QUANAH (KFDX/KJTL) — A Texoma mother of two is thankful to be alive all thanks to an unlikely hero well-known to millions of fans of an NBC show.

In 2019, for three straight days, Quanah resident Ashley Arter experienced severe headaches.

“They finally did a cat scan and found out I was having blood clots on my brain which was a Thrombosis,” Arter said. “They rushed me to Lubbock and I had to have emergency surgery done.”

After the surgery was over, things kept getting worse. In fact, while she recovered from surgery, Ashley suffered eight strokes. Then on Dec. 18, 2019, she received devastating news.

“I had acute myeloid leukemia,” Arter said. “I battled that for a year.”

During that year, Ashley went through 46 rounds of chemo while waiting for a blood stem cell transplant. But to get that transplant, you first need a donor. They tested her brother but he was only a 50% match. But then she got a call that they had found a match.

“They went to the list and found a donor and he was a 12/12 match,” Arter said. “Which was pretty good.”

That donor was a former contestant on NBC’s America Ninja Warrior, Lance Pekus.

“It was a lot to take in at first,” Pekus said. “Especially not even registering. I was like, ‘is this real?’, but after checking into it and knowing the organization is real, the organization was great. Be The Match was great. They definitely reassured me and gave me all of the info that I needed.”

That’s not where their story ends. Because last November, Ashley got another call that filled her with excitement.

“He actually came to Quanah,” Arter said. “We got to meet and it was pretty awesome.”

Pekus agrees it was a special meeting.

“Ashley was definitely on my mind for a good year and a half,” Pekus said. “Every once and awhile you just think back, ‘you know, I did donate I hope that person is doing okay.’ Being able to finally meet and when it comes down to it, they kind of wipe out her stem cells and then put in my blood stem cells and we are definitely connected in a way.”

To us, Lance is known as the “Cowboy Ninja” but for Ashley, who is now cancer-free, he’s known as her true life hero.

Ashley said she still keeps in contact with Lance about once and month and hopes to see him someday again.