In August 2019, after experiencing symptoms of what she thought to be irritable bowel syndrome, Ashleigh Parker underwent her first colonoscopy. With no family history, her diagnosis of stage four colon cancer was shocking. It had spread to surrounding lymph nodes and part of her liver. 

Between September 2019 and March 2020, Ashleigh underwent a series of chemo and radiation treatments at Baptist Cancer Center under Dr. Aleksandar Jankov with only a brief respite to remove 20% of her liver in December 2019. In May 2020, she had surgery to remove the tumor and received a permanent colostomy bag. With the coronavirus gaining momentum, visitations non-existent, and medical personnel severely reduced, Ashleigh was facing this battle essentially alone. Despite tremendous odds, she was declared in remission in May 2020. 

“You think that once you’ve beaten cancer, you would feel different, like a victorious warrior. That’s not true. There are chronic effects of chemo and your sickness that require you to learn a new body. You have to learn to trust your body again.” 

Ashleigh waited no time to ask her new body to perform. Just two weeks after completing her last round of chemo, she joined a tennis clinic in Southaven, MS, for beginner players. “It forced me to get to know my body.” But Ashleigh’s start was more challenging than most. 

“Chemo left me with a lot of neuropathy and numbness, especially in my hands and feet.” Ashleigh had to adapt how she held her racket and moved across the court. Her progress was set back, however, when she sustained an injury from a knife accident to her dominant hand and arm. Even after extensive reconstructive surgery and therapy, she kept showing up. 

She now plays a few times weekly on an all-women’s USTA team called the “Hot Flashes,” representing DeSoto County in their division. “We are all women in our 40s and 50s who began playing tennis during COVID.” 

Ashleigh continues to get checkups every six months. “You’re constantly worried that it’s going to come back.” This past summer, this became a reality when a new spot was discovered on her liver. But Ashleigh returned that serve with finesse. She underwent ablation, and within just a few short weeks, the Hot Flashes won the USTA Mississippi 2023 Combo Doubles State Champions 2.5 Women 18 & over title. 

She says that she is stronger than ever before. “You just take all setbacks as part of your fight and keep saying, ‘I’m gonna win that.’” She now serves as the co-founder of Desoto Hope, an organization “dedicated to supporting and encouraging our DeSoto County neighbors by giving hope to those affected by cancer.” 

“Cancer never really releases its grip on you. As soon as you feel you have recovered, something else happens. But I am determined to live my best life. I won’t let cancer take that away.” 

For more information about DeSoto Hope or to request a basket, visit