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Board of Directors:
Tara Martin, President
When I first texted Ashley Spradlin to see “how the team was doing?” and she shared the news that they were on the way to Emory in Atlanta for Josh. I thought to myself “are they sure?” He’s so young!…. all of the selfish thoughts you have when your friends and family are sick. BUT then my next set of thoughts was I don’t think cancer knows who it is dealing with because Josh Spradlin is one of the most tenacious stubborn people I know and will ever know!! I have spent countless hours discussing/arguing everything from video games, tv shows, movies and most importantly politics with Josh. Josh proved his tenacity once again with his inspirational attitude through all of this. These are his words from their wedding story website:
“Funny thing is, in a round about way, Leukemia has fixed many things in my life. It has taught me to look forward to each and every day with a much larger positive outlook on life…. a life that I can’t wait to spend with my Bride to be!”
This quote stood out to me because it illustrated perfectly Josh’s relentless positive attitude (I thought to myself there it is) but also his undeniable love for Ashley. This is what I know about Joshua Spradlin. He lived life for the great moments and memories it was evident in every friendship. Whether we were going out on the town or simply grilling out as his house you always knew you were in the right place. That it didn’t really matter what everyone else was doing because you know you were going to have as much fun as you could hope for that night. I can say that I have gotten to know so many people over the years because of Josh and Ashley. I will miss Ashley and Josh’s banter back and forth or the pranks that would go on with his boys. But I will miss his big heart the most! Josh opened his home and his heart to so many. We are all better people for knowing him. Josh you will always be loved and missed!!
Mary Jimenez, Vice President
When Josh was first diagnosed with ALL as a family we decided that he would not be alone. We would take turns staying with him at the hospital. When Josh and Ashley had to move to Atlanta to be close to the hospital I would spend a couple of days at a time with him so Ashley could return home to take care of things. I am so grateful for the mother and son time we had. Josh was always talking about ways he was going to help other cancer patients and their families during treatment. His words were “everyone is raising money for a cure I want to help now, to take some of the stress off the patient and family members”. We would be at Emory waiting for a Doctor’s appointment or a transfusion and he would go on about what he wanted his nonprofit to do. Josh was going to be medically discharged from the Air Force and his plan was to work full time on “Strength Ahead”. Josh was an amazing individual, even though he was battling leukemia himself he kept his faith and continuously thought of others. I am so proud to be his mother and to make his dreams a reality with Strength Ahead.
Ashley Spradlin, Treasurer
I met Josh in 2004 and knew there was something very special about him. Once we began dating, I realzied just what kind of person he was…he loved big, had a heart of gold, and an infectious personality that drew people in. He’d do anything he could to help someone out, friend or stranger. When he was diagnosed he immediately began thinking how he could help others going through the same thing. His vision for Strength Ahead came about during his first month long hospital stay. When Josh passed away, I knew this was something I had to help bring to life as it was what he truly wanted. I loved Josh with all that I had and was grateful for the 11 years we were able to spend side by side.
I will forever love Josh as he taught me how to love, how to accept being loved, how to forgive, how to be compassionate towards others, how to be patient, how to trust God 100%, how to be thankful for the littlest things, and how to live in the moment.
I will forever keep his memory and his vision alive by helping bring a smile to others going through the most difficult times in their life.
Juan Jimenez, Secretary
Putting my thoughts to paper has always been relatively easy for me, this being a case where I am heavy-hearted and at a loss for the right words. As Josh’s stepfather, it pains me to no end that our days will never be quite the same. Josh’s physical absence will always have our family at a loss. Our consolation is that we have so many fond memories that our good-hearted son created for us.
He had me puzzled for years on why he appeared to always have an entourage of friends around him. I know now! I know now! I’ve come to recognize that the circle of friends continue to be “thicker than water” and that they have been inspirational in realizing this effort. Any man would be proud to call this altruistic young man a son; I am elated to be part of the vision geared at shifting cancer patients and their family’s experiences in a positive direction.
Thanks to Josh’s vision and the support of friends and family, Josh’s “Strength Ahead” vision will be able to affect change in a positive light for those dealing with the trials of cancer.
