What is The Cancer Journal Project?


When I was 14 years old, I met Ashley. Four years later, we were married. Nine years after that, she died. 

    On May 8, 2013, our 9th wedding anniversary, we found out that the lymphoma we thought Ashley had was actually stage 4 stomach cancer. The two of us responded to the news quite differently. She cried and almost immediately accepted the possibility that she might die. I just stood there. I was unable to process and deal with that information. I felt that if I ignored it long enough, I could somehow bend the world to my will.

    Ashley’s sister gave her a journal the day before the full diagnosis and Ashley started writing in it. The ability to write down exactly what she was feeling at any given moment, was comforting. It helped her cope. I never could have written in a journal because I never accepted any of it. In fact writing this now and admitting that it happened is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. 

    For Ashley though, that journal was calming. It went with her everywhere. Through diagnosis, treatment, vomiting, pills and pain she could write whatever she wanted. I would notice her at times while she was writing. Sometimes she would smile. Sometimes she would cry. No matter the emotion though, I knew it helped. As soon as an event happened, she would write in the journal. It became almost a stream of consciousness. What she has left is an incredibly intimate and honest portrayal of what life is like for someone dying of cancer. 

                                                                          Ashley and her journal.

                                                                          Ashley and her journal.

    Ashley and I made a deal that no one would read the journal until she died. The hope of course was that she would get better and no one would EVER be able to read it. That’s not what happened though. On the last page of the journal, Ashley wrote a list of the things she wanted to do when she beat cancer. Among the list was start a charity. That is what The Cancer Journal Project is. 

    I wanted the journal itself to be part of the charity. I wanted this amazing historical document to be shared with the world. We will release excerpts from the journal and artwork designed around what Ashley wrote. This will happen on our website and social media accounts. It’s the hope that these words will help others to cope and understand what can be accomplished in the face of tremendous adversity.

    Cancer completely consumes your life. Not only is this disease mutating through your cells but it robs you of time. There are doctors visits, tests, procedures, chemo, trips to the pharmacy and that's not even counting the time your body needs to heal. Cancer treatment leaves no time for anything else. Especially not a vacation.

    Ashley and I loved going to Walt Disney World. We went there on our honeymoon. We also went back every year that we were married. She even ran the Disney Marathon four months before she was diagnosed. I guess we never really grew up...

    What’s sad is that so many kids are forced to deal with things they were never intended to have to. Cancer is robbing them of their childhoods and forcing them to grow up way too fast. We want to help. We want to be able to send these children and their families on a trip. We want to give them a break from the doctors and pills. A break from their homes that have become extended hospital rooms. We want to send them to Walt Disney World.

    This is how you can help. 100% of your donations go directly to the Make-A-Wish foundation. The Cancer Journal Project is completely self funded. We don't keep a dime of your donation. Make-A-Wish will use the money to help kids and their families get a much needed break. To forget for a while that they're sick. To make as many memories as possible. It takes approximately 6500$ to sponsor a wish and send a family to Disney World. We want to be able to send as many families as possible. We need your help to make this happen. Please donate whatever you can. 

    What else can you do? Tell everyone you know about The Cancer Journal Project. Visit our site often. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr. Like our posts and pictures. Share and retweet. The more people that know about Ashley and The Project, the more families we can help.

    Ashley and I had several trips planned while she was sick. We only got to take one of them. We kept waiting for one more chemo round or one more procedure. We were always waiting for the next week, when surely she would feel better. Time just ran out. Please help these families take the time while they still can.

    Ashley would have liked knowing that this journal, this coping mechanism, helped others to cope.

 

                                                                                                                                - Kenan Irving