“I’ll have the wild blueberry please.”
“Your lunch looks so heavy this morning! Did you pack some for me?”
“Sam I forgot to bring your socks again, I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what it means. I’m scared.”
“It’s likely metastatic.”
Lines from recent conversations. Lines from different moments on different days, all of which brought me to tears.
I debated whether to say anything online. This place is usually filled with happy self-deprecation and a deep love for local food. But when you fall apart ordering a blueberry donut, it’s time to admit that life has thrown you one of its wildly unpredictable curveballs.
I called a friend to tell her the news.
“You should say something.”
Openness is both my strength and my weakness. Anyone with a pair of ears has heard about the times when I’ve burnt my food, failed a test, or had too much to drink.
I admit to my faults, and there are many. But I don’t like to tell stories that aren’t remotely funny. They stay deep, dark and buried until the skies are once again clear. When I can talk about them in the past tense. Make light of the situation.
“Remember the time when I walked to the hospital with a cockroach in my shoe? That was funny.”
Health issues – present tense – are never funny.
Cancer isn’t funny.
Particularly when it shows up 14 years after it went into remission.
Too much has happened since then. A husband. An apartment. A dog. Three beautiful kids. A lake house.
It seems unfair. But what is unfair?
Is it fair when another person gets sick? Your co-worker’s child? Your friend’s mother? Your brother? Your sister?
Cancer is a numbers game. There are things that you can do to better or worsen your odds, but in the end, it strikes randomly, and has nothing to do with fairness. It has everything to do with bad luck.
So you try to be upbeat.
You distract yourself. You work. You take the kids to school and drop them off at tennis.
You listen to the conversations happening around you. “Sophie isn’t being challenged. You’d think that after all of these lessons she’d know how to hold a racquet.”
You try hard to forget the news that you were delivered. That more likely than not, you have stage IV melanoma.
I’ve been writing for two years about what life is like on the other side of cancer. It’s full of healthy food, birthday cakes, love, frustration and joy.
It would be inauthentic for me to disappear into thin air, or to provide vague information. “Checking out with some health issues guys, see you in a few weeks.”
I wanted to finish telling the story about that incredible trip through New Mexico with my Mum.
And now I’m giving myself permission to rest. To focus on my health and spend quality time with my family.
Tomorrow I’m going to the hospital for surgery and I look forward to hearing these words when I wake up: “We removed it, follow-up treatment is…, your prognosis is good.”
There’s no reason to believe that I’ll hear otherwise. My doctors have told me that I’m going to be OK. I believe that I’m going to be OK. After a week that involved tearful phone calls, depression and isolation, a strange thing happened. I started to take pleasure in old routines – making myself a nice meal, taking the kids to the museum, reading a book at night. I wish that I could say that I willed myself to this place, but it happened organically. And although I’m anticipating bumps in the road ahead, I know that I have the mental strength to get myself through this challenge.
I promise to update this page as soon as I have my energy back. And I look forward to returning with great news. There is so much good coming our way – another summer at the lake, boxes of CSA vegetables from the Hudson Valley, a recently-planted herb garden that’s already in full bloom. Summer camp for the kids, swim team, trips to the neighboring blueberry farm.
Life is happening around every corner.
Whatever is thrown my way, I’m ready for it.
It’s been a week since my surgery and recovery, although slow, is going well. As much as we’d hoped that it wasn’t cancer, here we are, stage IV melanoma. Treatment is still undecided, but we’ll learn more in the coming weeks.
I’m in good spirits though. Food has once again become my beacon. It’s my comfort blanket, my shield. There’s “healthy eating”, the kind of eating that I’ve embraced for the past 14 years: joyful eating, everything from scratch, wholesome ingredients, mountains of vegetables, nothing processed.
And then we have its reclusive, tough, and oh-so empowering cousin: “HEALTHY EATING” – no white flour, no sugar, no red meat, no dairy, no regrets.
I don’t look at my list of antiangiogenic foods and think about restrictions. I look at this list and see 150+ ways to beat cancer.
Hippocrates once said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
So I’m gearing up for battle; building my arsenal with weapons such as blackberries, ginger, whole grains and leafy greens.
If you’d like to see the TED talk that inspired this dietary shift, you can find the link here.
For now, you can picture me exactly where I am most days: on the couch, Lauren’s “High School Musical” blanket keeping me warm; Jackson on his back by my side, paws in the air; bowl of kale salad in my lap; ginger tea at arm’s length; kids in costume, making a mess, performing a show…surrounding myself with every inspirational anti-cancer book written since the beginning of time.
