Life, Thank You for Having Me: A life sentence

Jennifer Sabounchi with husband Kevin and daughter Ahzi enjoying the annual blooming of cherry blossoms on the University of Washington campus — a family tradition and this year, symbolic of healing, Jennifer says.

Someone asked me the other day, “So, are you ok now?”

Do you want the truth? You’ve seen my articles. The pictures of my family and me. My big smile. Some of you have seen Facebook posts of my husband Kevin, 3-year-old daughter Ahzi and of me having a good time again. Of selfishly focusing on one another again. Homemade meal posts. The recent birthday party planning for Ahzi. A vacation we went on.

But what you haven’t seen are the days or nights I struggle with what just happened. What is still happening. The last year and a half so much has changed and in such a short span of time.

Imagine being chained to a bed for four months. You’ve been given a sentence. And you must see it through. Unless you take your own life. These are your options.

I was in a physical prison of suffering and chained to the confines of my bed continually for four months and off and on for the past year and a half. I saw life happening all around me. I counted the leaves on a plant I could see from the side of my bed. I counted daily — 1. To see if my brain was still working and 2. To see if any new life was happening. I needed to see life taking place to take the focus off the fear that was looming over my bed like a canopy of death. Often times I could hear Ahzi in the living room laughing with her nanny as I silently cried from my bed begging God to let it be me with Ahzi — once I started feeling better. That one day soon, I would feel better. I thought the day my sentence was over (weekly low-dose chemo) that I’d feel free to simply live. But on the inside, I’m still living out this sentence.

Jennifer and Azhi enjoying a family vacation.

Cancer isn’t hard because of the cancer. It’s hard because of all that comes with it. Being so close to physical death is the trauma. Not death itself.

I still have stage 4 cancer. I will always have stage 4 cancer, according to the doctors. The tumor is still showing in the CT scans of my lungs. The tumors in my brain have been “resolved.” Meaning they aren’t doing anything right now and haven’t been for over a year. (Thank you God!) Cancer grows and spreads. The prayer is that it will go away completely. I am on chemo still. It’s a daily pill and much more tolerable than low-dose chemo (where you go in and have chemicals pumped into your veins weekly). Yet it still has side effects that I could complain about — but why? It’s better than the alternative — death. I am so very thankful I am alive today. But I want more life. More time here. Good time.

I am praying for a miracle. If you pray, I ask you to please continue to pray. I thank you from the bottom, top and sides of my heart for every prayer you’ve sent. Every good wish. Every good vibe. Every dollar (cancer is so very expensive for any family. And can be especially on a young family).

Kevin and Jennifer at one of their favorite Edmonds parks.

You see the articles I’ve written and/or Facebook posts I’ve shared of my husband, daughter and I having fun, because I am choosing to live — I’m learning how to live with this. My faith has shifted too. I am learning how to trust God. Like really trust Him because I got the memo that my life isn’t in my hands. I’m getting to know God. And my God is about love. Not fear. Fear is a liar. Fear is a monster.

I wake up and fight a couple of monsters at the start of my day. Another time, I’ll share what a typical day for me looks like physically and all the things I have to do in order to strive for decent health. (Daily self-induced enema anyone?) Gross right? Takes all the glitz and glamour out of it. But that’s the truth. What you don’t see.

Often times, I’m too tired to be her mommy. His wife. Your friend. I write this so you will understand that it’s not that I want to be short with you or that I don’t want to shoot the shit with you about nothing. It’s because I just can’t right now. My tank doesn’t have the same amount of gas. And that needs to be OK. I’m just now opening some gifts that were so kindly sent to us because I didn’t even have the emotionally energy it took to open them. (Hoping the “I’m sorry you have cancer gift etiquette” is the same as wedding gift etiquette and I have up to year to send a thank you message).

And I’m cleaning our home. Imagine going a year and a half without any organizing. When we moved in, I couldn’t even walk. I was that sick. It’s been a year and a half of closets stuffed with unopened boxes. It’s time to open them. Sift through and purge. Keeping only what our family needs. Getting rid of anything taking up unnecessary energy and space. Metaphor much?

Jennifer, Kevin and Ahzi wearing leis in preparation for Ahzi’s Hawaiian-themed birthday party.

