life. I will teach you how to handle knives and do household chores.”
While other children received toys, Chie gave Hana her own apron for her fourth birthday. After she taught her daughter how to cook, Chie knew it was time for Hana to receive a very special recipe…
The recipe was her own miso soup! Hana had diligently risen every morning to prepare the dish alongside her mother. It was only natural that she should learn how to make it herself.
Chie tragically passed away at the age of 33, but she’d more than accomplished her goal; Hana was prepared. And then something incredible happened: although her mother was no longer beside her, Hana still chose to wake up at 6 a.m. to prepare her mother’s miso soup!
Hana even chose to garnish the soup with Chie’s trademark leek topping. She said that making the dish helped her feel closer to her mother. “When I am cooking miso soup, I feel happy as if my mother was standing beside me,” she explained.
In the years after her mom’s passing, Hana went on to pen an essay, “Promise to My Mother,” which was subsequently turned into an elementary school textbook. There was even a movie made about her, fittingly titled Hanachan no misoshiru, which translated to “Hana’s Miso Soup.”
It’s amazing how diligently young Hana stuck to her mom’s schedule. Their time together might have been short, but Chie clearly had a lasting impact on her. Clearly, they had one special bond!