There are worse places to be in life.
See you guys back here soon.
Jess, this is beautifully written and from the heart. I appreciate your honesty and I know your friends and followers will as well. You have the best medical team in the world (and terrific friends and family) in your corner. Plus you have spirit and determination that are beyond inspirational. I know that you are going to be okay; in fact you are going to be better than okay. Soon enough you will be cooking up a storm and entertaining your fans with stories of mountain-high soufflés, swim team victories and all-nighters at the beach. I love you Jess. xoxo Mum
the doctors say you’re going to be o.k. they are not in the business of selling false hopes. they mean what they say. i’m going to hang on to that for dear life, as if it were a life preserver keeping my hopes afloat. fifteen years or so ago, the doctors came through; back then i – we perhaps – knew as little as to what they knew as i know about vector mechanics; the progress in their capacity to deal with your issues has grown exponentially since then. (of this i am certain.) we haven’t had just fifteen good years — charlie, lauren, isaac, sam, emma, raphael, nolah, not to forget jackson and rousseau — we had fifteen years of a large pool of dedicated, talented, learned women and men backed by enormous resources, improving their, game, getting ready, to give our jessica the treatment she needs.
Oh Jess, my heart goes out to you. I will be thinking of you HARD tomorrow (and tonight, and two days from now, etc.) Ugh, cancer. My mom had breast cancer, so I’m in constant fear of developing cancer like she did … I can only imagine what you are going through (and what my mom must have gone through – she’s fine, btw.) Hold your family close and think positive thoughts. Sounds like you have a great head on your shoulders and you seem more than well-equipped to handle this situation. I hope to read your words on here again VERY soon. Virtual hugs and positive vibes being sent your way! xoxoxo
Love this posts as all your posts…. Hate what´s happening to you right now, and I know that saying is going to be ok without even knowing you won´t help… but Jess, I really think you will beat this! stay strong and cheerful and to hold on to whatever makes you strong!
Jess, as usual, you tackle the tough issues with grace and honesty. We love you. We are beside you. We support you. Love love love sent your way. Gina and Rick
You will be fine. You WILL.
Hugs to you from across the pond.
Jess, I am sending you all the virtual hugs I can muster. I can’t wait for you to come back so I can continue to smile and laugh out loud at your family stories, get inspired by your fresh / colorful recipes, and “hear” your voice (which is so you!) from miles away. All the love you’ve poured through your blog, it’s time to pour that love all to yourself. I’m thinking of you and will be keeping you in my thoughts and my heart, and look forward to hearing your stories back here. Lots and lots of love dear friend.
Jess, so eloquent in the midst of fear. Prayers going up tonight as you prepare for your fight. I pray that you WILL hear those words you long to hear when you awake from surgery. I may have never met you, but please know Dave and I and the kids are sending positive thoughts and lots of love your way. Stay strong Jess xx
Jess — I don’t know what is more remarkable: your attitude, your gift for column writing or your ability to write about this particular topic with candour and simplicity. Whatever happens it’s going to be fine — there is *always* a solution — sometimes an unexpected answer pops up — or as you have said, a change in perspective — but there is always some way to deal — and we are all here in spirit (or physically! Just say the word!!)
Jess, I will be praying for you, your family and medical team. I look forward to your zany tales in the future, but know that we understand your need to heal. And, we’re here for you, during the fact that you’re dealing with cancer. So if you need to share the not-so-fun-part of what you’re going through, that’s completely okay too! I won’t go anywhere. I promise.
Looking forward to your triumphant return! 🙂
Words can take us only so far. It is faith however we come to it that is the missing link between science, medicine, technology and will to go on.
Jess you have everything to live for and an incredible family and friendships that span the globe. You will absolutely get through this tough patch and emerge even stronger and more determined than you already are. You have incredible faith and determination. Enough said
I am so fortunate to be here with your Mom and Joe and Rodney and to bring you the well wishes of our family out West and good friends like Mary Lea and so many others too numerous to mention who believe in you and your journey no matter the setbacks that crop up but which we all know you will overcome because cancer has truly never met anyone like you.
Loving you always.
Beautifully written as always Jess and I look forward to all of your future posts!! You are a force and you will push through this and as Carrie said there is always a solution!! You have the team around you to get you through plus the love to get you there.
PS your Mom and Dad are both very right!!!
