Jen: Maybe I Won’t Die?
For most of her life, Jen Curran liked to take it easy. She loved sketch comedy, riding in her red convertible, and dropping by JCPenney to check out the sales. But her easy-breezy lifestyle was shattered overnight for reasons she never saw coming: just months after giving birth, Jen found out she might die. Jen walks Stephanie through her winding medical journey, filled with secretive doctors and dangerously misguided medical advice. Now living years longer than she expected, Jen also shares how she’s learning to move past surviving and onto thriving.
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Jen Curran, Stephanie Wittels Wachs
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 00:00
Hey, Last Day listeners, I wanted to remind you that we are always looking for stories for the show, moments of big change where you can see all the ways that you live, breathe and think differently. After that moment. I personally find myself extra aware of how things have changed when a holiday comes around. And you know, we’re going to have to be out here buying decorations soon doing all the jolly traditions, even though lots of time has passed. And so many things are different. And that changes the holidays innately. So if you have a story of change that makes the holidays complicated, we want to hear from you. Head to our submission form at bit.ly/lastdaystories, or click the link in the show notes for this episode. Okay, housekeeping done. Thank you so much on to the show.
Jen Curran 01:05
She said, I don’t think anything is wrong. I think you need to lose this baby weight. And why don’t you start taking walks with the baby. And I was like, bitch, what?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 01:22
It’s 2019 and Jen Karan is a brand new mom sitting across from her doctor, though her doctor is saying it’s just the baby weighed. Deep down. She knows this advice is bullshit. And unfortunately, she ends up being right. Something is very, very wrong.
Jen Curran 01:42
And I literally was like that thing that they say people do. I was making bargains. Like, just let me watch this baby grow up. Let me see her turn. 30 You know, like anything, please.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 02:08
This is LAST DAY, a show about the moments that change us. I’m your host Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Today, a story of being on the verge of getting that shiny, happy life you’d always dreamed of when the universe comes and bulldozes it to the ground, and then learning to rebuild in the ruins. We are in the year 2000. And Jen Curran is a drama student at NYU, which is how we met. When I first met Jen. I was like, Oh, this is the funniest person I’ve ever met. And I shall befriend her, which I did. And we spent a ton of time together. We were young and broke in New York, and you know, did lots of things had lots of good, wholesome fun.
Jen Curran 03:13
There was a lot of drug interest. And sometimes I would access those interests and sometimes I would not be able to afford them. I was just going from the next joint to smoke to the next joint to smoke. And then anytime we could do like a quick trip to like century 21 or discount shopping center for some wallets. Or whatever we tried to buy that week was fun. I mean, I think I cry. There was probably a lot of Crusher. But it seemed really fun too.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 03:54
Just like unbridled freedom to do whatever you want to do whenever you wanted to do it. That’s right. We didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have phones told us what to do. We couldn’t be drug curious and Google whether something was normal. We just had to go for it.
Jen Curran 04:17
That’s exactly right. We just had to go for it. And I’ll never forget you telling me before I did some drug that its bark was bigger than its bite. Is what you told me. And I was like that sounds pretty legit. I think I can trust this woman.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 04:34
Thank you so much. I’m glad that that was the message you received from Jen and I felt more like family than friends. We were both weird theater kids far from home hanging out with other weird theater kids who were also far from home. And while I was leaning into directing serious avant garde theater, chin took a funnier route.
Jen Curran 04:56
We had a sketch comedy class at like nine o’clock in the morning. And so, which was terrible. And we had to, like, put on these little skits that we invented and nobody cared about it. And so it was just like one of those kind of like bonding things where we, you know, had to figure out how to make it happen. And so that that group of people, I ended up being really close with, and we started doing like live sketch comedy after school’s over.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:24
And it was the Harvard sailing team is what you called yourself.
Jen Curran 05:28
Yes. It was great. Those were the years of our lives.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:32
Tell me what it was like. It’s like, you opened a door. And it was like, there I am. Like, did it feel like a you found you?
Jen Curran 05:39
I will. It took a long time. I was like, resentful of it in the beginning, which is like, against who? Who am I mad at? Who? No one. Everyone, everyone who was like, we’re gonna do this. And I was like, fine. I’ll do it with you. What time do we have to be there?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 06:00
Like, okay, but it was that because you are still resistant to like, having any sort of structure in your life? Absolutely. You are structure resistant, right, like innately.
