It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and for good reason. Life has been kind to us and it’s thrown me off guard. It’s been a process to put down my fists and take solace in the fact that my battles – for now – are over. I’ve been cancer-free since January. The kids are healthy. We just got back from a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Jamaica. Life, mercifully, is good.
We rented a home through Inspirato and spent 8 glorious days in post-nuclear family bliss at the Tryall Resort near Montego Bay. My dad, my stepdad, my mum, brother and his girlfriend, and of course me + Rodney with a gang of kids nipping at our heels.
I’ve been aching to write a post because the last time I wrote, while things were on the mend, the year was still a fresh wound, more present than past. In the weeks and months since, I’ve received many letters thanking me for my candor and sending best wishes for a prosperous 2016. It was lovely to feel such compassion; I’ve shed many tears of gratitude, including one memorable moment in Jamaica when it was just me and a plastic glass of wine, sitting in the pool, staring out at the palm-speckled sunset beyond.
Early this year, I declared to Rodney that 2016 would be “the year of healing” and I’ve followed through on my word, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Speaking of my word, I swore not to talk about people or events that happened on my November retreat in British Columbia, but I would like to tell you a story that has stuck with me since. All names are anonymous of course.
I met *Julia on the first day of retreat and she immediately impressed me with her strong sense of self. The first night she admitted that she was taking a break from ongoing rounds of chemotherapy and was hoping that her body would heal with natural methods alone. With young kids at home, I worried that she’d have a setback. But I’d recently finished the book “Radical Remission” by Kelly Turner and was open to the idea that maybe she’d gain some comfort from this plan.
You can imagine my shock when a few weeks after our return, Julia sent me an email stating that her cancer had gone into remission. This, coming from a woman whose cancer was so extensive that it had spread to her bones. Not a speck was left.
How did she do it? I won’t pretend that her process was easy – she eats a vegan diet, mostly raw. She takes supplements. She practices yoga, she meditates; she cut out every major stressor from her life, including her demanding job. She’s traveled to see energy healers, stepped into a machine called “The Life Vessel” which gave us a good chuckle in November. And she hasn’t stopped with these efforts now that she’s healthy again.
The lesson from this strong-willed woman is to embrace a healing mindset, no matter how many quizzical looks are thrown in your direction.
Although I’ve been healthy-ish over the past 15 years, there is always room for improvement. Starting with food.
On retreat, I was impressed by the number of women who were under the care of naturopathic doctors (in addition to their oncologists and primary care providers). I’m picky about my food sourcing and choices, and never eat food with preservatives. I make most of my meals at home using fruit and vegetables that I hunt and gather from the farmer’s markets and my CSA. But I knew that I had a lot to learn about how to optimize my health with nutrition and supplements.
As luck would have it, Jackson’s former naturopathic vet made an introduction, and it was with some trepidation but mostly excitement that I made my way over to her Union Square office one cold day in January.
“Most people can’t tolerate dairy and wheat” she told me during my first meeting. But under no circumstances should someone with a weak immune system eat any kind of inflammatory foods. Those were my orders, ma’am yes ma’am.
She told me to nix the wine (even red, it interferes with healing sleep functions at night), and to avoid eating pork.
“Pork valves are used for human heart surgeries because a pig’s tissue is similar to ours. It’s confusing for the immune system.”
So I’ve given up these once-treasured foods. Wheat (spelt is acceptable); Dairy; Pork, mostly, although the occasional slice of bacon finds its way into my diet.
I’ve had a harder time with wine and alcohol. I’m convinced that I net benefit from the serotonin that floods my brain when I watch the uncorking of a cold bottle of well-earned rosé, sleep disturbances be damned.
Aside from introducing me to an empathetic peer set, my November retreat taught me to value my relationship with healthcare providers. Love them to the point where you have to quash an overpowering desire to hug them at the end of your visit. If that sounds crazy, I can tick off five people who fit that description, number one being my oncologist. And I’ve ended my relationship with those providers who don’t.
I see a therapist once a week for shiatsu massage so good and painful that it makes my eyeballs roll into the back of my head. I used to think that massage meant the occasional splurge involving fluffy white bathrobes and plenty of oil. But I’ve found nirvana in the cramped top floor of a yoga studio where I submit to acupressure and an old world treatment called moxibustion. I ended my first session by hopping off the table and giving Shakti a bear hug; she responded in kind. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.
There have been many other healers, so I won’t go into the details. I’ve submerged my body into a sensory deprivation flotation tank; visited with a Chinese acupuncturist on Elizabeth Street; a reflexologist around the corner on Hester St. poked at my feet. The Tibetan herbalist has been slow to call me back but I do plan to see him soon. Which reminds me that I need to schedule those Chakra balancing and Shamanic healing sessions. Who doesn’t want to be reunited with her power animal and reconnect her heart to her soul?
But the strangest meeting of all was a visit with a psychic. “You strike me as the kind of person who’d be open to it” my naturopath said as she passed me the number of a woman who charges more than a luxury handbag for an hour-long conversation.
I had to admit that I was curious.
“It’s the year of healing” I reminded Rodney when I slipped the cost of the visit into our conversation.
