Grieving Widow, Widower Discover Love Again on Internet Forum

PHOTO: Lisa Sheehan lost her husband to cancer, but found love again in an online support group for survivors.
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Lisa Sheehan and Jim Celebucki, both widowed after their spouses died of lung cancer days apart in 2011, like to say that their love is like "a book read from the inside out."

"We started from deep-down inside and started to find out we liked each other," said Celebucki, a former Chicago attorney who never thought "in a million years" he would marry again after the loss of his wife.

The couple, who are engaged and have been living together in Miamisburg, Ohio, met on the website GRACE (Global Resource for Advancing Cancer Education), while their grief was still raw. Their story has inspired others on the site.

"He literally swept me off my feet," Sheehan, 47, said. "Ours has truly been a relationship born of technology. I shudder to think what my life might have been if I had not been able to connect with Jim through cyberspace."

Celebucki, 57, and wife Liz learned that she had cancer in May of 2008 after a cough from a chest cold didn't go away and a CT scan showed a mass in her lungs. In search of information about her disease, he turned to GRACE, which provides "cutting edge" cancer-management information directly to patients.

"Liz and I met in college when we were 19 years old, and enjoyed 30 years of marriage," he wrote as "Jim C." the day his wife died, Nov. 4, 2011. "She was the most caring person I've ever met or are likely to ever meet."

Couple Share Deadly Lung Cancer and Undying Love

Sheehan, a stay-at-home mother of three, said she had been "distraught" when her husband, Mark, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and died Nov. 19, 2011.

"He has been my world for the last 28 years," she wrote as "Marisa93" (a combination of her and Mark's name) on the forum and signed with simply Lisa. "We met when I was just 16 and have been inseparable ever since so I am not sure how to live without him but I know our kids will keep me going."

Celebucki said he was "better prepared" than Lisa for is wife's death, because she had been sick since 2008.

"When she got the first CT scan, I had kind of an intuition that I was going to lose her. … She did better in terms of the length of her survival, but the last year everything went wrong and she spiraled downward," he said. "By the time she did pass, it wasn't a surprise."

Sheehan said Mark's stage 4 lung cancer went quickly; he was dead a year to the day after his November 2010 diagnosis.

In the "whirlwind" of radiation and chemotherapy, Sheehan looked for answers on the website Inspire. But, eventually, she turned to GRACE for see whether his treatment was "going in the right direction."

While Celebucki was prepared mentally for his wife's death from the onset, Sheehan was not. Mark had done well on treatment and for his birthday, she gave him a gift of a skydiving experience.

"I let myself believe he would be the one to beat the odds and he'd be OK," she said.

After his death, Sheehan admits she was "in a really bad place, not doing well at all."

"Everybody was begging me to go for grief counseling, but I wasn't really open to that," Sheehan said. "But I kept going back to GRACE. I talked to people and even doctors told me there was nothing else I could have done for Mark."

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