life and the pursuit of happiness

It was the Day before the 4th. We had the beans strapped in as we headed to run errands. Matching picnic plates & napkins, glow in the dark bracelets, an American flag and pole, Creme De Banana. At the gas station, the meter on the pump spun around and Phil sat silent reading a message on his phone. The kids sang Old McDonald in the background. He asked to lower the music wanting to read me something.

Phil’s old college friend Jay has been fighting cancer since November and keeping a journal. The updates have all shown Jay’s determination to beat this and through each setback his positive attitude and faith have persevered. A marathon runner, husband and father, Jay’s strength and eloquence in facing this latest marathon has been inspiring. On this day the tone turned.  

Although still determined to win, Jay wrote what could be described as a goodbye letter. We pray Jay’s cancer retreats and he spends many loving years with his son and wife of 18 years. He is inspiring, brave, and an example of how to live life. His tribute to his wife and her battle with this now and in the future truly puts into perspective what a marriage is and what our vows represent.  

jayz family

From Jay: Other than a non health related update (which I’ve decided to post today as well) I had not intended to post any updates until after the dry run. However, due to certain events of yesterday I am posting this latest health update (which is going to be very straightforward). From the outset the purpose of this caringbridge site was not to have you share in my death, I guess for a long time I truly believed that I will be in this battle for a long time to come. FYI, I do remain with lots of faith in my heart and positive belief that somehow someway I may pull this off and be around for much more time to come; however, I am also being realistic in the situation.

Following my torisel treatment yesterday I headed home only to be called back to the hospital/doctor because I need to receive a transfusion of 3 pints of blood and spend the night at the hospital. My hemoglobin #2 and red blood cell counts plummeted lower than they were before to a level that it was fortunate I was walking around. Before I started the treatment I spoke with my Dr., and she said that the cancer is trying its best to cause liver failure, which will lead to my death. Of course, she is hopeful that the Torisel and Avastin will keep it under control and that I will be able to have sirspheres and that the sirspheres is successful. This is what we must all believe will happen. However, right now the #s are continuously getting worse, and even assuming I pass the dry run on the sirspheres there is a chance the #s will have fallen such that I can not have the procedure.

I did mention how Jake was at camp and just hoping nothing would happen such that we would have to end his summer early to come home and watch me die. Sadly, she could not guarantee this wouldn’t be the case. She hopes not, given we just started the Torisel and Avastin and the #s aren’t moving up so fast that it should effect his summer, I hope that does not occur. However, the reality of the situation is drastic, unless the medicine works and I can have sirspheres my days are probably limited. I know some may say well as long as the medicine works even if you don’t have sirspheres that should be good, yes, it should buy me some more time but not as much time as if the sirspheres works and kills some of the mets.

In short, no one knows the answer, I do remain full of faith and a positive belief that my miracle is around the corner; however, the last few weeks have shown the grim reality of this disease and there is just as good a likelihood that my days are numbered. I am back home now and going to rest. The transfusion helped a little. I want everyone to stay positive and praying for me, but I also want to provide the reality of the situation. I love everyone out there in one way or another and I am wishing that you are having a great 4th of July weekend.

For the non health update, a week from Monday is my 18th wedding anniversary. It will be almost 20 years since I met the most wonderful girl/woman. Lisa has been my rock and pillar throughout. Without her I would not be half the person I am, nor would I have the strength to deal with what I am dealing with now. I wish that there was something more I could give her this year, I know all she wants is my health to be better, and I also know she knows this is more than likely our last “living” anniversary together. I just wanted to let everyone know that I am the luckiest guy in the world to have had her as my wife, best friend and mother to my child. I am also fortunate as I look at my situation to have her as I know that it will be very tough on her and Jake but if anyone has the strength and fortitude to carry on, to take over lots of the things I did with Jake, etc. it is Lisa. I guess I just publicly wanted to state to my wife, Lisa, I love you with all my heart.

All my best,
Jay Z



  1. Wow. I am totally choked up. Sometimes people ask me why getting married is important. They say it is just a piece of paper, it doesn’t mean anything, or why do I need the law to recognize a matter of the heart.

