Name: Jackie Cheney
Occupation: Mom, Medical Assistant at Primary Health Medical Group • Boise. ID
A few weeks ago, my sister Natalie introduced me to one of her readers, Jackie Cheney. Natalie receives a lot of emails from men and women who have been profoundly affected by her memoir, Signs of Life. This book deals with a universal emotion that I really wish wasn’t so universal: Grief. That little word, a single syllable just sitting there in black and white, has the power to sink my heart to the pit of my stomach. But the stories from women like Natalie and Jackie are ultimately about what lifts our hearts, not what makes them sink. There is a much better monosyllabic word to describe what I feel when I think about the Natalies and the Jackies of the world. It looks better in black and white and it feels better to say. That word is Hope.
Jackie lost her second son, Elam John Cheney, on May 22, 2009. Elam was stillborn due to an abrupted placenta. Not only was Jackie dealing with the loss of her son, she was dealing with the failure of her own body. Jackie was able to get pregnant again but continued to be confronted with the fragileness of her body and her baby.
"There is something very defeating to have your body fail and lose your child. I was far from a physically, mentally healthy person."
When Jackie picked up Natalie’s book, she found herself forced to live through emotions and grief that she had been ignoring for years. But what she also found in that book and within herself was overwhelming inspiration to truly rehabilitate herself mentally and physically. The aspect of recovery that Jackie discussed with me was the implementation of an exercise regime and goal setting. Jackie set out to train for and complete a triathlon with her friend and constant support, Chelsi. In our interview I asked Jackie to elaborate on her mental and physical transformation. Here are some excerpts from our talk that I hope will be helpful to others open to finding mental well-being through physical means.
"There was no other choice. I had to quit making excuses and just to do it and stick with it. So I said it out loud right there in my bedroom as if I was saying it to Natalie and her support group as well. I committed. It helped that I coaxed my friend Chelsi into committing with me."
"Exercising forces you to breathe. 90% of anxiety about anything can be calmed just by focusing on your breathing. Every time I run, bike, train, anything, I focus on my breathing. I relax. I love the feeling I have and what my body is capable of. Now life is becoming so much more relaxing by just breathing."
"To me physical training is all mental. The physical benefits are just bonus. My favorite is runs in the morning. I put Luke in the jogger and off we go. Everyone we see is so at peace and content and pleasant. Luke waves at everyone and we say good morning. The rest of the day I am so peacefully happy no matter what mood anyone else is in. I am finding that sometimes it is not about escaping from the world as I do when I swim, but more like connecting with the all the positive in the world."
Time. Love. Gratitude.
"There is no time limit on when you need to be done grieving. Grieve everyday for the rest of your life if you have too. But find a healthy way to do so. There are still people here today and now that need you and love you. Including yourself. When I run I am mentally connecting with Elam. Spending time with him in my head. I grieve his loss, appreciate the time I did have with him, the huge effect his short life has had on me, the gratitude I have for Steven (my husband), Seth and Luke (my other boys), and vow to not let his death be in vain or my survival to be a waste."
Words to Live By: This Counts
"Exercise is the biggest factor in keeping me balanced. I do my best thinking and relaxing when I exercise. It is the base of my life. So the mantra “this counts” may come from my running steps, but it applies to everything in my life right now. Whatever I am doing right now at this moment counts. Am I working toward my goals or away from them? My relationships, my financial goals, my healthy goals, the goals and desires I have for my kids. Am I playing a game with Seth or worried about laundry? Finances are so tight for us right now. So every dollar counts, so I ask is this purchase working for us or against us. Every step, every calorie. They all count. Not to say I can’t ever have a cookie again in my life. But how far in the other direction do I want to go? Because it still counts. Am I making my survival from Elam’s death worth it or am I wasting it?"
Jackie, thank you for sharing your story and for joining the Fashletics family. This one-of-a-kind, sterling silver necklace is our gift to you. We hope that it inspires you to continue your walk (or run) down the path to physical health and mental well-being. Good luck with every step you take!