There was something mystical about 2015. It was a year of personal growth and discovery, but a year of hardship. As my oncology nurse likes to say, “everyone needs a benchmark year”, a year so challenging that no matter what’s thrown your way, you’ll know that you have the strength to overcome.
And so that was my 2015 – a benchmark. I’ve written about my struggles with cancer. But there were other trying moments too; so many that I decided to keep them to myself. At best I feared that in telling them, the stories might perceived as gory and unnecessary; at worst they’d sound like the ramblings of a woman clutched in the grip of Munchausen Syndrome.
I tell them now to memorialize. Soon they’ll be hidden away in the blog’s archives, accessible by a few basic keywords. But I’ll know where to find them, and I’m sure that I’ll be reading them down the road when I need a reminder of where I’ve been. We’re a tough bunch and I see that in retrospect. Amidst each hurdle, we still made room for laughter. Just ask “Grease Witherspoon”, my alter ego, the woman with the oily skin and matted hair who cared less about showering and more about the simple act of getting through each new day.
At the outset, I didn’t intend to hijack the blog’s usual content and replace it with a year of illness talk. But part of having a personal blog – food or otherwise – involves having to own up to life’s struggles. Not the minutia, but the bigger issues, the ones that impact your life in a meaningful way.
We all have good years and bad years. I wanted to paint a picture of emotions that aren’t always discussed: grief, fear, anxiety, isolation. In the process of talking about these difficult subjects, I’ve lost some readers. Not everyone wants to hear about cancer when they’re looking for recipe inspiration. But I was proud to write these posts. I didn’t intend to be so explicit, but the words kept coming, and in honoring them, it felt good to be vulnerable. As my favorite sociologist Brené Brown says, vulnerability plants the seed of true connection.
I’d be lying if I said that publishing these last few posts wasn’t hard. Part of me cringed when I thought about people reading about my intimate and unfiltered moments over their morning cup of coffee. But life isn’t about achieving perfection; it’s about accepting that our roads will travel from sun-strewn peaks to darkened valleys. The internet loves to celebrate the climb, but there’s a place for the other accounts too.
And that was my 2015. A valley so dark that I could barely see the sunlight from above. It filtered through the trees on occasion, but, almost as if I’d been blindfolded, I’d lost my ability to navigate. In June as many of you know, I was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma and underwent lung surgery and six months of treatment. Nothing was immune – my ability to breathe comfortably, eat, and sleep. My mental health took as nosedive as I struggled with anxiety and depression, fearing the most likely outcome: that my cancer would come back. And it did for a time, spreading to my spine where it stayed for several months and then disappeared as quietly as it came.
During this time, other challenges presented themselves.
In late June, a mass was found on one of my ovaries. When my CA-125 tumor marker came back looking like one of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, my doctor told me that we we were dealing with ovarian cancer or late stage endometriosis. I could barely function post-lung surgery and had to sort through the logistics of how I would handle two types of cancer at once. I have a tendency to race online and figure things out for myself and spent the next few weeks jumping down Internet rabbit holes from Teal ribbon campaigns to sites like the HysterSisters and OvarianCancer.org. “Can you even have two cancers at once?” I asked. According to Google you can. By mid-July I was cleared of both diseases.
August was no easier. Lauren came to me with an unusual problem: she’d found lumps in her neck. I felt the base of her skull and my heart sank when my fingers moved over the chains of hard and swollen lymph nodes. She’d had no fever, no illness, no pain. It’s one thing to worry about your own health, but it’s quite another to face the possibility that your child might be seriously ill. After a series of bloodwork panels, ultrasounds, and X-rays, Rodney and I found ourselves leading our daughter past a set of bald children on the second floor of the Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood disorders. The doctors reviewed her files, a nurse took her into another room, and we sat down to have the discussion that every parent dreads: “it’s likely lymphoma, we’re looking at six months of chemo, maybe more”. She had surgery the following week.
A full week after her surgery, we got the results. Against the odds of her presenting symptoms, the biopsies had, for the second time this summer, ruled out cancer. It wasn’t until late October though, with swollen nodes that refused to heal, that we got our final diagnosis – an uncommon but benign condition, dermatopathic lymphadenopathy. Which, to absolve the doctors from the raging and undue stress that we endured, looks exactly like lymphoma.
