Irvine mom battling cancer is on a mission to pay-it-forward while moving forward with her 10-year-old daughter by her side.
Irvine resident Eden Feeley has spent the last few years battling stage IV cancer with her 10-year-old daughter, London, at her side. However, hers is not a story of devastation, but rather one of optimism.
“We made a happy situation out of a very sad situation,” says Feeley.
Feeley was diagnosed with stage IV, triple-negative breast cancer in February 2019, after multiple misdiagnoses.
“The tumor had spread to my sternum bone and that classified me as stage IV,” says Feeley. “And triple-negative is a pretty rare breast cancer that has no cure.”
Triple-negative breast cancer grows and spreads faster than other types of breast cancer and responds to limited forms of treatment, according to the American Cancer Society.
The single mom had to quit her job, close her creative agency, undergo surgery and endure 36 rounds of radiation.
“Then right after I came out of treatment, COVID hit,” she says.
Since she was immunocompromised, Feeley homeschooled London and the two spent the last year-and-a-half in strict quarantine. In spite of their struggle, the pair remained undaunted and Feeley felt compelled to find ways they could give back to the cancer community.
Her friend and former client, photographer Olivia Engelsman, approached Feeley and London about doing a photoshoot to document their journey. Feeley and others found the resulting images — shot at the Newport Back Bay — inspiring.
“So often you see so many photographs of people being a victim through cancer treatment,” says Feeley, “but you don’t ever get to see the beauty and the people connected with them through it. London is my family and these pictures with her represented a beautiful time during the hardest time in my life. Having that captured was huge.”
Hoping to help other women living with cancer get the same gift, Feeley and Engelsman teamed up to launch Optimistic Expressions, a pay-it-forward photography service. For every portrait session purchased, an additional portrait session is donated to a woman living with cancer.
“The heart of Optimistic Expressions is in the name: We bring an optimistic, loving feeling to the women we photograph living with cancer,” says Feeley.
Optimistic Expressions recently photographed Dorianna, also a stage IV cancer survivor.
“She said it was the most inspirational day of her life,” says Feeley.
She also says Dorianna was unsure about how to tell her friends and family about her fight with cancer.
“She felt that having these pictures would be the perfect way to tell them, with class and beauty and strength and without being the victim,” Feeley says.
London has also found a way to give back to the community. She’s writing a children’s book that uses humor and characters, like her dachshund named CoCo, to talk about what it’s like for children whose mothers are living with cancer.
“When London was asked what she wanted to do for her summer break she said, ‘Travel in a van with my Mommy while writing my book,’” says Feeley.
Always the optimists, and with only a few weeks left of homeschooling, the pair has launched a GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com/f/help-eden-and-london-buy-a-van) to raise money to publish London’s book and to buy a van in which London can document their mother-daughter road trip adventures. Their project is called ONWARD … In A Van.
“We came up with the idea of doing ONWARD … In A Van, because that’s what we are doing, we are moving onward with our lives through this cancer,” says Feeley.
So far Feeley and London have raised $18,660 on their GoFundMe page and compiled a bucket list of the places they’d like to visit together with a map they use to plan the route. They hope to reach their goal of $36,000.
Feeley also hopes London will remember her optimism far beyond her summer vacation.
“I want her to see what Mommy did with this diagnosis and what I did for other people, to show her to make the best of whatever is thrown your way,” says Feeley. “And when she sees me, she sees me not living in fear. She sees me living in strength.”
For family portrait bookings and pay-it-forward portrait bookings for women living with cancer, email email@example.com
The ONWARD … In A Van GoFundMe can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/help-eden-and-london-buy-a-van
By Sarah Mosqueda