KENNEBUNKPORT – Jennifer Willey had warm blue eyes, an infectious laugh and a spirit that inspired those around her.

Ms. Willey, who documented her long battle with cancer on a popular website she maintained and who reached out to others with the disease, died on Sunday. She was 31.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 25. She received multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments and two bone marrow transplants, one of which caused graft-versus-host disease, which attacked her good cells and damaged her lungs.

Ms. Willey started her website,, after she was diagnosed in 2005. She wrote about her treatments in detail, regardless of how personal or painful they were. She posted information about the disease on the website and reached out to people who faced the same adversity.

Her mother, Violet Willey, said her daughter responded to every e-mail she received, fought cancer with grace and courage and inspired others along the way.

“She was always so brave and strong-faced,” her mother said. “We really believed she would be OK. We all had faith that she would pull through this.”

Ms. Willey was remembered by her family and friends on Tuesday as a warm and compassionate person who always had a smile and laughed with her whole body.

Her sister, Shelley Porter of Glenburn, said they were very close. She said they had an intuitive connection, calling or texting each other at the same time.

On Tuesday night, Porter remembered a trip to Boston when she sneaked her 17-year-old sister into a nightclub to dance. She said they loved going shopping. When Ms. Willey became too sick to shop, she introduced Porter to eBay.

“We sat there with our dueling laptops, bidding on eBay and shopping online,” Porter said. “She’s the first person I want to call or text when something happens. I miss her terribly already.”

Ms. Willey was well-loved by her friends, including Anna Gilbert of Portland, who was at the hospital on the night she died. Gilbert said she was the kind of friend people could count on.

“She always wanted to know what was going on in her friends’ lives,” Gilbert said. “She was so genuine. Her friendship was a gift. I’m so thankful (to have known her).”

Ms. Willey grew up in Kennebunkport and graduated from Kennebunk High School in 1997. She later graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a business degree.

A couple of months after she was diagnosed with cancer, she adopted a pot-bellied pig named Willa. She said in a journal entry that the pig comforted her after chemotherapy treatments.

Ms. Willey was the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding and witnessed the birth of her nephew, Jack Porter, more than two years later.

“She found strength in the love she had for her family and for life,” Porter said. “There were so many things she wanted to do. She wanted to have a baby. She wanted to skydive. She wanted to live. She took her little body as far as it could go.”

Just before Ms. Willey died, she opened her eyes and looked at her family. Her mother said that, for the first time in four years, she had tears.

“I took a tissue and got her tear on it,” her mother said. “I couldn’t believe it. I took her oxygen off and told her she was free.” 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]