She thought, she fought made it the stage

Today, I was kindly (in a great way) reminded that there are people who actually read my BLOG. (warms my heart with such gladness). It can be super difficult to sit still and actually type out an entry for peoples reading pleasure.  My Instagram, #makeitcount4dani, gets the most attention because I feel like I can spread the word with just a few simple clicks and an instant upload.  I mean anyone with a disability in their hands also appreciates the voice activated type option on the iPhone that has significantly improved with technology. YES!  When I post on my BLOG I usually sit at my desk to write a short novel which takes a great deal of time because I have to read and think, read and change, and read and think… It’s usually like a 3 hour process for sure. 
What have I been doing with this crazy Rheumatoid Arthritis?! Here goes - I actually squeezed my aching dislocated toes in a diamond studded 5” heel to strut my stuff on stage and compete in my first bodybuilding competition: NPC Natural Western Regional USA that was held in Mesa, AZ on March 18, 2017.  In my last entry, I gave some kudos to an individual who provided some instruction on the beginning of this journey; however their positive involvement ended abruptly as I learned that we still must be very cautious of people and their actual motives.  Nonetheless, I made it to the stage with the help of some remarkable companies. I want to give a shout out to Ray Ballesteros #raylp_ceo and Melissa Chavez ladylp_fit with Lifestyle Physiques –  This dynamic duo really came to my aid just 2-weeks before my debut. It isn’t typical for a coach to take someone on 2 weeks out from a show, but Ray heard my story and said “We have to help you finish this!” They instantly treated me like one their athletes they had been coaching for months. They are full of heart and grace! I really admire who they are as coaches, but more so as remarkable humans! Another power couple was Joe Valdez #ptbyjoe and Lisa Kelly #lisa_tj_kelly_ who own a very successful local training and posing company, These 2 studs showed me how to walk in those dam heels.  (Yes, I swear at them, not Lisa and Joe, the heels!)  I was 7 days out when Lisa basically said, not directly, that my posing sucked! I had hired a beginner posing coach previously that wasn’t stellar like this remarkable woman.  Needless to say, Lisa was convinced she could help me get on that stage with a package I could be more proud of.  She practiced with me privately right up until minutes to the big walk.  Till this day, I have yet to figure out how to thank them!  Life has an amazing way of guiding you through rough terrain to the people who can really impact your moments.  These 2 companies are successful at their execution because they are REAL PEOPLE who believe in their athletes. They don’t spread lies and negative views about others, but instead focus their hearts in their work and the athletes that are trying to go the distance in the bodybuilding world.  Whether you are a person wanting to be a bodybuilding pro or a person that just wants to say “I did that!” look no more. I would highly recommend you team up with these 2 companies. I will be forever grateful for their aid in a time of high stress, sacrifice, and powerful meaning.
The main reason I made my way to the stage was to bring awareness to not only rheumatoid arthritis, but more importantly to Cancer.  My chosen little sister Diane Nguyen (pronounced like WIN), has been fighting a battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia since February of 2012.  Shortly after the show, Diane was diagnosed with a very rare (less than 1% of the population) Mass Cell Leukemia. (kind of a major blow) It was Diane’s encouragement and perspective that made this stage moment happen. Diane’s been battling the illness and still continues to fight for life today. The journey till now hasn’t been the smoothest of ride, from multiple rounds of chemotherapy treatment, enough radiation to lose hair multiple times, 10+ surgeries and procedures done on her poor little body, and the struggle to maintain weight with her current gastroparesis situation.  Doctors sent her home on Hospice in February of 2016 and said she had 6-8 months to live.  By the grace of god and Diane’s love for life, she hasn’t given up. Her purpose is to bring everyone to heaven and put a smile in everyone’s heart. Quite frankly the last few months since the show have been very rough for her. She use to text almost daily, but I haven’t seen a text from her since the beginning of May. I have only seen her once since the show as she has been stationed back in Baltimore to undergo some IVIG treatment at John Hopkins. The results we were all hoping for have yet to show, so there are some tough decisions in the works. Thankfully Long keeps me up to speed and I still try and send videos of silly stuff their way to keep the gift of life on the forefront!  Diane adds big smiles to the world, but she also encourages and inspires us all. She is beyond relentless. I haven’t found a strong enough word for her yet... She is astounding and really helped me push through the toughest times when trying to get on that stage.  As noted above, I DID IT.  Not only did I make it to the stage, but we also were able to have a small dedication and inspiring segment of the show where the MIC4D Foundation presented a check to Diane and Long (her devoted and remarkable husband). This was all because of Miles and Kim Nuessle – who wanted to help me make this a powerful monumental memory. I wish I could share that video on this BLOG, but I am still not technically savvy enough to figure out how to take a video from Facebook, download it, so I then can share it on other social media forums.
Whatever challenge life sets before you, remember there is always someone fighting a bigger battle. May you continue to MAKE IT COUNT regardless of the obstacle set before you!

Ashley Stevenson