Fixation on Histology

Understanding Histology in My Cancer Journey

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought histology was, I probably would have told you it had something to do with Indiana Jones. When I started my job at The National Society of Histotechnology, I started to learn about the integral part histology and histotechnologists play in patient care but specifically how it has played a role in my life. 
In 2013, I had been married for one year to my husband Chris when I felt a lump in my neck. I initially brushed it off, attributing the lump to stress or a passing virus. I didn’t think much of it until I talked to my mom. When she persisted, I knew I better get it checked out. 
From that doctor’s appointment, I was sent to get an ultrasound of my neck and chest. I made it home and then got the call that changed my life. All I heard was the word cancer and my mind shut off.  I was 25--25-year-olds don’t get cancer. The next few days were a blur of oncology appointments, a series of medical tests, including blood work and imaging scans. 
Ashely Stewart Receiving Chemo 

On September 12, 2013, I was in surgery to get a biopsy. Here is where the real heroes come in. It was the biopsy that provided the definitive diagnosis—Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Histology played a pivotal role in my diagnosis. Without those working day in and day out in the lab, honing their craft and making sure that stains are perfect, and the slides and images are pristine, I could have been misdiagnosed. How is it that people don’t know about this profession?!  

In the intricate web of modern healthcare, where the emphasis is often placed on high-tech diagnostics and cutting-edge treatments, it's easy to overlook the unsung heroes behind the scenes. Despite operating largely behind the curtains of the laboratory, histotechnologists play a crucial role in the healthcare ecosystem, shaping patient outcomes and advancing medical research.

For me, I didn’t grasp the significance of histology in my life until 2024. As I continue to learn about what histology is and meet many amazing histotechnicians and future histotechnologists, it has transformed how I think about diagnosis in general. I am more at peace knowing that the people I have met are sending their work to pathologists with precision and expertise.

As I reflect on my Hodgkin's Lymphoma journey, I'm reminded of the intricate overlap between science and humanity. Everyone has been touched by histology in some form.

Ashley & Chris StewartWhether it be a family member, friend, spouse, or co-worker, we have had the best making sure we are taken care of.  So, thank you histotechs for making sure I was taken care of and for being a part of my journey. Because of you and the amazing doctors and support that I received, I can gratefully say that I am 10 years cancer free.

Written by: Ashley Stewart, NSH Membership & Publications Manager





05-10-2024 03:28

Thank you very much Ashley Stewart for sharing the importance of Histotechnoligists in cancer detection based on your true story!! I always saying to my students " Don't expect recognition from your esteemed patients, but try to recognize their PAIN". And today Ashley showed me that recognition to the Beloved profession!! Thank you very much indeed AND I wish you the best in your future endeavors!!!

05-01-2024 09:37

Thanks for sharing your story Ashley! 

04-19-2024 14:01

Thank you for that wonderful true life story.  Yes you are correct in saying not many people know histotechnologists.  We very rarely see the patients so we don't exist.  Take care and hang in there fighting.  Glad you work with us.