From the Publisher’s Desk: What I learned about life from Jennifer Sabounchi

Jennifer Sabounchi outside her Edmonds home in 2017.

When I first met Edmonds resident Jennifer Sabounchi, she was living in the Yost Park neighborhood home that she and her husband Kevin Abab had purchased a year earlier. She had sent me an email in November 2017, asking if she could write a column for My Edmonds News. But she was hopeful we could first meet in person, so she could tell me her idea.

Entering her light-filled home, I met Jenn and her sweet 3-year-old daughter Ahzi, who was dressed as a Disney princess. Jenn shared that she had been diagnosed a year earlier, at age 36 — with Stage IV lung cancer. The same cancer that her mother had died of, also at a young age. She also told me that one of her unfulfilled goals was to beoome a published writer, and she wondered if I would be open to running a column about her journey fighting cancer.

Jenn wrote a series of columns, titled “Life, Thank You for Having Me.” In them, she talked about  the grueling details of her cancer treatments and the strength she found in her family and her faith. She also described the joy she discovered in simple Edmonds activities like walking on the beach, visiting local parks and shopping at the summer market. And she described the many acts of kindness, from friends who decorated her home with holiday lights to the neighbor who provided a special envelope of Christmas cash one December so that the couple — overwhelmed with medical bills — could provide Ahzi with.a special present.

Jenn with husband Kevin during cancer treatment.

Editing Jenn’s columns was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Not because of her writing skills — she was very talented — but because I often had tears in my eyes as I read what she was enduring.

Never again, I thought, would I complain about staying up late to finish a city council meeting report or having three breaking news stories happen at once. What courage and determination it took for her to finish those columns. I also was reminded how important it is to see the big picture — what really matters in life:  the love of family and friends and the gift of life itself, which so many of us take for granted.

There would often be months of delay between columns because the side effects of Jenn’s treatment made it impossible for her to write. Yet, she was thrilled to find that many My Edmonds News readers commented on her columns, offering her words of encouragement and appreciation for sharing her story.

Jennifer Sabounchi during a joy-filled moment on her bicycle.

“I hope you smile knowing the role you have played in my journey,” Jenn wrote. “And continue to. Close your eyes and imagine my short hair and big-lipstick smile. (Don’t worry. I won’t get any on your shirt). Imagine me hugging you so very tight as I enthusiastically yet softly say to you, ‘Thank you friend. Thank you so very much for your support. For your love. I am honored. Humbled. And completely blown away. Even energized by how it feels to have you in my army of love.” An army full of friends — some I’ve never even met, but I’m hopeful I will, one day.'”

Jenn wrote her final “Life, Thank You for Having Me” column in May 2019. At that time, she was still battling cancer but had recently received some good news and was optimistc about what the future held. Then, in December 2019, she pitched me a new idea: to write a column focused on the kindness of others. Titled “Coffee with a Splash of Kindness,” Jenn described the Vacation Angel Network, operated by Edmonds native John Fahey, which provided her and her family with a vacation weekend away in Lake Chelan. The vacation was especially welcome since Jenn and Kevin had learned that tumors in her lungs were growing again and that two new tumors had been found in her brain.

Jenn with Ahzi at Lake Chelan in 2019.

“I so badly wanted to escape this news and needed to go somewhere for a couple of nights with my family, yet we didn’t have the money for an impromptu vacation,” she wrote. “We needed to reserve all we had, including anything in our savings account, for this next round of chemo, brain radiation and all the unexpected costs of cancer.”

After that May 2019 column, I didn’t hear from Jenn. Finally, after a reader inquired about her health in 2021, I emailed her and she sent a long reply, noting that between homeschooling her daughter during the pandemic and dealing with some unexpected home repairs — along with still battling cancer — she did not have time to write, but hoped to return to it someday.

Saturday night, I learned that Jennifer Sabounchi lost her battle with cancer at the age of 42. Details regarding a memorial service are pending, and we will share them when they become available.

— By Teresa Wippel, Publisher

 

  1. Over the last few years, I have wondered how Jennifer was doing. It was my hope, of course, that she beat the cancer. My sincere condolences to her family; Jenn had a bright spirit and was a gifted writer. Thank you for making her dream come true by publishing her and thank you for the update, Teresa.

    1. Jennifer’s beautiful and sobering story has been deeply meaningful. Thank you, Teresa, for giving her a platform to share it. It has blessed and challenged me and I’m sure many others.

  2. I met Jenn in 2017. My life will forever be changed from this beautiful woman. Even through so much pain and suffering she would still find joy and show kindness to so many people. It was an honor to call her my dear friend. I’ll miss her so very much!

  3. I am so sad to learn of this tragedy. I met Jennifer several times and was overwhelmed by her positive attitude in the face of so much awful news. A terrible loss for her family and for our community.

    1. I met Jenn on facebook through my daughter. I just had to friend her! I was drawn to her beautiful soul. Her humor, her beauty, her absolutely stunning smile.