“It’s $300 an hour?!”
Yes, and I’m not mentioning the other $200 for fear that our marriage will implode.
While I’ve enjoyed meeting various healers, this particular session was odd.
It seemed as though my psychic was rehashing details about my life that were easily accessed through the blog.
To her credit, I wasn’t a good subject since I was skeptical of her services, and aside from my aunts, uncles, and grandparents, I have limited knowledge of my family history.
“Who was the seamstress?” she asked while channeling a woman named Maria.
But something interesting happened that day. Midway through, she stopped the reading.
“Have you been seeing ladybugs?”
At which point the hair on my arms stood up on end because the night before my visit, I’d dreamt that a ladybug had landed on my arm.
I mentioned the dream, and my psychic, muttering about important news, flipped through a notebook.
According to my esteemed savant (and later verified by Sir Google), ladybugs bring good luck and signal that you can leave your worries behind. Symbolically, ladybugs represent rebirth, fortune, trust, and joy.
“You know that cancer is in your past don’t you?” She peered over the book.
Since that day, I’ve seen ladybugs everywhere. Emma painted one at school, another flew into our bus and landed on the window as we were leaving Jamaica, I’ve come across them in books, their images have popped up unannounced onto my computer screen.
I’m not one who falls easily for stories about spirits or the afterlife, but when I see one of these sweet creatures, I feel Jackson’s unwavering presence, just like he’d never left.
I’ll stop here. There is much more to write – a new business in the works, a collaboration with one of my favorite food brands, Jacobsen Salt Co., and a summer at the lake around the corner – but I’ll save those updates for another time. The cadence of posts will be slower than what you’ve seen in the past but don’t let that fool you. I’ve been busier – and happier – than ever. I hope that you’ve all been off to a great start in 2016. See you back here soon….
Wow! what a great set of photos I enjoyed them and the post
Have a funtastic week 🙂
Thank you so much Steve 🙂 Have a great week too!
What a wonderful place to enjoy your healing and time with family! I enjoyed your gorgeous photos so much. You were in my prayers and I am thankful that you can once again live in the present. The past is behind! God bless.
Thanks lady, it was really spectacular! So glad the past is behind us too 🙂
Fantastic photos and so glad you are healing. Your post inspired me to appreciate the little things and just cuddle my kids a little closer because health and family are everything.
Thank you! Gad that the post could offer a little inspiration, I need that too sometimes 🙂 It’s easy to forget to slow down xox
Great place to enjoy with the family. Lovely photos.
Thanks so much Dominique, truly incredible xo
Jess, amazing photos of an amazing time. Thanks so much for the post and the memories. xo Mum
Thank you for being there! Will have these memories forever xoxox
Great set of photos.. Glad that you are healing. Prayers for you.
Thank you so much Patrick!
I MISS YOU! I miss seeing your photos as they are my inspiration! I am so glad that you are back!
Thank you Merlinda! I appreciate your comments! I’ve missed writing too, it was so much fun putting this together yesterday xx
You pleased to hear you are cancer free. Thanks for sharing your story and the wonderful images. I’m about to embark on a wheat and dairy free diet, hoping it helps with the auto immune disease flare up that has limited my life right now. I’ve only just started drinking alcohol again after 15 years, so I’m assuming that will have to go too. Trying to focus on the positives not what I’m missing out on.
Thanks so much Raychael- wheat and dairy free will do you a world of good. We started the diet initially with my daughter who has a host of autoimmune issues- digestive issues, asthma, eczema, the results have been remarkable. Wishing you the best of luck!
What a wonderful place and great set of photos.
Oh my how I have missed hearing from you and I’ve been wondering about
you. Thank you for this lovely update and for sharing your story.
Sometimes I think this WW posts give us tiny glimpses into other peoples
lives but they don’t show the reality…the mess, the hurt, the pain, the
doubt. We have to read between the lines. And while your story definitely
has the truisms of those things it is still very much a thing of beauty.
You are beautiful. Your family is beautiful and your life is beautiful.
May you continue to revel in the beauty of happiness and hope and remain
Thank you so much Teresa for your super kind comments, I appreciate it more than you know. I’m feeling very lucky these days, so hopefully it will continue. Sending best wishes to you & yours as well xoxox
I simply cod8&nu#l217;t go away your website before suggesting that I actually loved the usual information a person provide to your guests? Is going to be back ceaselessly to check out new posts
Congratulations being cancer free for so long! It looks like you had a fabulous vacation. Glad to see you are back to blogging. I missed reading your blog.
Thank you Cascia! So happy to write a post again, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it! All the best to you as well xx
Quality trumps quantity – so glad that you are happier and healthier than ever – enjoy your life – we are here when you write! 🙂
Thank you 🙂 For your support, your kind words, always xoxox
That’s a wonderful place to go for healing. I’m so glad you’re cancer free! How exciting!
Indeed, it was one of the most gorgeous places i’ve ever visited. A good start to the year 🙂 xox
Looks like a fun place.
Thank you Joyce 🙂
I’m so happy you’re back Jesse!! I’ve been praying for you and it’s wonderful to hear the words “cancer free!”
