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MJ senior slam-dunks the odds

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Ashley Roby / Steve Wampler photo

She defied the odds. You could say she slam-dunked the odds.

To see high school senior Ashley Roby on the basketball court these days, you'd never know three years ago she was at risk.

Roby beat breast cancer at the ungodly age of 14, and three years later this week, she is tearing up the basketball court to help her Mt. Juliet High School Lady Bears basketball team score what she hopes is a championship. Last year, Roby made the Region 5-AAA all-tournament team and helped Mt. Juliet go to the state tourney.

You would never know this vital, beautiful 17-year-old who dominates the court was a devastating statistic in the medical field as Vanderbilt Medical Center's first ever-documented double mastectomy of one so young.

She's had multiple reconstructive surgeries since her diagnoses, and as of her last scans, is cancer free; and she is loving it and looking forward to college and way beyond.

It hasn't been easy. While her friends were dealing with dating, friendships, schoolwork, athletics and body image issues, Roby came to grips with battling pain, insecurity and the scary unknown. But she knows how lucky she is. Two years before she was diagnosed at age 14 with Phyllodes cancer -- which makes up only one percent of all cases of breast cancer -- her grandmother passed away with a different type of breast cancer.

She said she first noticed a lump in her left breast in the shower three years ago but didn't really know what to do, and hoped it would go away. It didn't, and she informed her mother, Kim Dobson.

Neither knew one so young could face breast cancer, even while at the time she tore up the court and had scouts watching her carefully.

"I never shied from a challenge," said Roby. "I had strong friends and family. No matter how hard it gets, I suggest never giving up."

And, she hasn't.

"I used to have physical follow-ups every three months, now it's every six months," said Roby.

Roby said, "I graduate May 26."

She wants to play college basketball, and there are plenty of recruits in her life. Some of the possibilities are Arkansas State, West Point and North Carolina among others.

She's Mt. Juliet's point / shooting guard.

"Ashley has overcome great odds to not only recover from cancer, but to excel as one of the best shooting guards in the state," said her coach, Chris Fryer. "She is having her best year."

Roby averages 11 points a game, 51 percent from beyond the three-point line. Plus she can pass, as she's had over 75 assists so far this season.

She's led her team to first place in their district, and they are ranked seventh in the state, according to the last AP poll. On Jan. 9 in the game against Station Camp, Roby scored 21 points. These statistics sound great to her mom, but she's more about her daughter who overcame personal odds.

"She never got down," said Dobson. "She's a good kid. We are so blessed to have her with us and God knows, when she had breast cancer, it was for a reason."

Dobson said their first "hopes and dreams" are for Roby to be happy and "achieve everything she wants."

"We want her physically and mentally to be at peace," said her mother. "She wants to reach out to kids who have cancer."

One so young, but so old emotionally, Roby said her high school career has "flown by."

"I've been fine with coping with everything," she said. "Everyone was there for me. My mom, my team. I feel everything is possible. My motto is 'God will make a way.'"

Roby is a straight-A student and proudly wears the number 24 on her basketball jersey these last few days of her varsity career.

The number 24 is her boyfriend Jaelin Davis' number, who passed away while she was dealing with her cancer. Davis, a former Lebanon High student athlete, died in his sleep in 2012 of a rare heart condition.

"It's OK," she said. "He's in a better place now looking down on his loved ones."

This week, Roby is vibrant as she looks toward her wide-open future and realizes her "old soul" will steer her toward success.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at laurieeverett1@gmail.com.

Three years ago at Vanderbilt Medical Center, Ashley Roby is supported by her aunt, Jennifer. SUBMITTED / The Wilson Post
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