      During Jenn’s battle with cancer my daughter was blessed to be invited to go to Disneyland with Jenn, Kevin and Ahzi. It was magical.

      My heart is broken for Ahzi and Kevin. For all of Jenn and Kevin’s family and all who were blessed to know her. But I know we will all carry Jenn’s light in our hearts forever.

      Thank you Jennifer for having us in your life ❤

  4. Jenn, Kevin, Ahzi, (and Ralphie) have been such a ray of sunshine to others even while navigating their own hardships. A beautiful family with a beautiful testimony. May God bless the memory of Jenn and may He comfort us all.

  5. Thank you so much for virtually illustrating this accurate and beautiful tribute of a life, although cut much too short, well-lived with grace, joy, love, gratitude and strength. I worked with Jennifer at The Ritz-Carlton New York Battery Park and what a privilege and a blessing to have her light shine in my life. I will never forget Jennifer. All my heartfelt love and peace to her family!♥️

  6. What a blessing to know her. It’s sad to think that God takes such a wonderful spirit home. But that’s the reality of it. She is no longer sick and very happy. My blessing to her family for knowing such a live spirit. One day cancer will be gone.

  7. Teresa, what a wonderful gift this lady and you gave and continue to give to this community with your writing and publishing. It’s people like both of you that make life just a little better and more meaningful around here. Thank you so much.

  8. She was an inspiration and a wonderful human being. May her memory be a blessing. Zikhronah livrakha.

  9. Jennifer contacted me last summer. She had heard that I was among those leading the effort to elect candidates to our City Council and wanted to help. She told me that she felt the need to contribute, to be part of community efforts to elect good folks to council. It was during these conversations that I learned she had a cancer diagnosis and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. As a nurse, I know the tremendous weight this diagnosis places not only on a person’s physical and mental health but also on their family. Yet, here was this woman, with a spirit that came across as loving, so giving, and with such inner strength. We agreed that she would let me know when she had the time and strength to go out and deliver campaign literature to homes. I did not want to discourage her from doing this as this required considerable stamina – yet, her spirit was strong and she was determined to be a part of this effort. I was profoundly touched by her inner strength, love of family and community.

    We had talked of meeting. I wanted to meet Jennifer, this beautiful giving soul, in person. Somehow life didn’t allow this to happen. Thank you Teresa for posting the photos of Jennifer in this piece. I can now put a face to the beautiful woman and family she spoke of.

    My sincerest condolences to Jennifer’s family and friends. She has left a lasting legacy of hope, faith, strength, love, and community. She was indeed a rare treasure, a gift, that we were given to enjoy on this earth for a short time. Rest in Peace Jennifer Sabounchi.

  10. I was so saddened to hear of Jenn’s passing — she was indeed an inspiration to so many. Through the 5+ years that I had the privilege of knowing her, I looked forward to seeing her big grin as she challenged each day. As she once told me, “I’m not dying of cancer, I’m going to live with cancer.” And that she did! How fun it was each Halloween to see what costumes she came up with for Ahzi, Kevin and herself. She’d laugh as she said, “I may not be able to sew, but I know how to use a glue gun — just as long as these costumes hold up through Halloween!”

    Rest in peace, Jenn — you will be missed!

  11. What a sad, but uplifting story, both at the same time. I have tears in my eyes for the joy of hearing about this special person and how she gave so much of herself. I know she is at Peace with our Lord but also how much her family will miss her. What an inspiration she was! Beautiful inside and out. Thank you for sharing her story and letting us know about her passing. I am glad others helped her to enjoy the time she had while enduring the monster that Cancer is. I am so glad she was able to fulfill her writing dream through you, Teresa.

  12. I just saw Jennifer over Mother’s Day weekend in May. She was her usual, bubbly, energetic self – the same dear friend I grew to know & appreciate over the 10 years since we first met. We chatted a couple of times since then – her and Ahzi were super-excited about the 2 golden retriever puppies that my wife & I had just adopted. On June 17th, she wrote me to let me know that she had become very ill, and asked us to pray for her. At the time, the concerns she had shared didn’t seem to be life-threatening, just very painful and miserable. She asked me to keep sending her pictures of the puppies, which I gladly did. And then she sent me a funny clip by Bill Maher, which pokes fun at how absurd things have become in our nation, the very nation that she’s leaving behind for her daughter to grow up in. I couldn’t agree more. If Jenn had one wish, I can only imagine it might be for our nation’s leaders at every level to take a step back and shift their attention to the one thing that doesn’t discriminate, and impacts every single human being, regardless of race, color, creed, religion or political affiliation. We MUST find a way to stop cancer. Rest in peace, my dear friend, and know that your hope and your light shines on through those of us whose lives you have touched. Always and forever your friend, Ricker

  13. I met Jenn in the parking lot of our church last September (2021). There was something special about her and we wound up talking for quite some time. Then I began to notice her regularly at church and I came away from our conversations brimming with positivity thanks to her. She also prayed with me about some family health issues. Her light will keep shining. Look at how many people’s lives she touched! Much love and blessings to Kevin and Ahzi

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