This is my conversation with Jenessa Schwartz. She’s 37 years old, and she’s living with stage 4 colon cancer. She’s also my niece, my sister Cyndi’s daughter. Jenessa has two kids under 10. She was the Womb For Hire (her words) for two adorable surrogate kids, which is one of the menschiest things a person can do in this life. She’s a middle school language arts teacher, a musical theater aficionado, a giant nerd, and beloved to her huge, dear circle of friends and family. And she’ll be on chemo or some form of treatment for her cancer for the rest of her life.
Living with stage 4 colon cancer; colorectal cancer and metastatic cancer; HIPEC surgery; surrogacy; parenting and talking to children about cancer; Jewish culture, teaching, and family life; life with a terminal illness; crisis points and how we make choices to change our lives because of them; relationship changes in the context of a crisis; the epidemic of young people with late-stage colorectal cancer; favorite podcasts; why you should get a colonoscopy right now.
The Major-General’s Song from The Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert and Sullivan, 1879)
The Jewish festival of Purim
Bill’s Café in San Jose’s Rose Garden
What’s a peritoneum?
HIPEC surgery procedure
NED means No Evidence of Disease.
Living with a chemo port
On younger people with late-stage colon cancer
What does a spleen do? (Turns out, it’s part of a mammal’s immune system and recycles red blood cells, stores fresh blood, and recycles iron into the bloodstream.)
A siddur is a Jewish prayer book used for Shabbat (Sabbath) and daily prayer.
Read Jenessa’s blogs:
My Colon Cancer: Semicolon, Not Full-Stop https://notfullstop.wordpress.com
Womb for Hire – Thoughts on becoming a surrogate mother. https://wombforhire.wordpress.com
Jenessa also got press on her surrogacy at
J, the Jewish News Weekly.
Jenessa’s recommended cancer research and care organizations
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance
And if you want to donate to Jenessa’s Blue Star Tribute page at Colorectal Cancer Alliance, that link is here
Once you do that, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can get you your super cool Team Jenessa wristband!
We are And The Next Thing You Know. Find us, and host Suzie Sherman, at
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Banana peel by Max Ronnersjö.
Theme and interstitial music by Jon Schwartz. http://twitter.com/schwartstack