Jess… You are a fighter and your game is much stronger than it was the first time. Lean on us when you need to… we’re just one part of an extraordinary team that’s got your back. Best of luck tomorrow and we’re looking forward to getting your dispatches from the kitchen soon. Love M & K
Jess – it’s been years since we lived together in Andrews Hall, Newport, RI and Sidney, AUS, but I’m so glad I found your blog a few weeks ago. You’ve always had more strength, character and beauty the rest. You now have your own beautiful, strong and loving family both within arms reach and broader than you can image. Crush this shit, show ’em what Canadians/New Yorkers are made of!
Lots of love,
Thank you so much Will, it was so great to see your name pop up here xoxox
Yes, life does not stop, I wish you much strength in this fight, surely those beautiful moments, such as photo, will help.
Aww your post is very moving, I am thinking of you as you will be in hospital now. Sending you positive vibes and hoping everything goes good for you …
Beautiful picture, I love to stop by your blog and see all you amazing photos
Life has so much more in store for you, Jess. You’ve only just started to live the life that you were destined for. This is a thing that will re-sharpen your focus, make each blueberry taste even better, and each dip in the lake that much more exhilarating. You are in good hands and I know with all my being you will live until your boobs sag like droopy dog’s ears. Rest easy. We will wait and send love. We will cook your recipes, we will nourish and nurture our own families as you have taught us to, and we will see you when you’re ready… beaming, strong, and with humorous stories of health issues past.
Your writing has made me laugh and moved me to tears. George and I send our prayers for your complete recovery, Jessica. And big hugs to your family. We are thinking of you all with love.
Thank you for sharing your truth.
I love you, Jessica. That is all.
I’m one day late in reading this, but I still hope that these words reach you. Because you are thought of and I want to say it will be okay too. Beautiful post on life. It shows just how truly beautiful you are as a person too. I hope that as you read this comment, you have received all good news and on your way to recovery again. (((HUGS)))
thinking of you..,
We’ve all been thinking of you and sending tons of positive energy your way. You are as strong as they come, and we know you got this and will bounce back better stronger and more resilient than ever. Love you!
Jess – you have a ton of people on your team and we are ready and willing to help in any way. We are sending positive thoughts and prayers your way.
Oh Jess — we’ve never met, but through your stunning photography and amazing writing here and on Instagram, I honestly feel like I’ve been in your house, played with your kids, and shared one of your jaw-dropping meals. So this post took my breath away. So courageous of you to share this story here. Sounds like the prognosis could be very very good, and I really do hope that’s the case. Sending you and your family my thoughts, prayers and all the good vibes I can muster.
I’m so sorry to read this. I’m sending you thoughts of peace, health and healing for your recovery Jessica.
Sending hugs and strength to you!
I continue to think of you and am hoping for the very best outcome. I keep checking here for news. Sending you strength and love today.
oh patti, thank you so much; you’ve gotten me out of my writing slump and I wrote a few lines to update everyone. Thank you so much for thinking of me xoxox
Jessica, I found your update just now even though I have been checking several times a day. I didn’t see it as I was looking for a new picture. The news is a blow and I am so sorry. I love how you wrote about how to think of you and now that’s how I will. You are surrounded by your beautiful family. I send you thoughts of strength and health. Even though we have never met I feel as though I know you. I absolutely love your writing, cooking and pictures! Cannot wait to see more dear Jessica. Rest and recover for now. And thank you for the update. Much love.
Hi Jessica! I haven’t visited in a while and just read your latest post. I am so thankful that you shared. You are a blessing to your family and a gift to your blog. Even my husband has enjoyed your photography when I’ve been visiting your site. We will pray that all the procedures and treatments will bring you good news and that you won’t have to suffer too much from side-effects. We will also pray for your loved ones who are worried and scared. God bless. Tina – American mom in South Africa
Jess. Your authenticity is stirring. I’m so sorry you are going through this, but will pray for you and your family. Thank you for the rawness.
Hi Jess, Thinking of you and sending tons of love and prayers your way! You have amazing strength and are an inspiration to all of us! Love you. Carolyn and all the family! xoxoxo
Sending prayers and warm thoughts your way! Your positive attitude and authenticity is such an inspiration.
Great attitude Jess – keep it going. And find that food that will make you feel good ! XO
Love and healing thoughts to you and your family. A blogger yesterday, a sister in my heart today. Sharing is incredibly brave. It allows me to send you love.
Dear Jessica, We love you and think of you and your wonderful family and we know all will be well! Thank you for your beautiful report and keep on getting better and better every day in every way! Wish I could give you a hug so here it is……huuug from both of us!