I have decided the past two months to turn around and start hugging Kevin and Ahzi more and it has me hugging others less. This is the season I’m in. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. That I’m not thankful for you. Or that you aren’t important to me.

Writing, I hope you too are reading this. Because writing, you are my first love. Writing has been my best friend my entire life. We first met when I was a child all dressed up in my room and with nowhere to go. I turned to my right and on my homemade cardboard nightstand (trying to mimic a do it yourself homemaking show I saw with my mom before DIY was super cool), there she sat. My diary. A sort of busted-looking, completely,safe place that I would learn to use as my vessel, discovering my place in this world and using it to navigate through. In a lot of ways, I am still that 9-year-old girl. Only now I use a computer from the Apple store instead of a diary I found in the half-off bin at Pic N Save.

Writing is a place where, like with a best friend, I can come to and together we allow a space of honesty, joy and tears — and at the end I feel put back together. So for me not to write, means I’ve been missing a best friend of mine. And I’m so ready to spend time with her again. You see, I underestimated the entirety of what healing would look like with this cancer battle. The healing takes place once the weekly chemo appointments are done. Once I am able to get out of bed again.

Jennifer, shown here with Ahzi, is drawing strength from her family.

Because now, I am able to process emotionally what just happened to me physically. Whereas when I was in it, I only had enough energy to get through the night. Now that I am gaining my strength again, I can think about it. Cry about it. Forgive. And I must harken back to it to move forward and regain my footing in this world.

I’ve over-promised myself in various ways, wanting so very badly to be well enough to do everything my heart desires — yet I’m just not physically able to. Thank God I have a very understanding editor who may have known this would be more difficult at times for me to submit an article than I even knew. I appreciate so very much the room she’s given me. The room to heal. No judgment. No shame. Only acceptance. Just like writing, she has welcomed me back. My voice.

My silence has only meant that I’m coming out of a very real trauma. And I’m finding rest in my family so that I can come back out and be with friends, strangers — the world. This is my recharging phase.

The past two months I’ve also concentrated on increasing my faith. On learning how to truly be thankful for today and try so very hard not to worry about the day I’m going to die. Some would say I’m already living a miracle. I hope all can say that I am SO very grateful for each day. For every breath. For each moment in time.

“What does life have for me now — given my new normal?

I’m taking this recharging time to understand what my next step is. What does life have for me now, given my “new normal?” I love my family. I love people. I love God. Writing. Cooking. Gardening. And I love living. I have less physical ability and more desire in my heart to give back and do things that really matter. I no longer want to impress you. I want to serve you. Make a difference in some way. But I need to heal first. I’m still ill. Beyond the smile, the Facebook posts and articles. I’m still healing.

So what’s next in medical terms?

I have a CT scan on my lungs on Monday and an MRI on my brain on Thursday. They are my quarterly scans. Every three months like clockwork, I get them. If you pray, please pray that they don’t see any cancer. That’s what we are praying for. A complete healing. I know, it sounds crazy, but why not? There have been people who have been cured of cancer. Yes — even stage 4. Some days, I look up, smile and say, “Come on God. Let’s do this. Let’s prove them wrong.”

And because I want to continue to have integrity and grace in this battle, and continue to live out of faith — I am also praying that no matter what these reports show, that I will remain strong in my faith and in my purpose here on earth in life, not death.

I have been through the depths of hell here on earth. And each time I’ve come out of it — I’ve found heaven. And I want to continue to see heaven.

Here on earth.

Eternally grateful, ecstatic to be here, ever learning,

Your friend, mother, wife and writer Jenn

— By Jennifer Sabounchi

Edmonds resident Jennifer Sabounchi has served as a special events manager for The Ritz-Carlton in New York, a private chef to families in and around Seattle, and founder of an allergy-friendly food company. Recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Jenn’s new column — “Life, Thank You for Having Me” — provides an intimate portrait of her fight for her life. She also invites readers to get to know her and her family by visiting her Facebook page at

  1. This has quickly become my most favorite part of My Edmonds News. I look forward to reading these updates that are so beautifully written. Jen we are praying for you and your family.

  2. BEAUTIFUL!!! 1000 Prayers to you. I love you Jenn! Everyday I wake and think of you and your family. I pray today, tomorrow and always.