Kristy Harris, Legal Advisor
Angela Jesmer, Member At-Large
Laura Dees, Member At-Large
Brittany Hall Eaton, Member At-Large
Josh and I crossed paths many years ago, back then I had no clue that he would be my saving grace over and over. Josh was always there for me throughout our friendship, he was one of those guys that loved me through and through. There wasn’t a time I called that he didn’t answer, there wasn’t a time that he didn’t give me the best advice there was and there wasn’t a time that he didn’t support me. Josh was always a breath of fresh air, his smile always lit up a room and he was the best person, even on his worst days. Josh and I would later begin a different journey together as Josh was diagnosed 3 days after my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our second child. Fast forward to November 11, 2014 we would welcome a little boy to our family, Carter Layne Eaton, that day, our entire world was turned upside down. He was eventually diagnosed with GoldenHar Sydrome and would spend his first 3 months in a hospital room at CHOA in Atlanta. He fought everyday to be here, just like his Uncle Josh. Josh and I would talk on the good days and lift each other up on the bad days. Life was thrown at us together and although it was hard, he always told me Carter would move mountains one day. He will never get to meet his Uncle Josh, but I know that he is his angel and has been with him every step of the way. I thank God for the 15 years that I got to spend with Josh. Knowing him was one of my biggest blessings. I get the honor of calling his wife my best friend. She is also an amazing person and she has stood by me through some of the best and worst times in my life. She is my light at the end of the tunnel. I’m proud of who she is and what she is doing. Strength Ahead will always be a part of me and I am honored to represent Josh and Ashley in this wonderful organization that will help so many in their personal time of need.
Jonathan Alexander, Honary Member At-Large
Our Founding Story
The vision for this organization is as a result of the tribulations Joshua Spradlin experienced while battling “Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, (ALL).” His dilemma began on the eve of the weekend his fiancée (Ashley Dees) was to begin the hunt for a wedding dress, as she was getting matters underway for their 6 Dec 2014 wedding date.
Rather that re-count thoughts in error, Josh’s and Ashley’s dialog from “Strength for Spradlin” a group page on Facebook that Ashley got underway to keep friends and family informed of his day-to-day labors reflects back to the 20th of that month, a day that would open a door, a door that no one was prepared for. (Below are the first few days to express how taxing his fight was)
24 March 2014. Let me go ahead and explain what has been missed so far. For a month I have been dealing with fatigue, lower back pain, and night fevers and sweats. I showed up to work on Tuesday morning 18 march and a few of my friends/coworkers said that I Looked discolored. I scheduled an appointment based on my yellow discoloration, the earliest they could see me was 830 a.m. the following day. The next day 19 March at the 78th med group I had a series of tests ran that showed issues with my gall bladder. I was ordered to the ER immediately but was required to have someone drive me. My mother brought me in at around 11:00 a.m. they ran 24 blood tests, 3 urine tests, an ultra sound and a CT scan that proved I am allergic to contrast. I was given the CT scan and seconds after the contrast was pushed into my into my veins, I instantly went from yellow to bright red, my throat began to itch, and I started sneezing. They freaked out and called in a slew of medical folks trying stop the attack and finally just gave me a 50mg shot of Benadryl that sent me into a drunken stupor. Mind you this is still Wednesday the 19th. I was told I had to stay overnight.
3:30 A.M. March 20th. I received 4 more blood tests, and 2 blood cultures. Around 11:00 a.m. a nurse comes in and for some reason hands the phone to my mom rather than me. She gets off the phone and she tells me it’s not a gall stone… Better… Leukemia.
After 7 hrs. of fighting with multiple hospitals they finally got an approval for me to transfer to Emory University for treatment. I got picked up by an ambulance from Dublin and arrived at 11:00 p.m.
2:00 a.m. March 21st. I was woke up for 4 vials of blood. I met my doctors in the morning who confirmed my diagnosis as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Very uncommon at my age, it generally affects under 10 and 51 and over. I was still jaundiced and they needed to figure out the infection before planning chemo. They sent me down for another ultrasound which came back negative. Around 4:00 p.m. three doctors came in and decided it was Time for a bone marrow biopsy. This is where they take a large gauged needle and drive it into the soft center of your hip bone in an effort to retrieve blood and bone marrow. Unfortunately, that took three attempts … Painful. 4 more blood vials and 2 cultures that evening and then finally time for rest.
2:00 a.m. March 22nd. 2 blood tests as usual and my usual meals of broth, apple juice, and jello. Around lunch time a doctor walks in and asks Ashley to leave…. Great… Here comes the bad news. He asks me about sperm banking in case the chemo causes sterility. I had a sigh of relief; we had already made the phone calls to get this ball rolling. So needless to say I didn’t receive any more bad news. Had a few visitors (Mary Jimenez, stepsister Jessica Jimenez, stepbrother James Jimenez, nephew Chris Jimenez, Brad Jones and Erica Lee which helped the day pass until it was time to sleep.
2:00 a.m. March 23rd. More blood tests and 2 blood cultures. My doctor stopped by again and let me know that they were putting me on steroids starting today. The steroids helped tremendously by getting rid of my nightly fever. Unfortunately, still having issues with heavy night sweats. My doctor also explained that I will be starting chemo on Wednesday. Very relaxing day and helped made possible by more visitors (Paul Jesmer and Tammy Jesmer, my cousin Valarie Jimenez and her boyfriend Jesus, later in the evening, Doug Erlich, Brandon Clark, Mike Urbanski, Brian Hayes, Ryan Jordan, and Joshua Hall.
