Transcript - And The Next Thing You Know Podcast Episode 016: In Memory of Jenessa Schwartz - There's Blood In My Stool (Rebroadcast)
This is the transcript for the new introduction, recorded in November, 2023, for the rebroadcast of the episode “There’s Blood In My Stool.”
Suzie Sherman (00:00):
Hey there everyone, this is Suzie, the host of this podcast, And The Next Thing You Know. If you’ve been following the podcast for a long time, or maybe if you’ve only tuned in recently and checked out the back catalog of episodes, you may have come across the episode that I posted in November, 2019. It was called “There’s Blood In My Stool.” And it was a conversation between myself and my niece, Jenessa Schwartz, who, a couple of years previous to that, had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer when she was only 34 years old. We knew that her prognosis was terminal. She was given something like six months to two years prognosis for living with her cancer that had already metastasized throughout her peritoneum and into her uterus, ovaries, liver.
Jenessa lived with and aggressively treated her cancer for seven years. She beat the odds of her prognosis through a series of intense surgeries being soaked, literally soaked with chemo internally, um, undergoing 108 chemo infusions over those years, and then two all day long experimental infusions, before it was very clear that her cancer had progressed far beyond any practical ability to keep treating it. She decided to take her fate into her own hands in late September of this year, stopped all treatment and went into end of life care.
On November 1st, 2023, Jenessa died, surrounded by family and dear friends holding her mother Cyndi’s hand, her head being held and supported by her husband Trevor. She took her last breath about 12:30 PM on November 1st, all of us there with her.
And I wanted to let the audience of the podcast know that this has happened, that my niece Jenessa died after living with and thriving with cancer and doing everything she could to stay here for her kids, for us for seven years, exceeding her original prognosis by five years, six years. My family sat Shiva last week for Jenessa, every night for six nights between Shabbat on November 3rd and Shabbat on November 10th. We said the prayers, the Mourners Kaddish. We held space for everyone who wanted to, to tell stories about Jenessa, about their connections with her, about how she inspired them. I played a song on guitar for her that I wish I’d played for her while she was still alive. But…when we love people in this life, we don’t always and often get the opportunity to do everything for them that we want to, say everything that we wanted to say. It’s awful, but, but it’s okay.
It’s uniquely tragic when young people die. Jenessa was only 41 years old. She was 10 years younger than me. She leaves her husband, she leaves her two beautiful children who are 11 and 13 now. And the greatest pain that I feel in Jenessa’s death is beyond my own loss of her and my own ability to continue to connect with her, it’s the pain I feel projecting forward into the lives of her kids and knowing that she’s just not going to be there with them.
But holy crap, Jenessa left an imprint on them. She was so smart, and so sassy, and so able to talk about real shit, literal shit. <laugh> Ramona and Solly have lots of really good, solid, loving, fun, daily grind memories of Jenessa to hold in their hearts moving forward. And they have a richness of loving adults in their lives to take care of them and help them grow. I’m grateful for that.
I wanted to share this news with you and re-broadcast the episode of my conversation with Jenessa because, um, her particular brand of pragmatism and humor and what she needs to say to people to become more aware of colorectal cancer, all of this is incredibly important to me to share and make sure that more people hear.
Jenessa literally saved my life. You know, if she had not gotten diagnosed with colon cancer, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to get a colonoscopy the first time I did it. So I ended up scheduling my colon, my colonoscopy in the same year of her diagnosis, 2017, and the colonoscopy revealed and removed two adenomas, two pre-cancerous polyps. And then my follow-up colonoscopy this year revealed another small adenoma that I had removed. So I literally owe my life and my health to Jenessa. And there are scores of other people who also do, maybe even hundreds of other people who also do, because she used her personal social media platforms and her blogs and her beautiful way of communicating to help more people become aware of early onset colorectal cancer. I felt tacky about the idea of rebroadcasting this conversation with Jenessa. I didn’t want to, um, exploit her death in some way, but I’ve been encouraged by a number of people, including very close people, to go ahead and repost it. I cherish this conversation with Jenessa. I love her. I’m not gonna say “I loved her” in the past tense, because I’ll continue to love Jenessa my whole life.
And if you haven’t heard this conversation before, I hope you enjoy it. I hope you get something from it. If nothing else, if you are 45 and you haven’t scheduled a colonoscopy yet, please do that. Yeah, enjoy spending some time with the wonderful, scintillating, beautiful Jenessa Schwartz. Zichrona livracha, may her memory always be for a blessing.