Thousands of people are getting ready to take part in the Canadian Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life and a young cancer patient is among them.

Ashley MacLean will be taking part in the event for the first time this year, but she had to fight to get permission to leave her hospital bed first.

"I'm still fighting, I'm still going forward, and I'm not letting it beat me," she says of the disease.

The 22-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer two years ago and she has been living at a Halifax hospital for almost as long.

"We've been told she was the first in the Maritimes, and the second in Canada to ever have it," says her mother, Wanda MacLean.

Ashley has alveolar soft part sarcoma, a rare and slow-growing tumour that reaches out, grabbing onto soft tissue organs.

When she was diagnosed back in 2010, doctors discovered it had already hit her lungs.

"Last Thanksgiving weekend she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her hip," says her mother. "She had it in the spine and it had hit the skull."

So there was no hesitation from Ashley's family when she and her brother said they wanted to take part in the Relay for Life, but they needed to convince medical staff first.

"I went to the doctor to talk to her about it and first they said ‘no,'" says Wanda.

They decided it would be too much for Ashley to complete the full 12-hour relay, so they came to a compromise. Ashley was granted permission to leave the palliative care unit to take part in the Survivors' Victory Lap, which is the first lap of the event Friday night.

But Ashley's dedication to the cause didn't stop there. With the help of hospital staff, volunteers, family and friends, she has raised $800 in a short period of time.

"I'm proud. Proud of both of my children for doing it, proud that she can do it and wants to do it," says Wanda.

For a family who says they live one minute at a time, the MacLeans admit the walk will be emotional for all of them.

"Two years ago, you know, I might not have been here," says Ashley.

But like the inspirational messages that cover her hospital walls, Ashley says she keeps positive thoughts and never gives up hope.

"It's just a hard life to live and you know, you always want to keep fighting because you have family members that love you so much."

Learn more about a Relay for Live event in your area

Click here to sponsor Ashley MacLean in the Relay for Life


With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster