By Alysha Conner | Black Press USA
Photo provided by Ashley Banks
Ashley Banks recently published her first children’s book, I Love You Forever, On March 31st in hopes of providing insight on how to cope with cancer through a child’s perspective.
“The book is about the grieving process, and understanding that it looks different in every single person. Once that is acknowledged and accepted, I explain how to learn and cope from there. It’s all based on mental health, and learning how to cope with your emotions,” explained Banks.
Banks is a 28-year-old from New York and possesses a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Banks struggled throughout her youth as she witnessed her mother battle breast cancer. It was ultimately through her experience of losing her mother to breast cancer at six years old that inspired Banks to create a book for children to cope with and understand cancer. She began writing the 25-page children’s book in November of 2018. Johnson Publishing Company, a Black-owned publishing company located in Chicago, IL, resides as Banks’s publisher.
“I always knew that I had a story to share. When I was growing up I felt like nobody understood what I was going through, because everyone around me had their parents still. The book that I wrote is a book that I wish I would have had when I was growing up. If I felt that way, I’m sure there is another little boy or girl out there right now that feels like nobody understands what they’re going through. So this book is something for them,” expressed Banks.
A paperback edition of I Love You Forever can be purchased via Amazon for $19.95. For those who purchased the book as a presale, Banks included a signed copy of her book, and thank you note in the packages of the book deliveries. By the end of May, I Love You Forever will be available on Barnes and Noble.
Further explaining her motives for pursuing her goal as a book author, Banks said, “I wanted to shed some light on the emotions, and what goes on emotionally in the minds of people that young, when they have to lose a family member to cancer. It’s about getting them to understand what cancer is, and if they’re sad, mad, or don’t feel anything in that moment, that is absolutely okay. I really wanted to give an account of my own memoir.”
“I feel like with this book if I start lightly teaching kids about cancer, they’ll grow up understanding or being more inquisitive, Banks explained. “Along with it being an emotional tale, there are also certain scientific facts that I dropped in there, like what cancer is. You know at that age, it’s important to understand that cancer is not contagious. Being around someone with cancer doesn’t mean you’re going to get cancer. You know talking to children about with chemo treatments in the first few months your hair may get a little shorter, start losing weight, or be more sleepy. It explains the symptoms and side effects more so in layman’s terms so that they can understand. That way so when things are happening they’re not in full shock,” added Banks.
Banks is collaborating with a few Metro Atlanta bookstores to have her book for purchase. She has also partnered with several Atlanta Public Elementary Schools so I Love You Forever can be accessible for faculty members to better assist children in need. Her ultimate goal is to have her book for sale in Barnes and Noble stores and to host a book signing in one of the locations.
Positive feedback since the releasing of her book has consisted of, as conveyed by Banks, “People say it’s touching, inspiring, and that I am brave for telling my story. With my experience being as emotionally traumatic as it was, people are thankful that I’m an advocate for others who were going through the same thing or someone who is now older but went through the same things I did.”
Along with her children’s book, Banks decided to establish a holistic health company called Naturally Mary in September 2018. Banks named her company Naturally Mary in remembrance of her mother passing from breast cancer. She was inspired to create natural remedies to cure common ailments. Banks uses plants, fruits, and vegetables to make her collection of natural homeopathic medicines. The Naturally Mary product collection consists of an assortment of aromatherapy oil blends, chemical, and steroid free creams, health supplements, and more.
Acknowledging the hardships she has endured throughout her journey, Banks said, “In my day there are so many things that need to be done. Trying to find the time to do everything has been hard for me during my journey. Many times I’m working off of three or four hours of sleep, but if I don’t do all of this who will? I don’t ever want to sleep on my dreams or goals. Someone else who has the same idea in mind could make a business out of what I said I was going to do, all because I was hesitant.”
Banks is currently pursuing a career in oncology data analytics. In addition to her oncology research and entrepreneurial endeavors, Banks serves as a single mother to her eight-year-old son. She has managed to raise her son throughout her undergraduate studies, and as she presently fulfills her life goals.
“It’s really difficult. I’ll never lie to somebody and tell them that I have it all figured out. I definitely don’t. You know some days we go to bed at midnight. Then some days I feel like super mom when everything’s done, and lunch is packed for tomorrow already set to go. I take it day by day. It’s about finding that balance of, working on developing my career so that I can succeed in life for him. Then I’m also making sure that I’m always making time to spend with him, because he only gets one childhood, and I want to make sure it’s special. I don’t want to spend so much time planning for his future that I’m missing his present,” shared Banks.
Banks intends to publish her second children’s book this December. Similar to I Love You Forever, her second book will about childhood cancer, but in the form of an “adventure.” As for her holistic health company, she plans to expand Naturally Mary into a storefront in the near future.