BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Doctors delivered the news to high school sweethearts Kenan and Ashley Irving. Stage four stomach cancer.
It was May 8, 2013. The young couple's 9th anniversary.
Ashley's sister brought her a brightly colored notebook to write down her thoughts and to help her to cope.
For six months, Ashley kept copious notes on her treatment, her feelings, her plans, and life.
"As she went through the treatment, she wrote constantly." Said Kenan Irving, "When something would happen, she would immediately write it, whether it was good or bad."
By November 11th, Ashley could no longer write. Her disease took her just seven days later.
"I refused to process that." Said Kenan, "I didn't want to be a widower. I didn't want to be defined by this death."
Kenan's efforts to re-define Ashley's death and what cancer had taken from him led him right back to that brightly colored journal.
Kenan has begun releasing Ashley's writings online. He calls it the Cancer Journal Project. It's an honest look at the final six months of Ashley's life.
From the funny, "That valium stuff is… Wow!"
To the real, "Bye-bye hair. Hello tears."
To the touching. "I found an orchid that is dying (like me) so I have to revive it too. My little project."
"My favorite entry in the whole journal is, "I saw bats and fireflies tonight."', said Kenan. "No matter what was going on in her day, it usually ended with something positive."
Kenan says that he hopes the website does more than just inspire people. He says that Ashley had big plans.
"To be able to give kids this opportunity to go on a trip, give them a week where they don't have to worry about their treatment, where they don't have to worry about their doctors, prescriptions. Everything is completely taken care of for them."
In the five months the Cancer Journal Project had been live, it has funded trips to Disney World for four children with terminal illness and their families through the Make a Wish Foundation. He is now working on the fifth, of what he hopes are many more opportunities.
"They get to be kids. Their families get to be families, and they don't have to worry about these diseases."
And some say that would make Ashley as happy as seeing bats and fireflies on her back porch.
Ashley's journal and more information on how to help her cause can be found online. click HERE.
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