I was winded. I’d been dealing with treatment-induced colitis for weeks, and the stress from the summer had been enormous. My yoga teacher once told me that injuries are common when you’re not rested – “listen to your body” she said, if you hurt yourself, you needed the break.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise then, when the day after my third round of treatment, I slipped and fell at home, fracturing my ribs and herniating a disc, injuries that weren’t apparent until scar tissue appeared on last week’s CT scans. I lived with the pain for months thinking that it was somehow in my head. That I was overreacting, that I should suck it up, stretch out the muscles, go for a walk. But to give myself some credit, the pain would have been unbearable in the prime of health, let alone while undergoing inflammatory cancer treatments.
For the next few months I drifted in and out of a narcotics haze, subsisting on my colitis-mandated white bread diet, reaching far too often for the orange pill bottles that littered my nightstand – Hyrdomorphone; Xanax; Cyclobenzaprine; Meloxicam; Prednisone; Omeprazole.
I hinted at having some broader issues in my last post, but the retreat in British Columbia was essential to my recovery – not just from cancer, but from everything; the whole year; an entity that my friend so eloquently referred to as my “shit storm” of an existence. More accurate words have never been spoken.
I came back from the retreat feeling happy and energized, the first time that I’d felt this way since May. I was optimistic, feeling that life had to get easier. I wrote endlessly in an effort to capture the details from the past year so that I’d never forget what I’d gone through.
But one last hurdle awaited: before the year’s end, I’d lose my beloved and loyal companion Jackson.
Jackson came into my life when I was searching for meaning. Although my cancer diagnosis in 2001 had spurred me to discover a passion for food and cooking, coming out of business school, I was still confused about what I wanted from life. I’d found a job that I liked well enough, but my behavior suggested that I wasn’t content. I drank too much, and spent every weekend wildly hungover, heading into work each Monday morning feeling dejected and critical of my decisions.
When we brought our 8-week-old puppy Jackson home, the changes were immediate. I was forced to mature and take responsibility for his care. I walked him and groomed him, played with him, bought him salmon jerky treats, and more than anything, I loved him. It was an adjustment since I’d never had to look after anyone but myself, and in some ways I’d fallen short there too. But over the months, I learned to adore this little creature who needed me and loved me back with every ounce of his being. Above all, the relationship primed me for the important role that I’d take on before his second birthday: I’d become a mother. First to a baby girl born days before Christmas, and then to two more, a boy and a girl, who came like clockwork, 22 months apart.
Although Jack was our family dog, he and I shared a special bond. It was a relationship forged on our many quiet walks along the Hudson River and cold nights spent curled up next to each other, the blankets covering his head completely. He was my hot water bottle, my velvet soul mate. He was the only being who could console me in the way that I craved this year – silently and without pity. I’d sob into his chest and he’d lick the tears from my face, or put a gentle paw in my lap. We’d escape to the lake and hike aimlessly through the woods. Content to be together in nature, far away from fears and uncertainties, our wanderings witnessed only by the squirrels, the swallows, and the hawks.
I was back from retreat just a week when, the day before Thanksgiving, we found out that Jackson had developed an abdominal cancer, hemangiosarcoma. After an emergency surgery to remove his tumors, he was given months to live.
He was with us for four more weeks.
I’m not a religious person, but his death feels symbolic. That he passed away so quickly from the same disease that he’d supported me through – just after I’d begun to feel healthy again – is too uncanny to ignore.
“He was your guardian angel” friends have said, and I believe it.
I think of pathetic fallacy as a literary tool only, but as Jackson’s health declined on Lauren’s birthday, a thick fog settled on the lake. I knew that the end was near. The next day, the fog still hung low and Jackson’s health hadn’t improved. It was December 22, the solstice, the darkest day of the year.
I looked out at the lake and the air felt heavy and sorrowful. I led Jackson down to the dock where we’d spent so many carefree days, and captured what I knew would be one of our final moments; just the two of us: the mist, the silence, me wearing the bright yellow rain jacket that I’d worn on our many walks; him, with an arched back that signaled his discomfort, letting me know that it was time for him to go.
I called the vet and booked an appointment for that evening. The kids and I spent our last day with him, smothering him with attention: we took him for a walk through the neighborhood where he could sniff the grass and say goodbye to the ducks. Then we took him back home, lifted him to the couch, covered him with blankets and kissed him, held him, and said our tearful goodbyes.
