A twenty-first birthday can be cause for a grand celebration. It is one of the last rights of passage into adulthood, and most young people will spend the occasion out on the town with friends. But Ansley Cochran isn’t like most people.
At a diminutive four foot, nine inches, most wouldn’t guess her age correctly anyway. They also wouldn’t guess that she has been fighting cancer for nineteen of those twenty-one years. Take a moment to consider that – a nineteen-year fight. At the tender age of two, Ansley was splashing in the tub when her parents discovered a lump on her neck. After a few visits to the doctor, Ansley was sent to the hospital where she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
Since that time, her life has centered around hospitals. She has had multiple rounds of chemotherapy, her lifetime maximum of radiation, several surgeries, and even MIBG therapy during which she was infused with targeted radioactive compounds to try to destroy her tumors. Despite all of this, her cancer keeps coming back. Every time she reaches a cancer-free status, scans soon find new evidence of tumor growth. Currently, her cancer is stable and not spreading. But it isn’t gone. In fact, her cancer is currently on the back-burner as she tries to deal with the damage her so-called treatment has wrought.
Ansley suffers from chronic pain, exhaustion, lack of energy, and esophageal webbing which makes eating very difficult. She has been forced to quit both college and work because the rigors of her treatment and its side effects make it impossible to keep a routine schedule.
With all of that in mind, it would be easy to imagine that Ansley is bitter or angry about the cards she’s been dealt. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ansley is the very picture of hope. She radiates positivity despite her circumstances and constantly looks for ways to lift others up. This desire to help others brought Ansley to CURE Childhood Cancer.
CURE has been a part of Ansley and her family’s life since the beginning. So rather than have a birthday part, Ansley decided to donate her birthday to CURE through a Facebook fundraiser. This is the message she started with:
“I am one of the many faces of pediatric cancer (even though I’m no longer a child) so I know how little funding is put towards researching to find a cure for this disease that kills 1 in 5 of children diagnosed. For my 21st Birthday, I’m asking you to please donate anything you can to help support the cause and help me raise money to give kids just like me the chance to stop daydreaming from hospital rooms and let them actually go out and live their dreams!”
She started with a goal of raising $200 but within fifteen minutes, she had hit $420, prompting her to raise the goal to $1000. Donations hurdled that number almost immediately.
Throughout her life, Ansley has been surrounded by a family of faith and good friends. She loves the small-town feel of Dallas, Georgia and credits her community with always being there for her.
“This town is family,” she said. “When someone is in need, everyone steps up.”
With all of this support, she realistically believed her fundraiser could get to $1500. Even Ansley was surprised when it crossed $3000. She was ecstatic to be able to give back in such a big way.
Over the past few years, Ansley has taken up the pen to journal and blog as an outlet. All of her writing is thoughtful, positive, and more upbeat that you would expect from a young lady in her shoes. In the future, she hopes to extend her reach with a message of hope.
When asked what keeps her going, Ansley simply replied, “My answer to your question is God. He is what keeps me full of hope and motivates me to live everyday like it’s my last.”