  3. Jenn…you are such an inspiration and example of what life is truly about…LOVE ❤️
    Finding love in everything we do…in every moment…even our darkest. Thank you for being so honest and being such a beautiful light in this world. Edmond is lucky to have such an incredible soul ❤️
    To you and your beautiful family…keep loving and living and shining and smiling and finding the joy in each and every moment. YOU are making this world a better place
    Love and Gods blessings:
    Christina Senteno

  4. While I haven’t seen Jennifer since 8th grade graduation I will always consider her a dear friend. Her amazing attitude in the face of the insurmountable odds pitted against her, coupled with her infectious, beaming smile and positive outlook on the simple things in life are so contagious. Her daily fight, and her poetic words in these articles make all of our mundane issues or worries seem trivial and small. She reminds us of all that is good and all that is really important in life and to cherish the little things, even just the ability to get out of bed in the mornings.

    Thank you to for allowing Jennifer to share her story with the world.

    Forever on #teamjennifer
    Fighting and praying for her in Texas.

  5. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story with the world. God is truly using you to be a light and to touch people’s lives. I’ll be praying fervently for a miracle in these next few days, but I will also be praying that God might show you the impact you have on those around you and the purpose he has set before you.

  6. The haunting shadow of cancer- imagine the every three month testing… Jennifer please keep writing and thank you for all that you share. You are in my prayers. You are going to thrive and survive.

  7. Jenn I am convinced that God is doing amazing work through you! We will keep praying and I can’t wait to hear news of healing! Keep inspiring and loving ❤️

  8. Beautiful words from a beautiful person ❤️

    Always in my thoughts, always in my prayers and always connected by best wishes.

    Thank you for sharing with us and giving us the opportunity to learn from you. Many of the life lessons I have learnt from you, would take me many life times to learn.

    xoxo forever your admirer – elmira

  9. You are such a true inspiration to all. Your writing has touched so many lives and it gives those who are battling the same battle HOPE. Hope and faith are so transpiring and such a magnitude on our souls without it we would be in a world of darkness. My God continue to heal and bless you. And may God keep using you as a very powerful inspiration on our faith and through hope.

  10. Oh Jenn your insight in the face of death is inspiring and you are my teacher with every post, every article, every photograph of your infectious smile. Prayers go up for you and your family every day. Thank you for your transparent honest writings.

  11. You, Kev and Ahzi are always in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you for all that you have shared and given us, much love:)

  12. Much love to you and your beautiful family. We are all here for you- near and far – hopeful and praying for you. Your words are amazing, and so are you my friend. Keep fighting, we need you.

  13. Your journey is hard and scary. Who knew it would bring so many strangers together and restore hope and bring healing too? Thank you for including us on the good and the hard days. Thank you for trusting us with your vulnerability. Thank you for showing us your strength and keeping us praying! You are an inspiration!

  14. Jennifer, you amaze and inspire me. You touch so many people with your beautiful smile and vivacious personality, your writing and your faith! I’ll continue praying for you! Thanks for sharing you journey.

    1. Sally,
      Thank YOU for continuing to pray and follow us on this very challenging journey. Thank you for every kind word you’ve sent. They are fuel for me on my toughest of days and they make me smile on my really really good days.
      With much love,

  15. Such a powerful and raw account of her journey. It’s not talked about nearly enough in these terms. Thank you for expressing what many face but can’t find the words to express

    1. Lisa,
      I watched my mom pass away of this same awful disease. She didn’t have the platform I have. I don’t want to speak on behalf on anyone however I want to represent all of us who are fighting for just one more day. Especially those of us too sick to express ourselves. So please know just how much your words mean to me. They inspire me to keep going. Keep writing. Keep being honest. Sending you love and appreciation.

  16. Love you so much. You are The Real Deal. I shrared this and I pray many are praying for you to ROCK the tests this week. Love the intimacy of your writing. So alive. You Live!! Praying.

    1. Virginia,
      “SO ALIVE.” What FANTASTIC choice of words. Thank you! Thank you. Thank you!!!! And thank you for your prayers. I believe in prayer. <3. Thank you for believing in me.