There isn’t a right way to say goodbye to a loved one but I didn’t have many options given that Rodney was traveling. The kids came with me to the vet where we sat with Jackson one more time as the doctor came in, administered two shots, and he slowly drifted away. Looking back, I’m glad that we were there together. We told him how much we loved him as we held his beautiful paws, trying to stretch out our last few minutes together. I stroked his body, imprinting to memory the defining features that I knew would soon begin to fade: the scar on his ear that looked like a smile, the white patch on his knee, his faint doggy smell, his copper-toned eyes, the feel of his fur on my cheek. And then he was gone, free of pain, preserved in the many photos that I took of him over the years. He gave us nothing but love, and I feel great comfort in knowing that we did the same in return.
I can’t explain my grief. It’s an emotion that in all of my 39 years, I’ve never felt before.
I couldn’t sleep that night and stayed up until the morning hours, researching breeders with upcoming litters that were related to his bloodline. I sent desperate emails all along the East Coast and as far as Arizona and Texas. I mentioned their upcoming litters…our dog had passed away, what could I do to get on their waitlist.
I didn’t want to replace Jackson. But it was the only solution that I could find to manage my sadness which seemed to be insurmountable. And therein lies the only difference between losing a beloved animal and losing a family member – finding another animal to love and care for, is, as the crow flies, the shortest distance from inconsolable grief to new beginnings.
I nodded off at dawn, and awoke hours later to more fog, which clung to the lake like thick cotton batting. But my spirits brightened as I read through the email responses – yes we can help, yes we have a litter coming up, and one email that took me by surprise – a breeder in Bedford, NY had decided to give up one of the two females that she’d kept from her recent litter. Furthermore, Jackson and the puppy would share not distant DNA, but the very same paternal lineage: the puppy is Jackson’s niece. We scheduled our visit for Christmas Day.
When your luck runs sour for a straight year, it’s hard to believe it when it starts to shift. Never mind the long list of people who were hoping to adopt that very puppy – the breeder had chosen us, taken pity on our situation (maybe pity has its merits) and had bumped us up in priority. It was luck, it was fate, it was all of the above. And as I looked outside, the clouds, murky throughout our period of sadness, finally began to clear. I don’t know why I felt the need for a physical sign, but I suppose that I was in search of reassurance; some indication that my boy was at peace and would stay with me forever, protecting me from afar.
Rodney came home that night, and with the weather an unseasonably warm 70 degrees, we sat outside and watched the sun set, sharing a bottle of wine. I told him about my need for a sign.
“Look over there” he said and I turned. The sky was crimson, but unlike anything we’d seen before, the setting sun spilled white light, like rays of the moon, over the Appalachian Trail. “There’s your sign” he said as we watched without words, feeling Jackson’s presence, moved by the transcendent beauty and the heavenly spirit who smiled at us from above.
Our new family member is full of spunk and, like Jackson, is affectionate to a fault. The kids, unaware of the significance of their choice, have given her the name “Happy”.
I feel strength and confidence as we head into this year. Last week I had a set of CT scans and for the first time since May, they were clear. Clear even of the spinal lesion that’s plagued me for months. It feels bold to put it out there because I may be wrong; I may be putting too much weight into these seemingly coincidental events: the melanoma recurrence; the cancer scares; my meandering self-led path to Callanish in British Columbia – the healing retreat run by the very same therapist who’d been counseling me since June; Jackson’s cancer diagnosis and rapid decline right after my return from Vancouver; the fog; the light; my remission. And our new beginning, a dog named Happy who came into our lives on Christmas Day.
But…something tells me that these events happened for a reason.
So, for the new readers and the people who stuck around, thank you for supporting me. I grappled with weighty issues; issues that you could have easily tuned out in favor of chocolate orange bundt cake. But you didn’t, and your empathetic comments lifted me on the darkest of days.
My best to all of you for a wonderful 2016. I look forward to writing some upbeat posts down the road. Posts where I can once again talk about watermelon radishes, smoked salts, and all of the other weightless things that I’ve wanted to boldly recapture.
And if my prediction is wrong – if more challenges leap out from unforgiving places, so be it. In my heart, I have a guardian angel looking out for me. I have a dog named Happy in my arms. And I know that if I can get through a year like the one we just experienced, my benchmark year, I can get through anything.
