Early this summer, Ashli Baldwin thought she'd sprained her ankle wake-boarding at Clark's Hill Lake.
When it didn't heal after two months, Baldwin, 24, reluctantly headed to an Augusta hospital.
X-rays didn't reveal a sprain.
Instead, a doctor found a tumor that had eaten most of the bone in her ankle.
"He said, 'It looks like you may have cancer,'" Baldwin recalled. "He was just very blunt. He said, 'I'm not going to tell you it is cancer, but I can tell by the X-rays that something is eating at your bone.'"
At first, doctors said the tumor was benign. But after further investigation, Baldwin was told the tumor could be cancerous.
All doctors could say is that it is "a rare and dangerous bone tumor," Baldwin said.
On Sept. 4, Baldwin underwent surgery at Emory University in Atlanta to remove the tumor and use metal to rebuild her ankle joint.
The Harlem native and 2003 Harlem High School graduate spent the days since her surgery in a cast, needing help from family to care for her 18-month-old son, Howard.
Doctors still have not determined what the growth is on Ashli's leg bone. One theory is that it is a giant cell tumor that eats bone like a termite.
"It is inconclusive," Baldwin said. "He (one of Baldwin's doctors at Emory) just said it is a rare bone tumor and it is something they have never seen."
Doctors presented Baldwin's case at a pathology conference in Boston and to the New York Bone Club in efforts to identify the mysterious tumor.
Baldwin was hoping to have a firm diagnosis by now, and hopes she'll get some news at her doctor appointment this week.
"They say it could be a new case in the United States. It is very weird," Baldwin said.
"Oh my gosh, my nerves. I was hoping I would hear something. ... I'm just glad they are getting to the bottom of it."
With her nerves on edge waiting for the diagnosis, Baldwin has other concerns -- medical bills.
Baldwin has worked at Electrolux for five years as a liability specialist, but never realized that the insurance premiums she paid didn't include medical coverage.
"I thought it was all a bundle," Baldwin said.
"I thought it was my vision, dental and health (plans). ... I just have vision and dental and the (medical) insurance is by itself. I did not know that."
The two-night hospital stay at Emory cost nearly $19,000. Baldwin said she still hasn't gotten bills for the surgery, which she'll get once the tumor is identified, and bills for Emory clinic visits for regular x-rays and evaluations, which run at least $1,500 each.
Family, friends and businesses -- who have dubbed themselves Ashli's Army -- have organized a concert to help Baldwin defray the medical expenses she's incurred.
The Jeremy Graham Band will perform at the Play'n After Dark event Saturday at the Columbia County Amphitheater.
"(Jeremy Graham) went to school with my sister and we've known him since we were babies," Baldwin said.
In addition to the concert, the event will include food from Dye's Southern Grill and Sunrise Grill, and face-painting, clowns, the Grovetown Department of Public Safety fire safety house and a Putt-Putt Golf & Games putting green.
Raffle tickets will be sold for a Georgia-themed golf car; an Infinity washer and dryer set; a football jersey, cap and football autographed by University of Georgia coach Mark Richt; and many other items.
"We've got all kinds of great goodies," said Stacey Hart, Baldwin's aunt and an event coordinator.
"We have all kinds of good stuff going on."
Winners of the raffle will be drawn during the concert's intermission.
The gates open at 4 p.m. and the concert starts at 6 p.m.
Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased at the gate or from the Harlem and Evans Regions Bank locations; Sunrise Grill in Martinez and North Augusta; Heather's Classic Cuts in Harlem; or Merle Norman Cosmetics in Evans. Children under 12 get in free.
Donations to the Ashli's Army Medical Fund can be made at any Regions Bank location.
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