What’s my story? My story is no secret.

Whether I like it or not, circumstances have led me to face the trials I experience throughout my life in public, where everyone is always watching.  This I consider to be a blessing and a curse at the same time.  I want to be that strong person that people can look to as an example, but the downfall to this is that I put the idea in my head that I am not allowed to falter, and if I may, I consider that to be letting everyone down.

As many of you may know, life can never be taken for granted.Spielman family

My mom, Stefanie Spielman, was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was very young.  Although my youth lead me to be oblivious to all that she was going through at most times, her strength and peace are something that I will always remember.  She was never concerned about herself, but always about the wellbeing of our family.  Often times I forgot that we were different, or that anything was wrong at all.  My mom used her disease to raise awareness and help those who were battling cancer as well.  She never once questioned God’s plan for her and instead of sitting around feeling sorry for herself, she stood up and did something about it.  When once asked why she thought she had go through all of the pain and suffering cancer brings along with it she simply smiled and said, “Why not me?”

Sometimes I try to put myself in the same position my mom was in. To this day it astonishes me how much faith she had throughout her journey, and quite honestly I do not know how she did it.  It takes a true warrior to get up every morning with a smile of your face, knowing that the odds may not always be in your favor.  My mom was and forever will be the role model to how I live my life.

On November 19, 2009 my mom passed away.

I was a sophomore in high school, only 15 years old.  At that point in time I had become so numb to pain that many weeks after her passing I still had to remind myself that I wasn’t living in some dream and that she wasn’t coming back.  I lived in some state of disbelief and cluelessness for many months after that day.  There was no general guideline or rulebook as to how someone was supposed to act after the loss of a loved one but I frequently found myself wishing there was.  But nevertheless, I went on with my normal routine–well,  as normal as it possibly could have been.  I became accustomed to the sad stares in the hallway or the quiet “I’m sorry”s.

I felt utterly and completely alone.

No matter how many people came up to me on a given day, they could never possibly even begin to comprehend how I was feeling so it was not even worth it to me.  Every emotion that I began to feel, I quickly bottled up and threw it to the Laughing with Momback of my mind.  I talked to no one about my struggles, my sadness, or my regrets.  Then one day I realized I could not keep living this way and that I did not need to be this miserable all the time.  This is not what my mom would have wanted for me I thought.  One thing that she said to us before she passed was, “Never use my death as an excuse for anything, but motivation for everything.”  After replaying her saying that to me countless times in my head I knew I had to make a change.  It was then that I began talking to my friends and family about the loss of my mom.  A huge weight seemed to be lifted off my shoulders the second I opened my mouth and felt free from the burden that I had carried with me for so long.  Because they lived through the loss, they could easily relate to me and I no longer felt alone.

So why am I creating this blog?  I don’t want kids who have lost a parent to go through what I went through.  They need to know that they are indeed not alone and that other kids are going through circumstances just like them.  I want to use my experiences to help my peers and let them know that loss of a loved one is okay to talk about and that they do not have to hold inside them anymore.

April 10, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . About me.

28 Comments

  1. Nancy Heise replied:

    I had the pleasure of listening to your father today discuss your family’s journey. His passion for continuing your lovely mother’s legacy is so inspiring. Your desire to share your story is a tribute to your mother and would make her burst with pride. Keep up the mission and God bless you and your family.
    Nancy Heise

  2. Angelina Smith McCauley replied:

    Hi Maddie! I did not have the pleasure of meeting your mother, but I went to Jr. High school with your father at Lehman. Your dad and my brother were very good friends and we lived only 4 houses away from each other.
    I want to tell you that you are an amazing young lady and your mother I’m sure is very proud of you for this blog!
    I will continue to follow your mothers journey in the search for a cure and also follow you on your blog. What a remarkable and selfless thing you are doing here.
    Bless you and your family.
    Angelina Smith McCauley
    Ps. Please tell your father that Jeff and Angela Smith say “hello”

  3. allison replied:

    Maddie,
    I am SO proud of you! This is such a wonderful idea and I know that others will benefit from your story and advice. You are a leader in so many ways and it has been a pleasure to watch you “grow up” through high school! Thank you for being such a strong role model for those around you!
    -Coach Fontana