Happy New Year.
Thank you SO much for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you guys, and I’m so glad to hear that things are turning around. I hope that 2016 and that gorgeous puppy bring you and your family TONS of “happy”ness. xoxo
Thank you so much Sara, I always appreciate your caring words. Hope that you have a wonderful 2016 as well xoxox
All I can say, Jessica, is WOW.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it past that first luscious photo – but I am SO glad I did! What a heart-wrenching year 2015 was for you… I am SO glad that 2016 is beginning on a high note!
Happy is beautiful (don’t you love when miracles happen)?
I wish you ALL the joy your heart can hold in the year to come! 🙂
Thank you so much, she is such a miracle and I’m so happy to have her with us. All the best for a great 2016 to you as well xox
Wow! what a year I do hope 2016 will be a much better year for you I send you my very best wishes 🙂
Me too, thank you so much Steve 🙂 Happy new year xx
I am so glad strength and confidence has found you this year. I wish you health and happiness and everything good 🙂
Thank you! I feel so much health and happiness already. All the best 🙂 xx
I am so sorry to hear what a tough year you had. You are an incredibly strong soul and I hope 2016 treats you more sweetly.
Thanks so much Kristin. I’m hoping that as well, so far so good 😉 Happy new year xox
Your photos are amazing to tell your story…………
Wishing you a great New Year in health and lots of happiness!!
@Oh My Heartsie Girl
Thanks Karren 🙂 Wishing you health and happiness as well this year xx
My heart is so full after reading this post! I am so happy that your family will have you around for many more years. You were in my prayers. I had no idea about Jackson getting sick. I am so sorry for all of you! Happy is a sweet puppy. Blessings for 2016!
My Wordless Wednesday Linky:
Thank you Christina. I know it was so sudden, I still look for him, assuming that he’s hiding somewhere. It happened after I wrote the last post, so quickly he went. All the best for your 2016 as well xox
As a dog lover and someone whose best friend survived breast cancer for decades, my heart swelled up to the size of a watermelon reading this. Bless you, sweet girl, and your family and Happy. Thank you for this post and for opening your heart and soul to us. I’m a believer in prayer and will definitely being praying for you!
Thanks so much Teresa, I appreciate your prayers. All the best for you this year xox
Thanks for sharing and sending you prayers and blessings for 2016.
Thank you Patrick! All the best to you as well 🙂
I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story. You are such an inspiration. I’ve had a shit storm of a year myself health wise with no end in sight but like you I cringe when I put the words to paper or in our cases the blog. There is nothing cringe worthy here. I’m full of admiration for you.
Thank you Raychael! Sending good healing vibes to you, hopefully 2016 brings you lots of good health xox
Oh my gosh, I just sobbed while reading this. Not out of pity, but empathy. I follow you on Instagram and see your beautiful photos and had no idea about your past year. I suppose Instagram is the casual ‘hello’and visiting a blog is like going into one’s home. More intimate. You are a gorgeous writer. Beautiful words. I wish you lots of good health, cheer and happiness this year. xo
Thank you so much Rebecca. Yes, the curtains are always pulled back more on our blogs aren’t they? Thank you for your super kind words and best to you for a wonderful 2016 as well xoxo
Jessica, you are brave and beautiful and your blog is such a special place. My heart rejoices with you in new beginnings and hope ahead. I honestly have no idea how you put into words all that you have been through, but my heart is captivated and wishing so much the best for you. You are such an example of how the bitter can draw out such deep beauty. I have so much to learn from you.
Thank you Emily! I wrote this with tears in my eyes, it was hard. But at least I can look at it all with a backwards facing mirror these days. Happy 2016 🙂 xox
I too had one of my toughest years in 2015 culminating in the very sudden loss of my father, my protector, my champion in December. Thank you for your post. My world has changed forever and this kind of grief is something completely new. Dazed, I sometimes look at the photos on Instagram and wonder if my life will ever look that way or more importantly feel the way I imagine the people posting their pictures feel. Your post reminds us that everyone has struggles and despite the face we put on in public we can never judge what their lives are truly like on the inside. Your Instagram is always beautiful but I appreciate knowing more what’s underneath. I wish you a healthy and happy 2016.