2:00 a.m. March 24th. As usual 2 blood tests. Today I received my main port PICC line, which essentially is a tube that runs into my chest for them to use for I.V. applications, blood transfusions, and my chemo that starts Wednesday. The procedure wasn’t horrible…. Just feels funny with these tubes dangling down my chest. Around 2:30 p.m. I was picked up for my heart-echo test. My heart is strong and able to take the preferred chemo for my treatment. Ashley Dees has to go home until Friday but my mother Mary F. Jimenez is here to cover the shift until she returns.
My blood tests have been improving daily, and the outlook is positive. I want to thank everybody who has contacted me and expressed their concerns and offered their help and prayers. I truly am blessed to have people like you in my life and I never forget these things. I am sorry if I have been unable to respond to every text, but it’s been a grueling few days. I wanted to give everyone an idea of what’s been going on with me the last few days.
March 26 So I received batch 1 of 10 of my first 5 day cycle today. They started me out with 1 pill to keep my uric acid levels low, 1 antiviral pill, and 10 steroid pills. They had to give me 10 4mg steroid pills because I need 40mg and they don’t make that pill in larger doses. They started the chemo bag later than expected at around 3:00 p.m. at first I was drowsy and then the steroids kicked in and decided against a nap. I will be receiving a chemo bag through my I.V. every 12 hrs so number 2 is at 3:00 a.m. (in case anyone out there struggles with adding time… Jk) the first bag doesn’t seem to have affected me too much, a little gittery but nothing uncontrollable.
I enjoyed the pics from everyone in orange today. Keep the pics coming, they definitely are uplifting. The support is incredible and I am very grateful. Once again the thoughts and prayers are deeply appreciated. Might try and sleep a little earlier tonight before they hit me with my next bag at 3:00 a.m.
March 27 Well 3 chemo treatments of 10 complete. Today the treatment felt slightly heavier but not unbearable. I received a few get well gifts and plenty of thoughts and prayers today that were uplifting. I have been asked a few times over the last few days about what the stress was like finding out about the diagnosis. I thought it about it for a while, and I guess the best way to explain the unexpected bad news would be to say:
Imagine a diagnosis that takes a few days to discover, can take just a few weeks to beat you if discovered late, but is going to take you a few years of treatment without relapse before you can truly know you beat it…. Heck of a challenge…. Challenge accepted!
March 28 Start off as usual… 5 of 10 chemo bags complete in my first cycle. Still handling the side effects pretty well. Ashley Dees is here to take care of me now for the next 9 days. Had a few visitors today to help pass the time…. Clay Dykes, Brandon Clark and Ryan Jordan. Definitely appreciated that. I start the tougher stuff tomorrow at three for my last four chemo bags. So definitely looking forward to that so that I can gauge what I am in for over the next 7 cycles. My Dr. said all of my levels are decreasing the way they want them, so that also is good news. Not much more to report and honestly I am kind of glad. As usual I appreciate the support!
March 29 Today was a little bit more interesting. I was put on my last bag for the first cycle of treatment. It is a 24hr bag that will be done by 430 pm tomorrow. My levels are still well and progressing as expected by my Dr. We had to order delivery dinner tonight because my floor lost electricity at dinner time and I couldn’t get me food order in time. It was restored within an hour, and honestly the delivery food was a nice break. Still only dealing with minor side effects which is another strong plus. Definitely enjoyed talking to some old friends today as well. All is well right now!
March 31 Good morning friends! Josh did not post an update last night so I decided I would post an update for him. Saturday night was long for both of us…. Not much sleep as nurses came in more often than usual. He was able to get a quick nap in before lunch however and wanted to walk laps. We walked 25 before he wanted a break. I could tell he was becoming tired but he insisted on completing 10 more. Yesterday was his first day without his 40mg of steroids and he was starting to feel it. However he had some visitors yesterday; Mary Jimenez, Angela Jesmer, Juan Jimenez, Micah Mcclintic, Derek Jones and Derek’s dad. They definitely lifted his spirits and he enjoyed talking with them. His 24 hour bag of Doxorubicin was finished at 4:30 pm and he will not have any more treatment until Saturday with one ten minute dose and steroids for four days. He ate dinner last night but was not feeling up to walking anymore laps. I believe we were both asleep by 10pm. We were not disturbed quite as much last night and managed to sleep until around 8:00. He ate most of his breakfast but is very exhausted and has been sleeping since about 9:30. They took him off of his saline IV so he is not hooked up to anything for the first time in a week. He was really looking forward to going outside today for the first time in 11 days so I pray he finds some strength later on after a long nap.
Continue to keep him in your prayers and pray his strength returns this week! Thanks so much and love you all!!
Through it all Josh was steadfast in staying strong and keeping matters in a positive light.