  4. Jen Fannin replied:

    What a beautiful, intelligent young woman your patents raised! I lost my dad at a young age to cancer & I know all too well the feelings that came along with his loss. Even though he had come to terms that he was going to pass, it still wasn’t ok with me. I’ve learned to make it more bearable over time but there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t miss him or think about him, as I’m sure you feel about your mom.
    Your mother was an inspiration to many & it sounds like you have her same determination.
    God bless your family & I pray that others will be as touched by your blog as I am :)

  5. Pam replied:

    Dear Maddie, What an amazing young lady. I was 13 when I lost my Mom in 1966. Back then, they did not talk about death or cancer. I remember many times that I wished I could talk to someone about how I felt. I had a sports banquet at school for daughters and their mothers, and I attended alone and not one of the mothers offer to have me sit with them. I promised myself that I would never do that to someone and never say “if you ever need anything give me a call. I promised that I would follow up with a phone call or just make a meal. Your Mother would be so proud of you. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. God bless you.

  6. Betsy O'Brochta replied:

    Maddie,
    Your writing is beautiful and so very well said. Thank you for sharing this – I know this couldn’t have been easy, but you have opened the door for others to share and not feel alone.
    Take care,
    Betsy O’Brochta

  7. Amy Parrish replied:

    Hi Maddie! What a way to kick off your new blog: your mom would be so proud!!! Your quote on no excuses, only motivation is one I’m filing away that can be applied to so many things in life. Thanks for having the courage to share with such grace!

  8. Jency York emo replied:

    I knew your mom briefly in college. She was such a beautiful person, inside and out, that when she died, I cried in bed, watching her funeral on webcast, for days. Shortly thereafter, I myself was diagnosed with breast cancer, albeit very early stages. I know what it feels like to accept death, should it be the result, and am so glad that beautiful Stefanie’s daughter accepts fate as a stepping stone to helping the world. Your mom is proud, no doubt!!!!

  9. Kristi replied:

    This brought tears to my eyes. I did not personally know your mother, however, I can tell that you are so much like her. Being a mother myself, I can tell you for sure that your mom would be so proud. I’m so touched by what your mother said, ““Never use my death as an excuse for anything, but motivation for everything” that’s so huge and selfless. Your mother is and always will be a hero. God bless you!

  10. Jodi replied:

    Dear Maddie, What an inspiration you will be to so many young people that will be faced with the loss of a parent to cancer. I lost both of my parents to cancer but I was older than you. Even though I have never meet your parents – being born in Massillon, finding the Wheaties box with your dads picture and signature in my moms belongings (which I still have) and having a cottage by your grandpa at Atwood Lake and living in Columbus and hearing your mom and dad on the radio or TV or newspaper articles I always admired the love your parents had for each other and you children. I have 3 close people in my life undergoing chemo and radiation at the moment and 1 of them is a co-workers 5 year old son. I know that God will give you the strength to carry on your moms work and I will continue to read your journey. God Bless you and your family.

  11. Elizabeth Geletka replied:

    Hi Maddie,
    I am so proud of you for doing this! You write SO beautifully and I hope you continue this blog for your sake and for all the people who I am sure you are helping. It’s hard to believe that you are getting ready to graduate from high school! Seems like yesterday you were in first grade! Congratulations and keep up the great work!
    Love, Elizabeth Geletka

  12. Jen Lattner replied:

    Hi Maddie, beautifully written!! miss you guys, hope to see you guys soon. say hi to all!! Your mom is proud of you!!! Take care, Love, Jen

  13. Aeric replied:

    God Bless you and you’re family for the inspiration you share with all of us.

  14. Dan replied:

    Maddie, my two sons also lost their mother at a young age. My youngest was a high school freshman when his mother passed away in 2005. Our faith and the comfort of loved ones helped our family deal with our loss.

    We Detroiters were well aware of your mother’s declining health, and your father’s devotion toward her.

    May God bless you and your family, and I hope you find comfort in the memories of happy times with your mom.

  15. Todd replied:

    Maddie,

    Thank you for sharing. Thanks to Twitter and Angelique Chengelis at the Detroit News it found its way to me. Feels like my blessing for the day.

    I have a Maddie (10 yrs old) and a wife battling cancer (we pray winning). The experience Maddie and her little brother are going through as Mom is in this fight is almost exactly as you described your own – clearly aware yet simultaneously oblivious.