I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been through a difficult year as well. There was something about 2015, so many friends had major challenges, lost loved ones including their family pets. I appreciate the kind words and wish you health and happiness in 2016 as well xoxox
I am so sorry to read about your year 🙁 🙁
I am happy to see you blogging again, I love seeing your pictures, you are so talented.
Wishing you all the best for 2016
Thank you so much Claire 🙂 xoxo
You have a beautiful family. I love your dog and my gosh, your food photography made me so hungry. Can I come for dinner? 😉
Thank you Freda 🙂 xx
Oh my goodness your poor family has been put through the ringer! I’m glad your daughter didn’t have cancer!
Your life that you went through is such a test!
Last year my nephew had chemo. The doctors almost wouldn’t treat him. In fact my sister had to go through kind of a court like hearing, but at a hospital. My nephew has Trisomy 18, too much of the 18th chromosome. They weren’t going to treat his tumors because he has a weak immune system already. Anyhow…my sister convince them to treat him. He made it. He still has tumors, but they are super small, and have not grown. Scary stuff indeed!
I’m so happy to hear that your nephew is doing well, what a scare. Yes, we’ve been through the ringer but these things make us stronger. Sending you health and happiness for 2016 xoxo
As always, I so enjoy your writing, Jess. Here’s to new beginnings & a bright year for you guys.
Thanks so much Trisha. The good news so far is that the dairy free/gluten free diet is really helping Lauren with her eczema, thank you so much for inspiring me to make some big diet changes. Hope you have a great year too, much love xxxxx J
Jess, I read you post and I felt such a mix of emotions and by the end, through my tears I felt such overwhelming relief for you. You are a rock star and you made it through your bench mark year with grace. As well by sharing your story you have touched all of us who read your post. For that I thank you. Enjoy the new year, your family, Happy and feeling strong again. Much love xo
Thanks so much ML. You gave me so much support from the sweet notes, and the healing beads that I wore to every treatment session. Love you tons and hope you have a great new year as well xoxo
Jess, I couldn’t comment on your post yesterday because my eyes were overflowing with tears and my mind was a jumble of wonder and admiration. I’ve just read the previous comments and know that you have had a profound effect on many. Most of us don’t.
Congratulations on making it through that gruesome benchmark year. Love, love, love to you, Rodney, Lauren, Sam, Emma and, of course, Happy. xoxo
Jess, you write so beautifully. This is my first time to visit your blog. You had such a tough year. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your pain. It makes all of us feel like we are not alone. 2015 was a benchmark for me as well- I lost both of my parents within 6 months of each other. But, out of that, came my blog. It is so therapeutic to write and as hard as it can be, to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there. I hope 2016 holds nothing but good things for you and your beautiful family. Either way, I look forward to following you on the journey!
Thanks so much Cathy, you’re too kind. I’m sorry to hear about your losses, how hard that must have been to lose both parents within such a short period. But I agree, there is always a silver lining, and I’m so happy that you’ve found your blog therapeutic. All the best and hope 2016 brings you lots of health and happiness as well xx
Gosh what a year you’ve had Jessica! I’m so glad to hear to hear of your recent tests coming back with positive news and of your new addition. Hoping 2016 is filled with much blessing for you!
It really was, thanks so much Stephanie and my best to you for a great 2016 as well xox
Jess that was me above. Love you xoxo
🙂 thanks so much Mum, I thought that might have been you xox
Jess, I cried the whole way through your post….in a good way. I kept you in my prayers about Jackson. I’m sorry you had him for such a short time after the diagnosis, but I’m so happy you have Happy now! She’s just gorgeous! We got a puppy Dec 12. Although I’ve been a cat person (we have 4), I am loving having a dog. Like you, having him is helping me take better care of myself. I’m moving more because of him. That’s a great thing.
Thanks for sharing. My benchmark year was 2013. I buried my mom and father-in-law 2 weeks apart. My daughter got married two weeks later. Talk about bittersweet! Then I had 2 major shoulder surgeries. I was happy for the year to end. 2015 was challenging too. But 2016 has dawned and I am thrilled. It does feel like a new start.
By sharing about your benchmark year, you have encouraged me. Sometimes, I wondered if I shared too much. But it’s in the sharing that you find help and comfort from others who have gone through similar trials. Thanks for that and know that I think of you often. I look forward to your delicious recipes and phenomenal photography.
