Trish Adams was struggling to find a purpose two years ago in the deaths of two women to whom she was closest.
“I lost my best friend to breast cancer and I lost my mother six months later to lung cancer,” Adams said. “I struggled to find a reason for this horrific torture they put you through just to sustain life for a period of time. There’s got to be some reasoning, some purpose, something.”
Adams, a Ravensdale resident, met David Snell of Maple Valley and he had also been trying to find purpose in his father’s death from cancer.
A concept took shape to honor the lives of those who lost their battles with the disease and the Cancer Memorial Wall was born.
Adams said it is similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall and the first one – this will be a global effort with walls in locations from Mexico to Australia – will be built in Woodinville.
The nonprofit has partnered locally with King County Parks, Adams explained, for a long term lease on the property for the memorial wall and is working on similar partnerships in other countries.
It will cost $200 to get a loved one’s name engraved on the wall.
“From that $200 you get some purpose, some way to honor them and some way to help people in the midst of battling (cancer),” she said. “One thing that tore me up is my mom and best friend… they went through all the poking and the prodding, the hair loss and the throwing up, and they wouldn’t shed a tear until they went home and checked the mail.”
In the mail box were the bills, the letters of denial of coverage or rejection letters for grants for help to pay the bills because they made too much money.
At one point, Adams said, it was suggested to her mother to divorce her husband of 25 years in order to drop into a lower income bracket to qualify for financial help.
“So, that’s what the proceeds go to from someone giving an engraving,” Adams said. “Each wall should be able to bring in $13 million to give back to people who are going through this. The whole goal behind it is to ease some of that financial pressure. I just went on a mission. I feel that this is my purpose in like to make this happen.”
Adams said another goal is to help raise awareness about the impact of cancer on the population because 7.6 million people die each year from cancer.
The Memorial Wall will also provide a way to celebrate survivors, like Kristin Habenicht, who lives and works in Maple Valley and is volunteering on the project to help spread the word.
“I am a 17 year survivor and my mother is a 32 year survivor,” Habenicht said. “I’ve known several people who have died. We should all be able to help each other. We’re just trying to get as much information out there as possible as well as finding more partnerships.”
Adams explained that she and co-founder Snell have “liquidated absolutely everything we have.”
“It only costs $2.4 million to build this wall and we’ll net $13 million,” she said. “I have had numerous e-mails that ask for help. It’s tough out there right now. If one person gets sick in your family and they lose their job… then they lose their home.”
Because of the drain physically, emotionally and financially on families battling cancer, Adams said, they were particular about the site selection for each wall.
“It’s got to feel a little tranquil, but also a little busy… life is going on,” she said. “This is honoring someone who gave their life to a disease that is horrific that needs to be cure. This is to give purpose, to honor and celebrates as well as to honor the survivors.”
Plans to break ground for the Woodinville site are set for June 24.
More information can be found online at cancermemorialfund.org or by searching Cancer Memorial Wall on Facebook.