    Like your Mother, my incredible wife has found the strength to face every day with a smile, not to question God’s plan, and to make sure those around her don’t share her burden. It is amazing to witness.

    Wanted to let you know you made an immediate impression on a total stranger. I look forward to getting your Dad’s book in May. Thanks again.

  16. Rich Possert replied:

    Your story, very much like mine, is tragically beautiful. I’m very glad you have chosen, like your amazing mother and father, to use your tragedy to help others. Don’t ever worry about appearing weak or faltering; it’s how you recover that matters. You just being you is inspirational enough! God bless and take care. Never forget the 3 F’s: Faith, Family, & Friends.

  17. bethany @ our perfectly imperfect life replied:

    That was beautifully written. I have no doubt that you will inspire many in your life. :)

  18. myblogneedsaname replied:

    Maddie,
    I am a Michigan grad and therefore have to hate everything about OSU, but I lost my mom to cancer after my sophomore year at UM. I followed your moms story closely because she was around my age and I was so impressed by her and your dads positive attitudes–and, honestly, I just felt so sad that this horrible disease was taking away another mom. I felt the same way you did when my mom was sick and after she passed away and I would have given anything to know there were other people who felt like I did and that I was not alone. Thank you for being so brave and for being so willing to share your story. I wish you and your family the best. I know your blog is going to help a lot of people.

  19. Joni replied:

    Dear Maddie,
    The day your mother passed, my son graduated from Marine Corp. Bootcamp in Parris Island. He is your relative also. He is LCPL Gunnar Hindmarsh, serving our country in Afghanistan.
    Every date of his career/journey has had outstanding meaning. I could go on and on how these dates happens, but most important is how one soul passes, others gain strength. Your family, and others were blessed also.
    You were given the gift of beauty (that’s just wonderful genetics) writing and sharing. Thank you for the guts to share.
    I went to grade school with your mom, and over and over again I hear our old girlfriends saying what a great girl your mom was. The gossip is music to anyone’s ears. Stef was fantastic! Never an unkind word.
    I did not know your mom through her hard times like you did. I am so sorry for the loss you endured. I appreciate your heartfelt thoughts on how life has moved on for you….and await more from you.

  20. Kristy Mix Beyer replied:

    Maddie…Your mother was a wonderful woman and taught you well…You ARE never alone for GOD is by your side!!! Your mom & your famiy has blessed so many by sharing your tough journey! Keep the Faith XXOO

  21. M replied:

    I lost my Dad to cancer in my early 20s. I had no idea how to process it, and even worse was that I had younger siblings..siblings that I felt I needed to protect like he would have wanted and done, and lead them in the right direction like he would have wanted and done, and still feel huge responsibility to remind them and anyone else of little things that made him so wonderful, not some cancer patient as he was for so long. It’s hard to come to grips with not only the loss of your parent, but the loss of the life that would have been so different had they still been here. I think it’s absolutely awesome that you’re writing a blog to help others the same way your mom inspired and helped so many. Shed be really proud. Thanks for writing this. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone sometimes! :)

  22. Jimmy Caudill replied:

    My wife was diagnosed with cancer when she was 22, and has fought for 10 years. The strength and positive light that your entire family provide to those in similar situations is so valuable. So many of the stories of your mom ring so familiar to me in that my wife lives her life in much the same way that Stephanie did. I just want to thank you for all the insight and help that you and your family have provided for me and mine!

  23. chaplainpastor replied:

    Dear Maddie,

    Thank you for sharing. We met your mother and dad on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer. They were most inspiring.

    I want to affirm you in your strength, both through the struggles your mother went through and for the life you’ve had thrust upon you since then.

    Fear not the falter. Your public presence is made stronger and more real by your humanity. Nobody — at least nobody of any importance — will criticize your expressions of grief or weakness.

    My wife, a survivor of breast and uterine cancer, were inspired by Stefanie’s strength, even more so when we met her and Chris on the Cruise. We continue to be inspired by the few news reports and by the blog posts we’ve read since then. Please keep up the good work. We look forward to reading more.

    Charles Moncrief

  24. Michelle R. replied:

    I lost my Mom in 2010 to Breast Cancer. She was ny hero. She always kept a smile on her face. She faced each challenge and each treatment with a smile and jokes.