I know, the sharing feels awkward sometimes. I was exhausted yesterday and woke up from a short nap with the kind of panic that comes with feeling like you’ve shared too much. But the comments have been so kind and supportive that it makes it worth it. I’m sorry that you had so many challenges over the past few years but at least we’re going into 2016 with renewed perspective and hope. Sending lots of love and best withes for a fantastic 2016…. xoxox J
Love you Jess. Love your family. Love your food. Love your words. Also love Happys wanna be Patagonia doggie vest amazing. Happy new year hope to see you soon❤️
Thank you so much lady. And thanks for your comments, emails of support, etc. You always put a smile on my face. Lots of love to you and hope we connect in person sooner rather than later xox
Jess, what a beautifully written and heartfelt post — your strength and creative talent is an inspiration. Can’t wait to meet the newest member of the family!
Thanks so much Mike, can’t wait for you to meet her too. She’s just like Jackson, so sweet.
Love you tons xoxo
Every post of yours blows me away. You have such a way with words….Here’s to an amazing 2016. You deserve it more than anyone I know…and I feel like it’s coming your way.
Thanks so much Lor. I do deserve it don’t I 😉 I really hope good things are coming…..And I hope good things are coming for you too, you have so much to look forward to. Sending so much love xoxo
Well that is really a fantastic close to an incredible year. I am glad we got to see you last year. And now I want to breathe a sigh of relief and start planning for the next visit with a lighter theme.❤️ Kris
Yes, me too! A visit with the kids would be so much fun. I’m craving a return to BC, I miss it. Sending much love xoxo
to the beautiful Jess- thank you for your vulnerability – you definitely connect us all to each other in the most beautiful honest and authentic way. i adore you woman! and i think of you often and you have had one hell of a hard year. only yesterday i read this quote- from the book, the road less travelled- “those things that hurt, instruct. it is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually welcome problems and actually welcome the pain of problems.” i am loving from afar …catherxxx
Lovely, thanks for that quote. I appreciate it and it reaffirms what I’ve always thought about these things – that I’m growing as a person, that I’ve learned things about myself, and that ultimately I’m the better for it. Sending so much love right back to you xox
Sharing your deepest sorrows and triumphs is as much therapy for you as it is lessons for us, your readers. Thank you…. XO
Thanks so much Kasha. What a year. I’m literally counting down the days to a more lighthearted summer when I can actually eat and appreciate all of your glorious food. Lots to look forward to. Sending much love xoxo
That is a lot to go on in a lifetime, let alone one single year. I hope this year is relaxing, healing year for you!!
Thank you Camille, we’ve earned it! All the best for you as well this year xx
I was so happy to read this post Jessica. I am so glad to hear about the clear scans and to see you and the whole family, including Happy, go into the new year healthy, optimistic and full of positive energy. What a year it must have been and you seem to handle it all with such strength, perspective, and optimism. Thank you for sharing — I love the sea salt posts and also the more personal ones… thank you for including so many of us in your journey. Lots of love and you should maybe add a CA visit to your plans for 2016!
Thank you so much Aylin! The clear scans were such a huge relief, it’s been so stressful. Glad that you like both post styles, I’m almost at a loss for what to write going forward, will it even be possible to write about sea salt again? 😉 Sending you much love and hope to see you in CA at some point down the road. xoxo
Jess – I’ve been thinking of you so much over the past few months and was so devastated to hear about your dog’s death. I know, through your posts, what a huge part of your family he was, and more important what an important and loyal companion to you. This post was beautiful and, as always, I admire the intimacy and the honesty that you share. Sending so much love to you and your family for a wonderful 2016!
Thanks so much Meg, he really was such a big part of your life. And you know what that relationship is like…they’re family. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life and I still cry for him daily but the new puppy is helping. Sending so much love right back to you, wishing you & your beautiful family the best for 2016 xoxox
Jessica your courage and grace inspires me. What a great Christmas Day it must have been to meet your new pup. And, wonderful to start the new year with good news. I wish you and your adorable family a happy, Happy! 2016!
