Surviving Loss by Cancer

cancer

Cancer. It’s an ugly word that strikes fear deep in the heart. From the very moment the diagnosis is delivered, our worlds pivot in unimaginable ways.

It’s with great honor that in conjunction with tonight’s telecast Stand Up to Cancer in Los Angeles, I share the newest release in the Grief Diaries series, Surviving Loss by Cancer.

The book is a collection of stories from people who have lost someone they love to cancer ranging in age from 24 to 77. Those who face the same loss can hold this book in their hands and draw strength from the written words. Filled with understanding and compassion, each poignant story weaves a journey beginning with their loved one’s first symptoms, to the moment of diagnosis, through to their loved one’s final breath, and beyond.

The purpose of such a book? To serve as a life raft in the storm by offering readers hope, strength, courage as they too transition into life without their loved one.

A heartfelt thank you to the courageous writers who penned their journeys in this book for the purpose of helping others. You are all heroes in my world, and I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart.

If you know someone who lost a loved one to cancer, please share this book with them. It’s available on Amazon and Kindle, and will soon be available in Barnes & Nobles along with 40,000 other retail outlets around the world. Thank you. XOXO

Lynda Cheldelin Fell
www.LyndaFell.com

#cancer #griefdiaries #SU2C

Is hope possible after loss?

Grief Diaries

I was asked today how I wake up every morning with hope in my heart. I paused for a moment, searching for words, and then it came:

I fought for it.

One morning after our daughter Aly died, I was laying in bed when I realized that grief had stolen the technicolor from my world, robbing me of the ability to appreciate much of anything. Still in my forties, I had a choice to make: either find a way to begin living or live my remaining years robbed of all joy. Because hope and happiness are intertwined like peanut butter and jelly, in order to restore happiness, I had to find hope.

From that moment forward, I made the effort to appreciate life’s beauty. Although not every day is beautiful, there is beauty in every day if you look for it. At first it was very, very hard to allow my heart to see or feel anything besides the deep anguish of loss, but determined, I forged on. I fought hard. It took time. Patience. And great effort. But it paid off.

My world filled with hope, beauty, and gratitude.

There are no good analogies when it comes to grief, but if you’re lost in the middle of nowhere, you can wait for help or start walking toward civilization. It’s okay to cry along the way and rest when you need to, but keep walking.

Keep fighting. Hope and happiness are on the horizon. And they’re both worth fighting for.

Lynda Cheldelin Fell
XOXO

Grief’s Collateral Blessings

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. Not because today marks nine years since losing Aly. Rather, the feel of the cool sheets, my sleeping hubby next to me, and the warm sun filtering through our bedroom window felt too peaceful to disturb.

So I laid there and allowed my mind to wander over the past nine years. I replayed that night in the field when I sat next to Aly, how I held her warm hand while strangers on scene surrounded me with love. How Jamie called for an update on the fender-bender only to learn his youngest daughter was covered by the stark white sheet of death.

How we made our way home as the full moon gave way to dawn, wondering when we’ll wake from this nightmare.

What I didn’t know then that I know now is that I would survive.

In those early days I didn’t think I could endure the agony, and many days I didn’t want to. The pain is beyond any words in a college textbook.

How could I learn to live with Aly in my heart instead of my arms? I didn’t know. But whether I liked it or not, I was about to learn.

My playbook of grief begins with a fog of shock so strong, I don’t remember much. The next few chapters are filled with wailing, gnashing of teeth, and spewing vile words. I then embarked on a desperate search for comfort, for relief from the agony. The end of my playbook remains unwritten but the rawness has softened and the current chapters teach that my heart can hold joy the same time as sorrow.

There are many lessons and chapters in my playbook, but the most surprising of all is the one about transformation. In the early days we don’t believe this is possible. How could we? We can’t see past the pain. But as the rawness softens and our coping skills strengthen, we move into an unexpected—and often positive—transformative phase.

What I didn’t know nine years ago that I know now is that Aly’s death was the gateway to many blessings.

My circle of friends has expanded to strangers around the world who speak all loss languages. This taught me that the foundation of mankind is love.

My skillset has expanded to things I didn’t know I could do. This taught me that limitations are self induced, and I can do more than I think.

My compassion has grown in ways I could never have imagined. I learned to see outside my own pain into other hurting hearts, and how helping them helps my own heart to heal.

My gratitude has evolved into an intentional mindset. This taught me that being grateful is a powerful healing modality. The more grateful I am, the more gratitude I have.

Am I grateful for Aly’s death? No. It’s a hellacious journey. But I am grateful for the collateral blessings. This taught me that there is more to grief than meets the eye.

Nine years ago I didn’t want to live. But others held that light of hope when I had none. This taught me the importance of sparking, igniting, and shining our light for those in the darkness behind us.

I’m often asked whether the pain ever truly ends. One cliche is that we don’t get over grief, we move through it. I don’t believe we move through it. I believe we learn to carry it with us as we move forward in life.

