April 27, 1987 - November 24, 2001
My name is Paul O'Rear, and the pictures above are of my precious daughter Ashley. My wife Susan and I live in Waxahachie, Texas, with our son Justin. Ashley was diagnosed with a brain tumor (medulloblastoma) in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, March 16, 1997. She was 9 years old at the time, about five weeks shy of her 10th birthday.
Ashley underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor, received 32 radiation treatments to the head and spine, and endured about a year-and-a-half of chemotherapy treatments, plus a few other surgeries along the way. When the dust had settled, we thought she had beaten her cancer for good. In fact, she was cancer-free for about three years after finishing her treatments.
Then our world fell apart again. Ashley's tumors came back suddenly, unexpectedly, and with a vengeance. Once again, Ashley put up a courageous fight. But this second time the cancer was much too strong for her weary little body. On Saturday, November 24, 2001, at 3:10 PM, Ashley died. She was at home, surrounded by family and friends, as life slipped peacefully from her body. She left this world for a much better one, but her leaving has left a hole in our hearts that will never be filled.
During Ashley's battle with cancer, I kept an online journal of her experience and ours. Through the years, even since Ashley's death, I have been contacted by numerous people whose children have also been diagnosed with cancer, some with the exact same kind of cancer as Ashley's. I have also been contacted by many adults who are struggling with cancer and who have stumbled across Ashley's Story. Many of these people have said that reading this journal has helped them in their own struggle. Some have found information that has helped them know what to expect. Some have simply found inspiration in Ashley's courage and determination. And so I will leave this journal posted in the hopes that it may continue to help others who are walking the same path that we have walked.
Whatever your reason for being here, I pray God's richest blessings on you and your family. If you are struggling with cancer, or if you are the parent or family member of a child struggling with cancer ... just don't ever give up! Advances are being made in cancer treatments every day, and the survival rate for all kinds of cancers has consistently increased over the past 20 or 30 years. Every day that passes brings new hope for a cure.
Ashley's story ended not in an earthly victory, but a heavenly one. Until the moment she breathed her last breath, she never gave up hope. Nor did we.
As I look back on our journey with Ashley, with all of its emotional ups and downs; as I pause and reflect on the precious memories that flood my soul, memories of an enchanted life with a true princess; as I fight back a river of tears and wonder how this broken heart can possibly go on beating ... as I take it all in and try to sort it all out and make some sense of it all, if there were any advice I could give you that would be worth giving, I guess it would be simply this. Live every day to the fullest! Look for the blessings! And in the words of my princess, Ashley ... "Trust in God, and never give up!"
God bless you on your journey.
With warmest regards...