Jen Curran 06:15
So this was like, really annoying for me, because they’re all very structured people.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 06:21
So she pours her energy into comedy for the next 10 years, albeit reluctantly. And at 32, she moves from New York to Los Angeles, like so many aspiring actors do. And also, she just wants a change of pace. You know, as you’re probably getting a sense of by now, Jen likes to take it nice and easy.
Jen Curran 06:45
I think I was really burned out, which I know, you could still relate to on that New York City grind, and had been doing the last decade of just like Subway show, taxi, two and a half drinks, just like you know, these long nights and like never laying down. And so I was really thrilled to have like a little break. And I don’t know why in my mind, I thought it was a break, except that I didn’t have a job. So I was like, this will be great. I’m just gonna hang out. And I didn’t look for a job or try to get a job or do anything really. And I had mentally, like moved on to this place in my mind, where I was no longer going to be broke anymore. But I didn’t have nothing else had changed. It was just a mentality.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 07:39
It’s a mental shift.
Jen Curran 07:43
But I will say like it was our apartment was cheaper. Like there was a lot about it. That was a lifestyle upgrade. You know, our friends all lived here and also didn’t have like, jobs and so we hung out during the day and smoke pot all day long. And you know, it was just nice to like, be in the sun and be out of that like super grind thing.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 08:04
Moving to La begins feeling less like a whim and more like a place she can actually put down roots. Jen marries her longtime boyfriend, Kevin and 2013 and they settle in together. Her career is also taken off a pilot she co wrote with her comedy group has just been bought by a network. She’s even working on a personal documentary about what it’s like to be fat and diet obsessed America. Everything is coming up roses.
Jen Curran 08:33
It’s such a strange memory. And I’m sure you can relate to this of like I guess things were really good then. But I didn’t feel like they were really good. Yeah. But in retrospect, like that was fine. I liked those shirts. I had them. You know, like the shoes I was into like that was a good time.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 08:59
Yeah, you like dressed yourself in a way that was cute. You like get it? Yeah. Oh, I get it. You like cared? What did I say to somebody yesterday, I said, I was like, it’s so great to be a woman of our age. Nobody looks at me. So good. Love it. Like, I could wear a paper bag. Nobody would give a fuck. Somebody’s mom. No one cares about the mom. No, it’s over for you. Yeah, it’s over. But like that moment when you’re engaged and you were in cute shoes, and you have good tops and like, your body like you were you. You were like feeling good. Looking good.
Jen Curran 09:44
Prime of my life.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 09:46
I look back at that time too. And I’m like, I will never be that hot again.
Jen Curran 09:50
Ever. Exactly. My skin was so dewy. I wasn’t doing anything to it. Yeah. I mean, I look back at pictures and I’m like, wow, this is a beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Her eyebrows were perfect.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 10:07
Yeah, they really were. As Katy Perry says, California Girls were undeniable. For Jen, everything was easy, breezy, and most importantly, low stakes. Then Kevin and Jen decided to try for a kid. At now. 35 years old, she figured it would only get harder the longer they waited, and she always wanted to be a mom. But as soon as she thought it was time, things didn’t go as smoothly as she’d hoped.
Jen Curran 10:37
I had right away I want to say, like a chemical pregnancy, which is basically like the earliest possible miscarriage. Yeah. So like you get pregnant, it’s positive on your stick. And then before that period cycle even passes, you don’t even fully miss the period. It’s just like a week late or something. But you have been pregnant for a small period of time.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 11:03
But it’s not real. I had one is not real, distressing, very distressed.
Jen Curran 11:07
So distressed. It’s like, why is this positive. So I had like probably three of those in a row, and started to feel like something is up. And so it took some time, and like a couple years of denial about it. But I finally started working with this fertility doctor, and it was basically just nothing. Really even. I don’t know what it was, we still don’t know what it was. It was nothing.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 11:33
She eventually gets pregnant again, but for real pregnant, not chemical pregnant, and it’s a brand new chapter for her and Kevin, which also means leaving behind the very chilled chapter she had been living and loving. How do you square this now thing that is going to take a lot of fucking planning a lot of structure? Like this is not a fly by the seat of your pants anymore. This is a ride through life. Are you are you having any like? Yeah, about that?