Thanks Donna, I appreciate your super kind comments. It really was a great Christmas Day and it gave us hope that 2016 will be different. Much love and happy 2016 to you as well xo
I am literally in tears at my desk right now and not because of all your struggles this year but of your hope and optimism towards life. You are brave and unflinching in the face of all that you have been through and in a real and honest way. It isn’t pretty at times and it isn’t easy and you share that here in a wonderfully penned piece. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks so much Mel, I appreciate your super sweet words. The roughest of rough years but there is always a silver lining in these challenges. Sending you lots of love, health and happiness for 2016 xoxo
Dearest Jessica, I too lost my soul dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Bogart, to hemangiosarconoma. We did the exact same thing. We got our beloved Bernese Marlowe a week and half after. People mourn the death of pets differently. For us, Marlowe’s immediate presence in our lives helped us through our grief and solved the eerie quietness in the house that happens after loosing a pet.
I’m so sorry for your loss as well Kimberly. There is almost nothing that can compare to the grief of losing a pet who feels like an extension of your soul. I’m so glad that bringing another dog into your life helped. We’re getting there with Happy, she’s such mischief that it’s helping distract me from my grief, which is the only way I could get through this. Happy new year and all the best for 2016 xo
It sounds like you had a really rough year. I cried as I read this post. You amaze me at how strong you remain no matter what life throws at you. I hope 2016 is a better year for you and your family.
Thank you Cascia, I appreciate it. Hope you have a wonderful 2016 as well xo
I have few words after reading this. I can’t see my keyboard through my tears. I have thought of you and your beautiful family so often the past many months, wondering how you were. Thank you so much for this post filling us in on so much of what has been going on. You are an inspiration to so many. I want to say that I agree with you about the grief over Jackson. I experienced the same four years ago. I know exactly what you speak of and also my remedy was the same as yours; a new puppy right away. Thank you for sharing your live, the good and the bad.
Love you to the moon and back!!
Dearest Patti, you always have the kindest comments. Thank you so much for your love and support. It always brightened my day when I’d return to the blog after a period of absence and see your loving words. Sending much love right back at you and I hope that your 2016 is off to a good start! xoxox J
Thanks so much Jessica! Looking forward to your photos and writing in 2016.
*sniff* Oh my. I seriously had to look away a couple of times because I couldn’t read through my tears. I had a strange feeling of sadness mixed with hope as I read your post. Benchmark year couldn’t be any more en pointe. Through it all, I’m extremely happy you and your daughter have survived. My heart broke for the loss of Jackson. But I smiled in the end as Happy joined your bunch. Thank you for sharing your brave story. Please don’t stop sharing them. We love your food posts, but we love your heart even more. –> Hugs and Blessings, Janice
Thank you Janice, you always have such nice words to say, I appreciate it. Sending you lots of hugs as well and hope you have a wonderful 2016 xox
Wow Jessica. I couldn’t read your post without getting a lump in my throat and tears. I’m so sorry for your loss and hope that your days in 2016 continue to be cancer-free. As always, your photos are exquisite. Just gorgeous.
Thank you Lana, cancer-free is a good way to start the year, so let’s hope that it continues. Have a wonderful 2016 xoxox
Please never stop writing and sharing your experiences. There is something so special about you and about the way you weave words together. I will read everything you write. Here is to a healthy and happy 2016!
Thank you so much. I appreciate the support. I was exhausted and took a nap the day I published this and panicked when I woke up. I have waves of feeling like it’s too much info but comments like this make it all worth it…
What a gorgeous post… thank you so much for sharing your journey this year. I just discovered your blog via Rebecca on The Displaced Housewife, and look forward to following you during what I hope will be a less challenging 2016 for you. Wishing you all the best.
Thank you so much. I hope 2016 is easier! Hopefully you’re off to a good start this year too. All the best, Jessica
Wow you have had a tough 2015 – I didn’t much like that year either, far too many losses of our own as well.
Is your dog a Vizla? We have Bavarian Mountain Hound that is 15 weeks old, we got him in October after our house rabbit of 9 years sadly passed away.
I hope you’re all having fun getting to know each other. x
Yes our dog is a vizsla. I’m so sorry about your loss, we had rabbits growing up as kids. Very sweet animals. I’m so glad that you have a new pup in your life too…all the best xox
Wishing you all things good in health and happiness for 2016!! It was a tough one for 2015!
Such a sweet family and your furfriend to give you support each day!!
Have a fantastic day!
Oh My Heartsie Girl!!:)
I love your blog….sharing your darker days helps readers feel like they have someone out there who gets what they are going through. Thank you for being authentic and real, it is a breath of fresh air. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you to say goodbye to Jackson. We have a three year old golden (Tucker) and he is my best bud. Dogs have a way of getting us. Wishing you a calm and healthy New Year.