Just now catching up with this news. Sending you all of my good energy and thoughts. You are one of the most authentic, beautiful, smart women that I know. I’ve seen your strength and know you’ll make your way through, just sorry for all the fear and pain while you are. Your attitude alone is an inspiration and an reminder to take nothing for granted. Thinking of you.
You continue to be in my thoughts. I am wondering how you and your family are. I miss your beautiful words and photographs. I hope you are surrounded by those closest to you and that they are holding you up with love. Hope floats. With love.
jess- you are inspiring and amazing. I know all will be ok because your strength will get you through this. I can’t wait to see what you cook up in your healing and will always be there for a virtual taste test. Xoxoxo Lori
Sorry to hear that too Jess. Take care of you. PS. Love that shot of sundown on the lake so lovely.
Wishing you loads of strength and blessings to get you through these difficult days. Remembering you in my prayers. Tina
I showed up here because I just now posted my own experience about the New Mexico trip and I wanted to read yours. Because you are such a sweet, lovely person and although we didn’t have a lot of time to get to know one another, I like you very much. I didn’t expect to read these words and I wish that I could give you one giant hug and tell you all the right things that a person should say at a time like this. I will simply say that you are a strong, lovely person and that I will be checking in on you for updates of progress. BIG HUGS from me to you.
Thanks so much for your sweet comments Kristy xx
I recently heard about your situation and how much you believe in the healing power of foods. I have heard William Li speak but wanted to send you a few other names to look into. They are amazing doctors and researchers who have been talking for decades about the importance of healthy foods in fighting disease, including cancer. A few names include Dr John McDougall, Dr T. Colin Campbell, and Dr Neal Barnard. An excellent documentary on the same topic is “Forks Over Knives” (available on Netflix).
I really wish you all the best.
Fantastic, thank you so much Marisa! I don’t know those names but will look into them. I watched “Forks Over Knives” right after surgery and have been mostly plant-based ever since. I watched a few others like “Genetic Roulette” which really spurred me to get rid of any kind of GMO products as well (they were lurking in places that I wouldn’t have suspected). All the best…
oh my god. How do these things happen? It isn’t easy to remember that the people behind perfect photographs sometimes live imperfect lives. You are an inspiration and quite possibly you just changed my life. I am not religious, but will pray for you.
Thank you so much Angie. I’m not religious either but am thinking good thoughts too 🙂 xx
Good morning Jessica. I am thinking of you this morning and hoping that you are drawing strength from all of the people who love you. I miss your writing and photos. Sending love to you and your family today.
Thank you Patti! I will be back with some more writing soon, promise xx
Jessica — I’ve been thinking of you very often, and keep checking this page. I am sending you much love and strength, and missing your beautiful posts.
Thanks so much Aylin, will be back writing soon…hope you’re well xox
Hi Jessica. I am happily encouraged to read your replies here tonight. You have been in my thoughts daily. I hope you are doing well today. I look forward to your next blog post. Sending you thoughts of peace and healing.
Thank you so much for your check-ins Patti, I promise a new post soon. Wrote one but it’s so hard to write in a way that feels normal- my writing is either too upbeat or too depressing to describe the experience, nothing seems to adequately capture what’s going with any kind of authenticity. But I’m doing OK overall…. xxx
Just checking in again to see how you are doing. Sending more hugs.
Best of luck with your surgery. Cancer sucks!
Good morning Jess. Hope you’re having a beautiful summer Sunday morning. xo
When I saw you visited me this WW, I came by to return the favor. Just read your posts (always love reading your posts and always in awe of your amazing family and food photos!) I am very sorry to learn of your diagnosis. Thinking of you, wishing you the best of health and sending some hugs as well.
Great Pictures. The kids have really grow up. Emily is a litlte lady now. She hasn’t saw me sence Blake has. We all are getting older. Smile Thanks for sharing and send more they’re specail kids and nice just like there Family. We love you all.
I’ve been a follower of your block for over a year now. It has always been my favorite food blog and I’ve held your beautiful life in high regard. Since I started a new job I haven’t been on your page until today… I was shocked at the news and so grateful that you chose to share this more difficult part of your life with the world.
You are in the minds and hearts of many. It is easy to crawl in a dark place in the back of your mind in times like these. Self wallowing and negativity creep in when no one is looking. I wish you warmth, brightness, and positive energy to carry you through this part of your journey. Again, thank you for your words and for sharing your life so honestly.
This is a belated comment as I’m just now getting back into the swing of blogging again but wanted to thank you for your super kind comments. All the best Shirley…