Ashley Durance, seen here on Nov. 25, 2020 with her four-year-old daughter Hazel, recently released The Adventures of Mabel Mouse. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Ashley Durance, seen here on Nov. 25, 2020 with her four-year-old daughter Hazel, recently released The Adventures of Mabel Mouse. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Chilliwack cancer patient writes children’s book inspired by daughter with medical complexities

Ashley Durance released ‘The Adventures of Mabel Mouse’ the day before her daughter’s fourth birthday

A Chilliwack woman recovering from lung cancer has released a children’s book inspired by her young daughter’s struggles and successes.

Ashley Durance launched The Adventures of Mabel Mouse on Nov. 6, the day before her daughter Hazel’s fourth birthday.

And although Hazel only just turned four, she’s been in hospital more times than most people will be in their entire lives.

Born 17 weeks early, she was a micro-preemie baby at a mere 420 grams. Hazel had complications from the moment she was born, the most severe of which was her underdeveloped lungs. She also had patent ductus arteriosus in which a valve in her heart failed to close after birth, pulmonary hypertension, and a sick liver.

Hazel now lives with chronic lung disease and is blind in her left eye.

READ MORE: Chilliwack mom gives back to Royal Columbian Hospital NICU with Christmas stocking drive

About two years ago, Durance started working on The Adventures of Mabel Mouse. She felt there wasn’t enough representation of kids who were differently abled, had disabilities or were medically complex.

“Around the globe, they need to have representation,” Durance said.

‘The Adventures of Mabel Mouse’ by Ashley Durance of Chilliwack was released on Nov. 6, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

‘The Adventures of Mabel Mouse’ by Ashley Durance of Chilliwack was released on Nov. 6, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

“I wrote it and then scrapped it, and then wrote it and then scrapped it, and then wrote it again and it sat for about six months until COVID hit.”

Durance had lost her job as a result and decided to try and finish the book, but she needed an illustrator.

She had heard about Manitoban artist Hannah Teakle through one of her coworkers before the pandemic hit, so Durance reached out to Teakle and soon they were working together on the book.

Things were finally rolling again for Durance. They began designing the characters and started working on the page design.

But then in August, Durance found out she had lung cancer.

“I felt so defeated at that point.”

She had already hit so many road blocks trying to get the book finished. It felt like, yet again, it wasn’t the right time for The Adventures of Mabel Mouse.

“So I asked her to hit the pause button,” Durance recalls saying to Teakle.

Little did she know, Teakle kept right on trucking with the book.

“Hannah is a saint. She said ‘OK, no worries’ and then kept working on it and didn’t tell me until after I had had my surgery.”

Durance had the entire lower left lobe of her lung removed on Oct. 1. All of the cancer was removed and she won’t need to go for chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Her surgeon said she will get normal lung function back in six to 12 months.

When she arrived home after having surgery there was a package from Teakle waiting for her at her house.

It was the first printed proof of The Adventures of Mabel Mouse.

“I just started bawling. It was so overwhelming to hold it.”

Ashley Durance, seen here on Nov. 25, 2020 with her four-year-old daughter Hazel, recently released The Adventures of Mabel Mouse. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Ashley Durance, seen here on Nov. 25, 2020 with her four-year-old daughter Hazel, recently released The Adventures of Mabel Mouse. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Opening up the pages of the book, the reader is introduced to four main characters.

There’s Mabel Mouse (named after Durance’s great-grandmother) who was inspired by Hazel. Both Hazel and Mabel wear glasses and they both like to carry around a satchel to put things in.

Odessa Owl has a nasogastric tube in her beak, and Fergus Fox is in a wheelchair.

And lastly there Holly Hedgehog.

“Holly is just a hedgehog. I didn’t want all the characters to have something different about them. The purpose was to have differently abled characters or kids with medical complexities mixed in with kids who don’t – just like real life.”

She didn’t want to discuss their differences in the book. Instead, when the group runs into challenges, those differences naturally come up in conversation as they talk about how to solve the problem.

Like when Fergus Fox arrives at a rocky patch on the beach and his friends lay planks of wood down so he can get across.

Subsequent books will bring the reader to new places around the world where they’re introduced to more characters, different cultures and cuisines.

“I wanted to have an inclusive way in everything, not just the characters themselves.”

She hopes The Adventures of Mabel Mouse “sparks conversation” for kids who are not differently abled, and is hoping kids who have disabilities will “see themselves in the characters.”

“I want it to be normalized,” she said, adding that all kids no matter their ability or difference should be able to see themselves as a character in a book.

“It was a lot of work, a lot of obstacles, but it’s done,” she said.

The Adventures of Mabel Mouse can be purchased online at Amazon (globally) for $15.99.


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on?
Email: jenna.hauck@theprogress.com
Twitter: @PhotoJennalism

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BooksCancer

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP Emergency Response Team members on Charles Street in Chilliwack on Jan. 15, 2021 after an undisclosed threat was made by a male. The matter was resolved peacefully. (Darcy Loewen photo)
Heavy Chilliwack RCMP presence on Charles Street Friday after ‘disturbing’ phone call

Man who made threats to harm self and others eventually taken into custody unharmed

Two people were in a vehicle that rolled over on Highway No. 1 near Lickman Road. They are now out of the vehicle. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vehicle rolls over on Highway 1 near Lickman Road in Chilliwack

Two people in SUV at time of collision in westbound lanes

Both eastbound lanes are completely west of exit 135 on Highway 1. (Google maps)
UPDATE: Traffic now getting through following car collision on Highway 1 in Chilliwack

Incident happened shortly just west of exit 135 for Agassiz/Harrison Hot Springs

Carin Bondar announced Nov. 26 that she will be running in the upcoming byelection to replace outgoing school trustee Dan Coulter. (Sarah Sovereign Photography)
Chilliwack school board candidate Carin Bondar calls for vote-by-mail option

As the COVID pandemic continues, Bondar fears voter turnout will be low for next month’s byelection

The route of the pink parade. The Record has blackened out the name of the teen. Facebook photo.
Pink-vehicle parade to be held Sunday in support of transgender teen assaulted in Mission

Teen and family to watch parade drive single file along waterfront at 3 p.m., Jan. 17

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Delta Hospice Society operates the Harold & Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care (pictured) and the Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner. (The Canadian Press photo)
Fraser Health to evict Delta Hospice Society, open new hospice beds next door

Health authority will serve DHS 30 days’ notice when service agreement expires Feb. 25

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read