KINGS MOUNTAIN, NC (WBTV) - "Cancer is a word that makes your world stop." – Ashley Leigh.
Truer words have never been said.
In 2009, Pam Leigh lost her husband to bladder cancer. So, when Pam Leigh told her daughter Ashley about her own diagnosis three years later, Ashley said the news took her breath away.
It was a fall in 2012 that may have saved Pam's life.
After falling in her son's apartment, Pam felt a bump on her breast. When she got it checked, she got the news. Without that fall, no one knows when Pam may have felt the lump. They were able to catch it early.
"The word 'cancer' makes your mind turn to the worst possible situation," Ashley Leigh says, recalling that day.
But Pam pressed on. Through the chemotherapy, and eventually a double mastectomy, Ashley says her mother had to calm her down more than her mother ever needed to be talked down for "the ledge."
Then Pam's hair starting falling out. "I didn't realize how emotional that would be, but she made it fun," Ashley said.
Pam's hair dresser shaved her hair into a Mohawk and they turned it purple. Pam rocked it and it was a distraction from the pain of the situation.
Recovery from surgery was slow for Pam but "she is a fighter and made it through like a champ," Ashley wrote in her nomination letter of her mother. "She is an inspiration of hope, strength and faith."
Ashley says she nominated her mother in hopes of showing her mother how much she is loved, to thank her for fighting and to inspire someone to persevere through their own diagnosis.
"I would like to thank her for being a Survivor," Ashley wrote. "Thank her for going to chemo over and over again, knowing it would only make her feel worse the next time, just so she could watch her grandchildren grow. Thank her for being poked and prodded so that she could be here to celebrate more birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmases."
Ashley knows she may never know what if feels like mentally and physically to battle a cancer diagnosis, but she says she grateful to still have her mother in her life.
"She's not a quitter, she doesn't give up."
Through it, Pam was an example of what it looks like to battle cancer with faith and hope.
But she didn't do it alone. Ashley stressed the importance of friends and family who helped keep meals on their tables, words of encouragement in the family's mailboxes and sacrificed their time to help take Pam to doctor's appointments.
Today, the grandmother of two is active in raising funds for her Relay for Life team at her church and the annual Parade of Tables event in Kings Mountain.
Through Pam's "Angels in the Outfield" team, Ashley says her mother is a constant source of inspiration for those around her.
"I think she's an amazing woman. An amazing fighter," Ashley said. "She will always be my hero, and I am so happy she is here with us now."