  17. Jennifer,
    Although I don’t know you, your feelings put into words drew tears down my face. Amazing, thoughtful, inspiring, brave-your life put into writings. Thank you.
    I had testing for suspected leukemia several months ago. I went through all the tests; CT Scan and an MRI too. Three months I dealt with not knowing but having to manage a roller coaster of feelings.
    The day I sat in the hematologist’s office and she gave me the results was one I shall never forget.
    No cancer. I walked out of the hospital with one thing on my mind. An overwhelming sense of gratefulness to God and how each day is a gift. And further cemented how valuable my family; loved ones are in my life and how important it is to show them how much I love them. Your writing about your struggle is powerful and meaningful. What an amazing woman you are!
    Your cancer can be cured, and you can overcome this. You are young, you are a fighter, you are getting great medical care. It can happen!
    You are a hero to me and I don’t even know you but I feel like I know you now a bit more. I have sent your writing to my three sons to show them what a hero is and that life is precious, treat it with care every day.

    Thank you for your amazing story. I know it will have a happy ending and my prayers will now always include you and your family.
    Mark A. V
    Kenmore, Wa

    1. Mark –
      Hi. What a comment you left. Thank you! Boy am I happy to hear you do not have cancer. I’m also happy to hear your gratitude for this beautiful life!

      I cry when reading that you’ve shared this with your sons. Especially because my little girl doesn’t quite see me that way. She sees the mommy that is sick and can’t get out of bed some days and then the mommy who is getting her hair back and can play again with her. So THANK YOU for making me feel as though this counts because it is so very hard on my sweet little family, that it needs to count. It needs to bring good into this world. Thank you SO very much Mark!

  18. You are beyond beautiful, a point of light in this sometimes dark world, a reminder of the fragility of life and a bearer of the message we all need to hear…life is precious and every moment is a gift. I pray that God@ love and boundless healing touches you and fills you with a miracle of restored health. My cousin Goldie is a friend of yours and through her I have followed your story. You fill this world with love and hope and complete inspiration. “Be still and know that I am God” Psalms 46:10

    1. Oh Leslie! I absolutely LOVE Goldie! Thank you so very much for following my story. Thank you for your very encouraging and caring words. Cancer is so very difficult. However, when I’m able to connect to others because of it – it makes it the blessings apparent and not just the struggle. Thank you so very much for taking the time to send me a note! 🙂

  19. This beautiful woman inspires me everyday! She makes me see life through a more positive lens. Jennifer’s smile turns my day around….her stories about her curious, intelligent, humorous daughter make me giggle…her strength challenges me to try harder everyday…EVERYDAY. Because of this strong and inspiring woman- this world is a better place.

    1. Love you so very much Veronique. Thank you for taking the time to support my passion (writing) – amidst this struggle. Friends for so long. My heart is grateful for you.

  20. Thank you for sharing your story! You inspire me! I’m standing with you in prayer. God’s got you! May your story of God’s miracle reach many. May the God of all hope strengthen and heal you completely. May every cell line up properly and do their jobs. That you will live and thrive agin. That all of your dreams would come true. Amen

    1. Naomi,
      Amen sister! Thank you for such powerful and encouraging words! They made me smile and I am very grateful to you for the time you’ve taken to read my words. They come from my heart and my heart is so very humbled.

  21. You inspire me everyday!!! Now you get to see how you inspire more than just me! I love you Jeneejoon!

  22. Jenn – I met your husband Kevin at his place of work several months ago. In that encounter we ended up moving beyond the cordial “How are you? Fine.” conversation that most of us mindlessly engage in as we go about our day, and he shared with me your health challenges and his perspective on life because of it. It’s a bitter sweet journey you are on. Going through the trials of cancer puts what’s really important or what really matters into crystal clear focus. We realize we don’t have the luxury of time to focus on the petty or the things that don’t really matter. It’s a clarity we wouldn’t wish on another person because of the suffering that must accompany it. But hidden in the trials we discover the blessings – the friends who really do love us unconditionally, the neighbors who are there for whatever we need, the impact of the little things – like feeling well enough to clean, etc. It’s a daily or even moment by moment journey where, to make it through well we need to lean completely into God and surrender control. This brings the most peace, but by our nature we are not good at letting go. We want to be in control, we want to know, we want to have the map and know all the details. Thank you for sharing and for being human in your struggles. I will pray for you and your family daily. May God bless you today and always.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.