    This is why. My answer has and always will be that I wanted to stand up in front of our friends and family and shout as loud as I could that I love this man and I will always be by his side.

    Sending Jay and his family lots of good thoughts.

  2. Heartbreaking. And apropos for me as I received an e-mail this past weekend that an acquaintance of mine died of cancer this past weekend. My daughter and her son were in the same b’nai mitzvah class. Shiva house visit tonight. We weren’t close & I hadn’t seen her for years though she turned up at synagogue last Yom Kippur. We hugged, exchanged “how are yous” and “what are the kids up to” chit chat. I guess she kept info to herself during the “how are you” portion.

  3. What a gift to give to his family – a love letter that they can cherish. In my line of work, we deal with sudden death in the young. The shock, horror and devastation felt by the families when one of their young is taken seemingly out of the blue, is humbling at best, and teaches me incredibly important lessons.

    1) Always tell the ones you love how much you love them (James Taylor soundtrack can be put in here)

    2) Be kind

    3) Live life not as though it is dress rehearsal – but that it is your real life

    4) Number 1, 2 and 3 over and over again. Especially number 1.

  4. I don’t even know what to say. I just about teared up reading this post. I am a 9 year cancer survivor and live with the fear of recurrence. 2 years ago I lost my dad to cancer and 5 years ago my husband’s sister passed away from cancer a few years after their mother did. Needless to say the cancer cloud hangs low around here. The fact that I am still here amazes me each day and I try to not take the time I have been blessed with for granted.

    Through my own experience with my dad I know it is so dam hard to hear those “goodbye” messages from our loved ones. But for me now as I continue on with my own grieving process it has helped somewhat that he was able to let me know he loved me even if it did take the end of his life to do it. I think it is wonderful that Jay was able to put these words together to share with those in his life. And to see the love he has for his wife come through his words is enough to make anyone tear up.

    Stories such as these are a constant reminder to focus on what is most important in life. . . love and happiness shared with those around us.

    I wish Jay and his family strength and hope as they go through this difficult journey. It is inspiring to see strength in this marriage….

  5. All of the best to Jay and his family. One of our greatest gifts is the ability to see, really see, the wonderful things, people and places around us. Thank you for putting that reminder in writing.

  6. This post really touched my heart. Jay sounds like a wonderful man.. and his wife and son incredibly lucky to have him as part of their lives..

    I will be praying for him and his family.. Miracles happen every day.. and I hope one happens for this man.

  7. What a great guy.. and such a sad message he has had to deliver. Hoping he has much more time than he ever dreamed.

  8. My dad died of cancer and I know way too many people who have it. Nothing more to say other than thanks for posting this.

  9. What a dreadful thing to happen to a lovely family. Like the others, I hope Jay gets a reprieve and has many more days ahead. But I wonder … maybe this summer that beautiful boy should come home early from camp. He’ll have other summers to be a carefree kid, but he may not have much more time to be with his dad. I fear he’ll feel horribly cheated — and unprepared — if the end comes soon.

    I will keep Jay and everyone who loves him in my prayers.

  10. This story really hits home for me!! I’m currently going through treatment – 36 yrs old Stage 3 Breast Cancer…so I understand his struggle. I hope and pray for a great turn out for him and his family!! Keep the Faith and remember Miracles DO HAPPEN!!

  11. holy crap. i have my fingers (and toes!) crossed for this guy and his wife and son. keep us updated please!!!

  12. Praying for strength and positivity for Jay and his amazing family! Thanks for sharing that story Steph, it makes us all think about our how brave someone is to face what he’s facing, and how amazing the people are who surround him, including you guys!

  13. That is a beautiful letter. I really wish the best for that man and his family.

    As someone who lost both parents very young (my father died when I was seven from a terminal illness. My mother when I was 26, suddenly) I couldn’t help but hope they bring their son home from summer camp. Even though he’s a kid, he would probably rather be with his father. My only real torment in life is not having spent enough time with my mother. I talked to her on the phone every day, but that’s not enough. Even though none of us knew she was going to die, I will regret it for the rest of my life.

  14. Aww man, why’d ya make me cry at work? Nevertheless, thanks for sharing.

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