November Update Series: Catch up

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It’s been a few months since our last Vanessa update. We had every intention of updating more regularly (and more briefly!) since the last mega-update in August …  but some of the days that have passed, and changes that have happened, I’ve not wanted to document in detail at all, much less share. These days are full of ups and downs, highs and lows, ever-changing behaviors and emotions and worries. I’m also, in many small and big ways every single day, certainly realizing the true capacity of the human heart to bond, and love, and grow, and connect, and push through fear, and rise to the occasion as needed.

So I am finally forcing myself to start writing a proper update on our dear Vanessa, today. There is a lot to say, so we’re going to do it in parts! I’ll try my best to give you a glimpse into the last few months, and shed some insight into recent days. I might not take you through every event that’s been gone to, every “version” of Vanessa we’ve met and adapted to, but I will detail the present for you. With all our posts lately, we’re treading water at the intersection of two rivers, where “preserving V’s dignity” and “conveying the truth” meet. There are some moments that we’ll keep to ourselves, but I will also be sharing some things that are difficult, but true. This will be an honest portrayal of life, now, for Vanessa.

[Note that this series is intended to be just that – a series, complete only together. No single one of these posts will be the whole story without the others. Trust me when I say you can thank Christina for the suggestion that I break this up after she read my first huge combined post! ;)]

Needless to say, recently has been the most challenging, heartbreaking, emotional, touching and exhausting time of my entire life thus far.  (And I am pretty certain I speak for Billy and the rest of both our families when I say that.) Beyond providing an update to those that love and care for Vanessa, I also think it’s important for me to document and remember this poignant time, even though it is hard, and not always pretty, before it dissipates in the haze of so much chaos. Last but not least, I also think it’s needed to add this particular voice and this particular story to the world dialog of breast cancer. There is no real shared reality just the same for everyone, but this is is what breast cancer / brain mets / life in hospice care is currently like, for Vanessa and us.

So without further delay, here goes. (Standard disclaimer applies – Each of these posts is bound to be a long one, again! I also have a lot of pictures, but am going to try to condense them down with collages for your scrolling-reduction pleasure.)

Starting with a catch up, here are some random pictures of just a few of the places, people, events of the last few months:

[Starting at top left and moving in rows: At ADC gallery for Angelo Merendino’s exhibit “The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer”; In Mexico on an impulse vacation; Vanessa is second from the left on this loaf of bread coupon!; Billy’s Grandma turns 90; Photobooth fun at a Pink Ribbon Girls event; Live Sincerely pumpkin by Ellen & John.]

Caught up to now… I’m so glad October is finally over. As you can probably imagine and understand, the hoo-rah of the month, with messages of breast cancer as this pink, fun, minor, sexy thing that YOU will CONQUER with your sheer SMILE and HOPE alone, (or maybe by buying this pink __ to support awareness), GIRL!, …doesn’t really ring true for me, especially this year, as this very non-sexy breast cancer slowly but surely steals my sister’s memories, intelligence, passion, personality and independence, and is working on taking her body too.

However, the one bright spot of October was right in the middle of the month. October 15 was Vanessa’s birthday. She turned 31.

It was a bittersweet birthday, with alternating, heaping helpings of the bitter and the sweet. Billy and Dad cooked, Christina helped Vanessa set out cute chip bowl arrangements, Mom had shopped for our presents for V, and Jason and the boys came in masks just for fun. I made Vanessa a yellow cake with chocolate icing (per her request), both from scratch for the first time ever, and I used all the true, old-fashioned unhealthy ingredients the recipe called for. Thus I think we each ate about a stick of butter in our own slice of the cake, but it just seemed appropriate to go big or go home, this time. We gave Vanessa some comfy clothes that were purple and she really liked them, and my kids made her cute sun catchers, but the gift highlight of the evening was when Vanessa gave US each presents and cards of love. A special, sad, joyful day, and the perfect little family celebration of it.

Happy Birthday, Vanessa!!!!



This is part 1 of a series of update posts for November. Tomorrow’s topic will be: physical changesWe’ll add one post a day for the next few days until we’ve covered everything, so please stay with us through them all!


  1. Kathy Rowell says:

    Thank you for the update on V and my prayers are with you and your family. With every sentence I find strength. Please know that V is loved even if we’ve never met face to face.

  2. Cary says:

    Hard to write, necessary to convey. Thank you for shining a light of truth and honoring the amazing person your sister is.

    Much love as you walk this painful path,

  3. Nancy Fister says:

    Jessica, Thank you so much for the updates about Vanessa and the toll Breast Cancer has taken on her and everyone close and dear to her heart. We continue to pray for strength and wisdom…for comfort and peace. Sending hugs and kisses from Lexington , KY Thanks for all you do for her. Please let me know what we can do to help….We will be in town for Thanksgiving….(and Lex is only a hop, skip and jump away!) God Bless! Aunt Nancy Jo

  4. Patty says:

    Thank you for continuing to share V’s story, all of it: the love, the support, as well as the sad, difficult and painful reality.

    Love to you all.

  5. carmen says:

    thinking of you & always keeping you in my prayers. you are an amazing woman to me. God be with you all. love always & live sincerely.

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