CHICAGO (CBS) – A Chicago woman who received a dreaded diagnosis shared her journey online.
Jessica Zellermayer’s words describe the emotion and perspective of her journey for her thousands of readers. CBS 2’s Joe Donlon had her story.
It seemed that everyone who knew award-winning news producer Jessica Zellermayer was in awe of her optimism and, ultimately, of her courage in the face of cancer.
“When you look at the sun when it comes up in the morning, how beautiful is that, when you look at her smile, that’s how I feel and others have said the same thing,” said Sherwood, Jessica’s father.
She was only 47 when she died, but Jessica’s parents, Marlene and Sherwood, said their daughter’s kindness still touches people.
“Her memory will live on in all the people who knew her,” said Marlene. “They will never forget her.”
One of the ways Jessica’s memory lives on is through her blog, The World According to Jaz.
“She loved to write,” Marlene said. “And it made her happy because she thought people would benefit from it. Plus, she also felt good about writing it herself because she got some of her feelings out there.”
Jessica started her blog in 2011. Five years later everything would change.
She wrote, “August 22, 2016. I’m at work. My cell phone rings. It’s my radiologist. I know I’m about to learn life-changing and important news. ‘You have cancer,’ says the doctor.”
“Her hope was that this would help her get through everything, but most of all help other people,” Sherwood said.
In entry after entry, Jessica wrote of joy, hope, and gratitude.
“Be thankful for your parents and friends,” she wrote. “Remind yourself that bad days are only temporary. No one fights alone.”
Just 10 months after Jessica was first diagnosed, her close friend Richelle Holmes learned she too had breast cancer.
“I had an extreme sense of guilt that I was going to live, and she wasn’t,” Holmes said. “She didn’t want me to be sad about that.”
So Jessica joined her friend’s fight. Together they would fight cancer.
“Jess was just that special person,” Holmes said. “And everyone is always looking for that goal and that was hers.”
But cancer did not strike Jessica once. It hit twice. The second time came as she was about to come home to Chicago after years in New York City.
“She would have reached the five-year mark, and when she moved here, they told her it had come back,” Marlene said.
Again, Jessica let her blog tell the story.
“Moving to Chicago, a new job and a new apartment. Cancer had to show up to the welcome party uninvited,” she wrote.
Yet her optimism shone through, even when everything she ate tasted awful because of chemotherapy.
“I find it’s the little things that happen during my day that bring me joy,” she wrote. “I ate a waffle today and it tasted like a waffle.”
“You can also see that it’s not good news today, but point, point, point. Her choice to turn that around and not dwell on it, but to think about that gratitude that is still in it every day said Holmes. .
Family and friends said that Jessica was like that until the very end.
“She was a very, very positive person, despite what she was going through,” Sherwood said. And she went through hell. I mean, she never showed us, she never showed pain.’
Marlene added, “She died on Valentine’s Day, which I thought was very appropriate because she will always be our valentine.”
Jessica’s last blog post is dated October 29, 2022, just over three months before she passed away.
“Chemo continues,” she wrote. “There’s no change. Only hope for life to continue. So happy Halloween. Hope you enjoyed this treat. It’s a creepy one!”
Holmes said, “When I remember Jess, that’s what I remember. Just that smiling ray of sunshine that kept you going.”
The blog is still up and running and still reflects Jessica’s mission.
“She just reached out to everyone, people she knew, people she didn’t know,” Marlene said. “You have cancer. Let me give you some advice. Let me help you. Let me touch you somehow.”
“I just miss her so much. She was just a good person,” Sherwood said. “Someone you could trust, someone you could count on. She just brought people to life.”
Jessica’s parents said she loved the theater and had seen the musical “Kinky Boots” about 20 times. They hope to collaborate with Chicago’s theater community to honor Jessica in some way.
To read Jessica’s blog, go to theworldaccordeontojaz.blogspot.com.