Ashley Doncon and Joanna Cash – it could be said – were soulmates.
Joanna was unfortunately diagnosed with Alveolar Sarcoma after collapsing on the ski slopes in Colorado in January 2010. It’s believed that she was the first person ever diagnosed in WA and only the second diagnosed in Australia with this very rare form of Sarcoma. Unfortunately for Joanna it was a death sentence – being told by the medical profession in WA they could only “guarantee her 12 months”.
Joanna was a remarkably positive and endearing person who was a magnet for family, friendship, care and empathy and very much embraced the “glass half full” outlook on life. Taking only the positives from all those that surrounded her.
She defied the odds with some amazing support from Ash and her family and the persistent stubbornness from her sister Melinda in getting her on experimental drugs in the UK.
Unfortunately however despite everyone’s efforts and Joanna’s “never accept death” attitude, she passed away on 20th November 2015 – nearly 5 years after diagnosis and just shy of her 33rd birthday (on 1st January). Ash and his family, Joanna’s Mum and Dad (Ursula and George), sisters Melinda and Michaelia, brother Andrew and all of Joanna’s family and friends were devastated.
Whilst there are unfortunately many sad stories of young people passing away from cancer every day (Sarcomas only being 1% of all cancers albeit around 325 diagnosed per year in WA), Ashley’s efforts to deal with Joanna’s passing and his life changing journey is somewhat extraordinary.
Ashley set off from his home in Brixton, England on 10th June 2016 having only a few weeks to plan for the journey of some 35,000kms, armed with limited savings – but filled with the adventurous spirit he and Joanna shared.
Travelling on his second-hand bike (affectionately named Charlie) and taking with him his trusty mascot teddy (named Ella after his love of Nutella), a one person tent for shelter, sleeping bag for warmth, small cooking pot to fill his belly, mobile phone for guidance and minimal other essentials to get him through the journey. He had a firm belief in the goodness of people and so dismissed all his family and friends concerns about the potential dangers – accidents, muggings, theft, the threat of desperate illegal immigrants tramping across Europe.
Ash couldn’t make it to the Himalayas in good time to cross before the winter so he took his time crisscrossing through Europe, enjoying the wonderful scenery and spectacular wild camping sites. By the time he made it to Turkey it was getting cold so he reached out to the Warmshowers community (a Couchsurfing for cyclists) and found a network of incredibly generous hosts of fellow cyclists to share travel stories with and in some cases a restorative and hearty hot meal.
Leaving his bike in Tbilisi, Georgia for the winter and returning in March 2017 to continue on with the trip. The second leg of the journey through Central Asia, South Asia and South East Asia reinforced his belief in humanity and wonder at the beauty of the world. From complete strangers Ash was gifted warm clothes, invited into homes for the night, bought hotel rooms and meals, had parts fixed for free, handed food and water and shared exuberant and uplifting smiles and waves.
Having to have a Police escort at all times in certain areas of Pakistan to not seeing a local person for three days straight in Tajikistan, to one day getting woken at 4am to the sound of the adhan (call to prayer) while sleeping outside a Mosque in Malaysia and then that same night going to sleep in a queen sized bed in an apartment on Sentosa Island, Singapore overlooking the ocean – each country came with its own experiences and each day its complete contrasts.
The following are the countries he has ridden through – England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and he arrived in Darwin Australia on 7th June 2018.
Ashley arrived in Broome on Sunday 8th July 2018. He will then head inland on his way down to Perth where he will arrive on Saturday 11th August 2018.
A Welcome Home Event has been arranged at 10am Saturday 11th August 2018 at Perth Flying Squadron Yacht Club on the foreshore in Nedlands.
Ash is very committed to making his ride not just about his incredible achievement but also about awareness of Sarcoma and a perfect time to remember Joanna.
We expect to get a pretty substantial turn out when Ashley returns and where he’ll cut his hair, that hasn’t been cut (for better or worse) for over 2 years. It will be a fantastic opportunity to recognise Ashley’s incredible journey, memory of Joanna and greater awareness of both Sock it to Sarcoma! and this rare cancer.
It’s a cancer that needs both greater exposure and funds to ensure education of the medical profession for early detection, assistance to patients and their families and research to prevent as many families and friends having to endure what Joanna’s family and friends had to experience.