    She accepted what God and life had dealt her, I on the other hand had a hard time acce
    pting it even though I am in my 30s. No matter how old you are, it doesn’t make it any easier.

    I will never forget the day it was confirmed she had Cancer. She had to comfort me, she told me “everything will be alright”. I miss her everyday.

    You are a strong young woman for doing this and I hope that your blog helps other people get through tough times.

  25. Jen replied:

    Dear Maddie,
    I went to grade school and high school with your mom. After all these years, I can still see her smile and hear her laugh. (Such a great laugh!)

    You certainly inherited her outer beauty, and it seems you’ve inherited her inner beauty as well. You don’t need me to tell you this, but she would be incredibly proud of you.

    This blog is a wonderful idea, and I know it will help a lot of people. So many of us have lost loved ones to cancer — there is really no need to feel alone. Thanks for encouraging others to share their emotions, and channel their loss into something positive. You are a truly remarkable young lady.

  26. jason sosler replied:

    Maddy its sureal I know that feeling I have one of those special mothers she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about a year ago I dont need to explain to u the unbearable journey that starts u are much younger than me but honestly u sound much stronger I know that feeling in an instant everything everything changes I personally was in a disoriented daze sureal this isnt happening state until just recently shes in remmission at the moment

    but im terrified every day and it is a very lonely isolated exsitense all I can say is u sound very mature and there are no im sorry for loss or

  27. jeanmreaconsulting replied:

    Dear Maddie,
    I have read your blog a couple times. I know that your blog has helped and will help many who are struggling with similar situations. I believe many of us can relate to your classmates, in that we felt so badly for you and your family. We have wanted to acknowledge your pain and to offer words of comfort and love, yet we have not wanted to invade your privacy.

    I also recently finished reading your dad’s book, including your foreward. I found the book very poignant and meaningful, especially the last portion– which is really a testament to your mom’s and dad’s deep faith and the importance for all of us to rely on scripture, faith, and prayer in helping us to persevere during our trials.

    You are a very good writer, Maddie. I believe you have a lot to say. I really hope that you keep writing.

    You radiate beauty and grace from the inside out. Your outer beauty is stunning, but it’s your inner beauty that makes you so compelling. You are a natural leader.

    Congratulations on all your achievements. I wish you the best at OSU and in all your endeavors.

    Jean Rea

    P.S. While searching online for your blog I came across an article describing how you were watching football with your mom when you were young and asked why your dad was the only player who wasn’t a “freakin’ American.” I laughted out loud! :]

  28. jeanmreaconsulting replied:

    Dear Maddie,

    I have read your blog a couple times. I know that your being open about the difficulty you have had expressing and dealing with your emotions will help many young people in similar situations. I also believe your blog will be helpful to parents who have lost a spouse and are struggling to understand how their children are feeling and what to do and say to help.

    I could relate to your classmates’ uncertainty about whether or not to speak to you and what to say. I believe many of us felt so awful about your family’s loss and wanted to reach out in love and compassion but we were not certain you would want that. I recall seeing you at church this past Christmas Eve. You looked absolutely stunning. (Not many people wear the color gray well but you certainly do–you made that dress look gorgeous.) I thought about speaking to you and introducing my daughter but I was concerned you would find that an invasion of your privacy.

    I also recently finished reading your dad’s book and the story of your family. I found the book poignant and meaningful, particularly the last part of the book. The last part of the book is a true testament to your mom’s and your dad’s faith and to the importance of faith, scripture, prayer, and the Body of Christ as we go through the trials in our lives.

    The foreward you wrote for your dad’s book is very good. You are an excellent writer, Maddie. I believe you have a lot to say. I hope that you continue to blog (and perhaps one day write and publish).

    Maddie, you are strikingly beautiful on the outside but I believe it is the intelligence, beauty, and grace that you radiate from the inside that makes you so compelling and such a standout. You are a natural leader. Congratulations on all your achievements. I wish you the very best. Have fun at OSU.

    Warmest Regards,

    Jean M. Rea
    jmr1124@gmail.com

    P.S. While searching online for your blog I came across an article about a time when you were young and you and your mom were watching your dad play football on TV. You asked why your dad was not a “freakin’ American” like many of the other players because you misunderstood the announcer saying, “African American.” I laughed out loud. Great story! :]

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