Jen Curran 12:09
Yes, yes. And it’s so ridiculous. Because I have paid a fertility person 1000s of dollars on a credit card to like, create this plan. And then I don’t have like a plan for the next day. Yeah, so it was a lot of tears. But I think I had like depression. In my first trimester, it was just like a lot of tears, and I was sick. So was like, you know, nauseous and not feeling well. And it was a lot of like laying around, wondering like who the child’s friends would be. And if we should move and like, just feeling like I had not like created enough of a community in my own life to bring a child to a community. And you know, all the hopes and dreams that you have for this person. And staring at the fact that you probably won’t be able to realize them. Just because life is so hard. But I felt like a lot of people probably felt that way. And so I didn’t feel super alone in it. But it was tough. Like, I really hated being pregnant. And you know, I like to do what I like to do.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 13:20
Jen is 38 years old, which obstetricians consider to be an absolutely obscene age to carry a child. It is actually called a geriatric pregnancy. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. All true. So Jen starts seeing a high risk OB. And as the doctor keeps running tests to make sure she and the baby are healthy. They’re finding something concerning.
Jen Curran 13:45
So I kept having protein in my pee, which they’re always looking for in pregnant ladies, because it’s a sign of preeclampsia, which is that thing that Kim Kardashian had, and that’s really all any of us know about it, including doctors.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:01
And it’s really dangerous and don’t totally know anything else.
Jen Curran 14:07
That’s right. And you could die but that’s all we know. And so it’s also correlates with your blood pressure a little bit. And so they were just watching me very carefully and really concerned about this protein thing. And they put me on bedrest, and in retrospect, I think they probably knew that something really serious was going on unrelated to pregnancy, and didn’t say it out loud to me. I had to go to the ER one of the days because my blood pressure was too high. The doctor said something about how Oh, there’s a I can’t remember what she called it, but some kind of protein and it’s this protein. And so I know I’m too dumb to say like, what does that mean? And so I didn’t I was just like, okay, cool, cool. Cool, cool, cool. And I remember like her just having this vibe of like, this is bad and me being like, okay, like, go have your lunch. It’s cool, we’re fine.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:01
Are they telling you like, Hey, this is gonna probably clear up after you have the baby or are they like.
Jen Curran 15:11
They’re not saying any of that. They’re saying, we need you to follow up on this after you have the baby. And there was not a lot of hopeful like, we think it’s gonna be no big deal. But there was also like, not a lot of talking about it. And now the person I am now having had a baby and been through so much crazy medical stuff as an adult. I would have been like, What do you mean, what are you talking about? Get specific, I would have asked those questions, but I was still pre motherhood. So I, I didn’t know how to rub two thoughts together.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:44
Jen gets put on bed rest. And basically the only thing she’s allowed to do is walk the dog. Clearly there is an air of worry hanging around her when she’s at these appointments. But for the most part, things are normal.
Jen Curran 15:59
It wasn’t an unhealthy pregnancy. I wasn’t having like a difficult time. I didn’t feel unwell. And so I just was like, going along with what they said I was thrilled to be on bedrest, that sounds like a great idea. And then we’re gonna deliver this baby three weeks early. Sounds perfect to me, get her out. Get her out. Let’s move on with it. And we did. And it was great. And you know, I don’t think any of it really crossed my mind during the birthing process like she was induced. And it was awesome and wonderful and awful and amazing and horrifying. And I don’t think that I don’t think it crossed my mind once I was think I was in like the blissed out state of that experience.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 16:47
Rose was born on February 20 2019. And she is magical and beautiful and perfect. But Jen doesn’t have long to bask in the glow of new motherhood, because when Rose is only three weeks old, her OB calls and says she needs to follow up on the high protein problem, like, immediately. So she opens up the phonebook and finds a kidney specialist who’s located nearby. And this doctor runs some more tests.
Jen Curran 17:17
We were just like looking at these numbers and lalalalala. And she’s telling me, she wants to rerun the lab work. So we do that. And I come back, you know, a couple of weeks later, and this was when I started to watch doctors very, very closely to be like, What are you thinking about? Because I don’t think you’re gonna tell me but I’m lecturing you. So she, I’ll never forget, she put her hand over her mouth. And I remember thinking like you are concerned. And so I said, Did it go away? Did this protein go away? And she said, No, it’s higher. And I was like, huh, like, I just knew that this was very bad. I just I don’t know why I knew that. I just knew like, this is not cool. This is not good. I’m not pregnant. And I had always been like a pretty healthy and and typical person in the sense that like, my periods are 28 and a half days, you know what I mean? Like that kind of thing. Like, I have a weird tooth like it’s going to heal up and the three to four weeks they say it well, it just had always been the case. And so I was just like this is there’s absolutely no reason like some this should not be happening. Something is really wrong. And she said, I don’t think anything is wrong. I think you need to lose this baby weight. And why don’t you start taking walks with the baby. And I was like, Bitch, why? Walks? Like, first of all, I already took a walk with her today. Thank you very much. This baby does not need to be going on walk after walk. Oh my god. And you know, and then she’s saying don’t eat anything out of a box. Which is like, eat things from the ground. And I kid you not a bell rings and they’re having Papa John’s pizza delivered to the reception area. No. During this conversation, and that should smell good.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 19:34
Of course it does.