To answer the question, I do believe pain eases. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. The timing might be different, but don’t give up. Life’s second act will be different, but enjoy the moments when the pain isn’t as suffocating and you’ll find that you don’t have to choose between sorrow or joy. The heart has room for both, and eventually the joy will grow.

Nine years ago I didn’t believe I would survive losing Aly. What I didn’t know then that I know now is not only would I survive, I might actually like—no, love—life.

I love you, Lovey.

Written by Lynda Cheldelin Fell
08/05/18

The Others

Her body sank to the floor, her shoulders heaving with sobs. I knelt down, wrapped my arms around her and rested my cheek on her soft hair. I didn’t know her name but I knew her pain.

I saw her again the next day, yesterday, at the top of the escalator. When our eyes met, sobs once again overtook her body. I couldn’t stop her tears but I did know the power of a hug from one bereaved mother to another. I held her right there on the spot, oblivious to others coming and going. Because in that moment, nothing else mattered. Nothing else but her grief. And my love for her, for a stranger.

I didn’t know her name but I knew her pain.

Some wonder why those of us who are years down the road attend grief conferences. Don’t they remind us of the darkest moment of our lives? Why would we want to revisit such pain?

Because when we help others we help our own hearts to heal.

These conferences remind us how far we’ve come.

They remind us how much we’ve changed for the better.

That we’re the hero of our own story by holding the light of hope for those who have none.Hope

Grief conferences recharge our batteries in ways nothing else can. We meet others who speak our loss language, and become lifelong friends based on that alone. Politics, religion, nor socioeconomic backgrounds do not matter here. What matters is that hope is ignited, shared, and protected.

I’m home now, having climbed into bed next to my dear sweet hubby before daybreak this morning. My body is weary but my heart is content. Physically I didn’t do much at this conference, but spiritually I gave all I had. And I’ll do it again next week, next month and next year.

I may not know all their names but I know their pain. When we lose a child we become The Others. And when I hold another Other in her darkest hour, all is right with my world.

I am grateful.

-Lynda Cheldelin Fell  XOXO

Missing Mom

When we lose an aged parent, many chalk it up to the natural progression of life. But does that mean we miss them less, or we shouldn’t grieve their death? Meet Judy Taylor, author of Mum Moments, whose authentic emotions to her mom’s death put her on a path to self discovery—and discover new friends in unlikely places.

The power of self advocacy

Grief Diaries
It started as a small sore on her nipple, about the size of a pencil eraser. My oldest sister Layne made an appointment with her primary doctor. She was put on oral and topical antibiotics and told to go buy new bras.
 
Three days later Layne had an appointment with a different doctor for an unrelated issue. He asked why she was on antibiotics. When she explained, he immediately recommended she get a second opinion. She left that office and walked over to her gynecologist and asked for the soonest appointment. A retired R.N., Layne explained the situation and requested a biopsy.
 
Layne saw the gynecologist the next day. He wasn’t alarmed but clearly Layne was. She was sent to a female surgeon for a biopsy, but the soonest appointment wasn’t soon enough. Living with autoimmune disease taught Layne to become a seasoned advocate for her own healthcare. She had an appointment for a biopsy the very next day.
 
When she arrived for the biopsy, it was two days before Memorial Day weekend. The nurse made it quite clear that they were working her in. Finally Layne was called back to an exam room. The surgeon looked at the sore on Layne’s nipple and said, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about. This doesn’t look like anything bad but let’s do a biopsy just to make sure.”
 
On May 31, Layne’s surgeon called. When the doctor calls, it’s never good news. “You have breast cancer.”
 
Two of us four girls have now been diagnosed with breast cancer. Our little sister was diagnosed nearly 12 years ago with stage 4 breast cancer with bone mets. She was just shy of 37 at the time of her diagnosis. Layne is 58, and her cancer is Padget disease, a rare form of breast cancer. Genetic testing on both sisters were completely negative.
 
I’m sharing this in hopes it will save others. Layne had a 3-D mammogram eight months ago that was completely negative. Most doctors treat nipple sores with multiple rounds of antibiotics without success. By the time the true diagnosis is uncovered, the cancer has advanced. Thanks to Layne advocating for herself, it was caught early and she has a better prognosis than most.

I’m sharing this in hopes it will save others. Layne had a 3-D mammogram eight months ago that was completely negative. Most doctors treat nipple sores with multiple rounds of antibiotics without success. By the time the true diagnosis is uncovered, the cancer has advanced to a poor prognosis. Thanks to Layne advocating for herself, it was caught early and her chance of survival is much higher.

Self-Advocacy is learning how to speak up for yourself and be a partner in your own healthcare. Most of us had both reigns over to our medical team because we expect them to get it right. But just like any profession, doctors are humans who are subject to fatigue, emotional stress, family life, and more. Exercise your right to understand. Seek answers, ask questions, probe possibilities. Listen to your intuitive side when making decisions. Stay informed. Knowledge is power.

When your life is on the line, be at the helm of the team.

-Lynda Cheldelin Fell, Grief Diaries
Grief Diaries