Thank you so much Liz. As soon as Jackson was 6 months old I knew that I’d be in for trouble when he’d eventually pass away. There was something special about him, and our relationship. I still cry for him often. It’s hard. At least you have a beautiful dog in your life and you’ll have many years left with Tucker. Dogs do give us so much. Happy new year to you as well… xox
I came, unaware, to your blog, spurred on by promises of gorgeous photos, only to find myself rocked to the core by the life and truth and soul in this post. I will be parked here permanently now. As someone who blogged my way through loss, I can tell you that having the feelings captured raw here will be one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself. Not to mention the gift you’ve shared with your readers. Please consider this a big virtual hug and a cheer from a stranger. To you, and Happy, and 2016!
Thank you so much Sharon, I appreciate your kind words. I’m already starting to feel some distance from this period in my life, which I’m thankful for, but it will be nice to have a record of what we’ve gone through. Thank you for your virtual hug 😉 xoxox
I feel blessed to have found a few quiet moments to read this post. Here’s to new (& Happy) beginnings, benchmark years and signs from above spilling white… welcome to your new four-legged beauty and thank you for sharing your journey, x.
Thank you so much Kelly 🙂 Thankfully this year is off to a much better start xoxox
Jessica, my heart is in my throat and there are tears in my eyes. You are such a beautiful writer, and are such a strong and incredible person to get through such a stressful year of pain, unknowing and loss. I love Happy, what a sweet and adorable pup, and I cheered reading that your scans were clear. Hoping 2016 is sheer magic, full of love, health and goodness! xo Lyndsay
Thank you so much Lyndsay, we’ve both had our struggles this year haven’t we? I’m so thankful that this year has been off to a better start. Hoping that 2016 brings you so much to celebrate as well xoxox
Jessica, I hung on every word of this post, and on all your posts this year. Outside of being relieved and thrilled that you and your babies are healthy, I am grateful to have found a blog that gave me so much more than beautiful pictures and great recipes…thank you for sharing all of your journey, not just the pretty bits. Sending good vibes your way for a great, healthy, Happy 2016 and beyond!
Thank you Lara! I appreciate your super sweet words. Hope you have a wonderful 2016 as well xoxox
I just discovered your blog through Instagram and a photo shared on William Sonoma’s feed. I read about your difficult journey. I hope that the worst is behind you and that 2016 is off to a healthy year filled with many blessings.
Thank you so very much Elaine, and yes the worst is thankfully behind me!
Hi Jessica, just found your blog. Omg! You are an incredible woman. I was crying reading your story. I really admire your strength and the honesty with which you shared your life on this platform. Each and every word touched my heart and every emotion. Thank you so much! Wish you happiness, health and blissful years now onwards… Xoxo
Thank you so much Ginni, that is super sweet and I really do appreciate your comments. 2016 is off to a better start by far! All the best xx
I’m new to your blog and only just now catching up, but it sounds like the end of 2015 led to a positive start in 2016. I’m so glad that you found a beautiful puppy to share your grief and happiness with.
And your pictures, even without traveling, are simply gorgeous! And they truly reflect what you are talking about in the post – from the fog to the Christmas light to the “Happy” puppy. So beautiful!
I’m glad you and your daughter are doing better, and I hope that 2016 is much better for you than 2015 was.
Thank you so much Mandy. It was a rough year, but yes, we’re so thankful that 2016 is off to a good start. All the best!
The scenery and food all look wonderful! I love your foggy pictures, but they are all good – as they usually are.
I’d love to go to Oregon. My sister is from Cottage Grove. She was adopted. Long story short my family has a carries the chance of having an extra 18 chromosome. My sister’s been to Oregon to meet her sister and brothers. I’ve just never been there.
Hi! I just found your blog recently through Seamus Mullen. Truly you are an inspiration and give me sight. I have just been diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago – April 10th. I do not know much about it (trying not to read the internet all that much) except it is a rare slow-growing cancer cell, and I am waiting to hear from the specialist now. I have been reading some of your posts and they definitely are giving me hope and comfort. I thank you for sharing your journey and being so open. I hope I can do the same, if not for myself but to make people aware and hopeful.