I’m drooling over your pictures. You have such a great eye!
Thank you Mary! You’re so sweet, thank you always for keeping me in your thoughts. Much love xx J
Hi Jessica, I am so happy to hear life is good now for you lovely. What a beautiful place to rest and help with your healing. Beautiful pictures as always 🙂 I really need a holiday now after seeing your pictures 🙂
Thank you Claire! I may need a holiday again soon, I’m missing that place so much 🙂 All the best xxx
Your images are so lovely!
It’s interesting that your psychic knew about the ladybugs from your dream. Hopefully they really do indicate healing and future contentment. 🙂
Thank you Mandy, and I agree, it was a very bizarre coincidence that she mentioned the ladybugs. But I’m so glad that she did. They’re my new good luck charm! All the best xx
Love this post!!! And so excited for your year of healing and fun and love!!! Xoxoxxo
And the pics make me want to jump
Ship on the Colorado life and move to
Thanks so much Lor. You and me both, we can set up shop down there as resident photographers 😉 Love you so much xxx
First of all, cheers to a year of healing. A beautiful family you have there and thanks for sharing your moments. Absolutely loved reading through your post and I was drawn in and loved every bit of it.
Healing is a beautiful thing, whatever way you chose. This post is quite dear to me.
All the love to you my dear.
Thanks so much Asha! I appreciate your sweet comments. Healing is a beautiful thing for sure, especially when inspired by all of the nurturing and delicious foods that you see on sites like yours! All the best and much love right back to you xoxo
CONGRATS on being Cancer FREE!!! AMAZING & I’m so happy for you. I have had Cancer running throughout my family and my mother beat hers too. She had breast cancer, but my dad died of lung cancer. So very happy for you. I love your pictures also especially dad throwing his baby girl up in the air in the pool. One of those awwwww pictures!!! Have a great day.
Thank you so much! It’s pretty amazing that I have that episode in my rearview mirror once again. Have a wonderful week!
Such a wonderful post! Had to read it twice through:) So happy for all the great (and well deserved) things happening in 2016. Love seeing all the pictures too – a little slice of paradise. Love you so much!
Dev, you always write the sweetest comments. Thank you so much and thank you for all of the amazing support that you gave me last year when I journeyed to hell and back. Love you so much too! xxxx
Welcome back! It’s wonderful to see your joyful photography again. You capture your kids so beautifully.
I’m glad that 2016 is treating you well. You deserve it. I can’t wait to hear more about the new business! Sounds like lots of excitement ahead!
Thank you Sarah! It’s been a while! I appreciate your comments so much. You’ll like the new business, I wrote about it on IG, will tag you so that you can see the post 🙂 Hope all is well with you too! xoxox
Wonderful post Jess! Every time I see a ladybug now I’m going to be thinking of you!! Here’s to a happy 2016 and all the fun things you have on the go!!! XO
Thank you ML! They’re now my spirit animal 🙂 Hats off to a wonderful year for you too! xox
What an amazing trip for all of you! Wishing you health and wellness.
Thank you so much Olivia!
And I wonder if you are my ladybug… Thanks for sharing so much here, thanks for visited me and brought me here to let me ponder for a while if I have been taking my life for granted. Really nice photos and wishing you continue to be healthy, happy and prosperous:).
Oh Jessica what a thrill to find your blog post in my email this evening!!! I have been unable to post anything at all on instagram ( some kind of snafu that I cannot untangle) although I have checked there often to see your pics. I am so happy for you that life is wonderful and your year of healing is going so well. You kicked that cancer to the curb! You have always inspired me with your candor and compassion and with your writing and photography talents also. The kids have grown so much!! They are all beautiful children. And Happy is so pretty!! I know how you still miss Jackson because I have been there and still miss my dog who died four years ago. Like you I had to get another dog immediately. It was the only thing I could do. I have grown to love her now so very much. She is my constant companion. Another thing we have in common is that we are both huggers! I really relate to your description of fighting off the urge to hug your doctors. On my first visit to my therapist I gave him a big hug upon leaving. Once home I thought that I’d probably broken some kind of therapist’s code. Next visit I brought it up and we talked about it and decided on the side “buddy” hug from then on. What can I say? I’m a hugger. Thank you for the post. The trip looks like it was absolutely perfect. Such a place!! Gorgeous pictures. I look forward to your blog posts whenever you can fit them into your busy schedule. Welcome back Jes!!! Continue to take good care. Love you to pieces!
So very happy to see you back online and sharing your very precious family photos. What a visual feast as usual!
Reading this post filled my heart, Jessica. There is so much depth and beauty here. So thankful to read about and see some of joy-filled moments of these past months. To grace and continued hope ahead- love to you. xo
Lovely photos. Also enjoyed hearing your story/update. Congrats on being cancer free!
Beautiful family time! You are blessed.
Recently found your blog and have started going through it from the beginning. As a new mom your strength and closeness with your beautiful family gives me a lot of hope. <3
I love your blog and your beautiful pictures. You are so blessed to have such a beautiful family. So happy you are cancer free and I look forward to hearing and seeing your life on your blog.