Lindsey Fell Prepares to Run Boston Marathon

“My dad has been my best friend for my entire life,” Lindsey Fell tells me. Lindsey’s father, Walter Farwell, was a fire rescue captain and paramedic for 25 years. A man of many interests and talents, he also obtained his PhD. in Clinical Psychology. “He was a man’s man,” Lindsey says. “He could fix anything. He always helped other people. He lived his life for other people and was the sweetest guy you ever met.” Lindsey lost her father following a short but difficult battle with pancreatic cancer. Now she is preparing to run the Boston marathon with the Project Purple team to honor her father.

Lindsey & her father Walter Farwell
Lindsey & her father Walter Farwell

Lindsey, who works in the music industry in California, was busy preparing for her upcoming wedding in 2015 when her father became ill. Walter had experienced a few health issues in recent years. He had broken his back. He was being treated for heart problems. He had seen a GI doctor for ongoing stomach issues and he had been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis.  Despite treatment for the pancreatitis, Walter continued to have problems. “My father kept going to a GI doctor, but he could not figure out what was wrong,” Lindsey recalls. “He had a problem with his duodenum. It kept closing off and that is why he had pains when he was eating. Every few months, the doctor would go in and stretch out his duodenum.” Eventually, Walter ended up being hospitalized because he developed an infection from the surgical instruments used to stretch out his duodenum. “The infection knocked him down for about a year,” Lindsey says. “Everything the doctor did seemed to help him briefly, but then the pain would come back again.”

As she watched her father struggle with his health, Lindsey became very concerned that something was seriously wrong. She tried to reassure herself that her father was being monitored so closely that if there were a real problem, the doctors would have found it already.  It was during a trip to the Emergency Room that doctors first saw something in her dad’s pancreas. Walter, who lived in Florida, called Lindsey that night and explained to her that the doctors had seen something in his pancreas and in his liver. They suspected he had metastatic cancer.

lindsey fell & Dad

“My father was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2015,” Lindsey says. Walter’s three sisters lived nearby him in Florida, and they helped tremendously as he sought medical care. However, as soon as Lindsey learned of her father’s illness, she flew out to be by his side. The doctors told Lindsey and her father that there was no cure for his illness. Any treatment that he received was intended to simply prolong his life. Walter’s medical team asked him what his goals for treatment were and he replied, “I want to see Lindsey get married in November.” With that goal in mind, Walter started on the chemotherapy combination Gemzar/Abraxane.  “My dad has been my best friend my entire life,” Lindsey explains. “We had  talked about the wedding nonstop for eight months. The doctors were keeping an eye on his numbers. I just did not have a grasp on how bad the complications from chemo can be. I anticipated a long drawn out illness. I just did not expect him to suddenly become so sick.”

In fact, Walter became very ill from his first chemotherapy round. He was unable to eat or even drink water because he was so sick from his treatment. He was soon hospitalized with pneumonia. This was a terrifying time for Lindsey and her family. “I thought he would never bounce back,” Lindsey remembers. “Eventually we got him eating again and he improved. He felt good enough to have another round of chemotherapy. His numbers began to stabilize and he was feeling good about fighting his cancer.”

Lindsey's dad

Thinking her father had turned the corner, Lindsey returned to LA so that she could get back to work. Walter was feeling well when she left and the family had every reason to feel optimistic. However, Walter had developed other problems. He had a blood clot in his leg. Walter told his sister that he was not feeling well and he returned to the hospital. His heart had grown weak and was out of rhythm. He had an AED implanted to stabilize his heart rate, but it was not able to do its job. At the hospital, Walter’s long-term cardiologist talked to the family and expressed his belief that it was in Walter’s best interest to not prolong his struggle. The family made the difficult decision to turn off his AED. As expected, Walter’s heart was unable to regain its rhythm on its own. He passed away in September, 2015, from the complications brought about by his pancreatic cancer and its treatment.

Lindsey and her fiancé had considered moving up their wedding when they realized the gravity of her father’s illness. However, Walter had insisted that they keep their original date. In November, 2015, Lindsey and Adam Fell got married. “My husband was with me through my father’s whole illness and even insisted on taking care of my dad so that I could still go off and have a bachelorette party. They became very close over the months of my dad’s illness.” Her father’s illness also brought Lindsey and her brother Ryan closer together. Walter’s love for his children is a great source of comfort to Lindsey. “We did not have as long as most people get with their parents,” Lindsey explains. “But, it felt like we had a lifetime together because the way our dad loved us was without bounds.”

Lindsey & Ryan with their father.
Lindsey & Ryan with their father.

Lindsey has joined the Project Purple Boston Marathon team as a way to honor her father’s life and his battle with pancreatic cancer. She turned to running for exercise when she took her first job out of college. An active soccer player when she was younger, she found that sitting all day for her office job did not agree with her. She started running to stay in shape and regain her sense of well-being. Lindsey found that she truly enjoyed running. “My first marathon was in 2011. I ran under four hours that first time out and was very happy about it. I did not think that qualifying for the Boston Marathon was ever in the scope of what I could do,” Lindsey explains. But after running a sub-four hour marathon on her first try, she set a goal of qualifying to run Boston. In 2014, she hired a coach and trained as hard as she could. She ran the Chicago Marathon in October, 2014, and though she ran a fairly conservative race, she finished in 3:33, which was a 15-minute Personal Record (PR). That time was also two minutes under her needed Boston Qualifying time.  Lindsey felt confident that she had punched her ticket in Boston, the marathon of her dreams.

Lindsey running

Unfortunately, as marathons have become more and more popular with the masses, Boston has had to institute a rolling admissions process. Lindsey felt confident that the two minute cushion she had with her qualifying time would be enough to get her into the race. Unfortunately, it turned out that runners needed to run a time that was 2:29 seconds faster than their qualifying standard to be accepted into the 2016 Boston Marathon. Lindsey learned this news shortly after her father’s memorial service. She was rightfully angry and frustrated. However, rather than give up, Lindsey decided to look into plan B for getting into her dream race. She remembered having seen something about Project Purple on Instagram not long before and looked up the charity. Lindsey applied for and was accepted to the Project Purple Boston Marathon team.

Lindsey running 2

Though Lindsey was disappointed to not get into Boston with her qualifying time, she now feels a sense of renewed purpose as part of the Project Purple team. “I got my spot with Project Purple a couple of days after my father’s memorial service. The timing made me think that maybe this is how I am supposed to run Boston. I am excited that I get to run the marathon and it feels better than it would have if I had just run it on my own,” Lindsey explains.
Please support Lindsey’s Project Purple fundraising campaign by making a tax-deductible donation at the link below:

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