Jen Curran 19:36
And you know, as soon as she says this to me, even though in my mind, I know this is wrong, wrong. Wrong. You’re wrong. This is bad advice and you’re wrong. 75% of me was still like, Okay, you want me to lose weight. I’ll go lose weight. You don’t know what you’re talking about about the box thing because that’s how I’m going to lose weight is with food out of a box. And I’m 39 years old at this point, we are living in modern society. You think I haven’t been on a diet before. I lost 100 pounds in my 20s 100 pounds. I know how to lose weight like it is actually out of a box. And I don’t know how you think that correlates to protein in p for eight. This all I mean, I’m not a doctor, but that sounds fucking insane. Like you sound insane. Go eat your Papa John’s, I hope you got the butter dip? Well, you probably didn’t.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 20:44
Jen’s friends are even more skeptical than she is about this so called professional medical advice. So they push her to get a second opinion. She calls up her OB who she trusts and that doctor refers her to a different doctor who is affiliated with the hospital.
Jen Curran 21:01
So I went to that person, kind of with this whole story of like, this one lady says I should lose weight, but I’m not totally sure. Like, I’m trying to be a good student. I basically said to her, like, I don’t want to ignore that prescription for weight loss, if that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. But I have to tell you, like, I have a sneaking feeling that that’s not the deal. And I have a brand new baby. And I want to have another baby and I’m old. So like, Tell me now, what the plan is and what’s going on here so I can get my shit together. And she said, You are right to be worried like there’s nothing in this lab work that weight loss would change. And that was like such a relief.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 21:48
Validation. Validation. Yeah. unbridled. Is there any better feeling than unbridled validation? There’s not.
Jen Curran 21:56
There’s not. I should say that louder right here into my lapel.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 22:01
Like I was right. I was right. Is that what you’re saying?
Jen Curran 22:08
I was right. And I honestly was shocked that she was saying it. Because when do you as a fat person sit in front of a doctor and have them say you don’t need to lose weight. And she wasn’t saying that. She wasn’t saying like, don’t go lose weight. I’m sure she would have been quite happy with me losing weight as they typically are. But she said that’s not going to solve this protein problem.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 22:49
We’re back. So a real life doctor tells Jen that losing weight is not going to magically make that pesky protein and her pee go away. Finally, validation. But that also means that they still don’t know what the real culprit is.
Jen Curran 23:11
We still went through a whole elaborate series of tests including a kidney biopsy, which is something you have to be at the hospital overnight for because you’re not allowed to stand up, you have to be laying on your back for 24 hours afterwards, because the kidney is made up of tiny blood vessels. So you can’t really biopsy it. You can just kind of like go in and get a sample but like it can like bleed out easily. So they want you to just like lay there. And you know, they put an alarm on the bed and the whole thing. God dammit. So that was a an adventure.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 23:49
Sure. And roses. How old like five weeks of this?
Jen Curran 23:52
She’s probably two and a half months. Yeah, three months. And this was the first night I had been away from our cars. It was an overnight thing. My mom was staying there. My husband had to fly to New York for his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. Who cares, please, who cares? You know, the whole thing is very upsetting. But I finally get to the other side of it. And to me in my mind, just moving through the process of having the biopsy and being away from my kid for a night is the whole thing. Like, I don’t even need the news. I already know the news is gonna be great. It’s fine. Everything’s gonna be totally fine. I thought they’re going to tell me that there’s that it’s this other thing that it’s this medication I need to take or that my kidneys. I’m old and they got exhausted from the pregnancy. I don’t know. I did not think it was going to be anything serious. She emailed me I want to say even like that night, and she said everything looks fine. There might be a little bit of like kidney day damage from pregnancy. But that looks like it’s healing and everything looks great. Like, we’re still gonna do like some closer up, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah with this other doctor, in terms of like examining the results, but it looks great. So I was like, ah, bless. I’m writing notes in my notes app about my big plans. Now that this is all behind me, I can really start like him, which are in which are maybe getting back into walking, sure. But just just not being pregnant or sick. Yeah. Or, like some normal worried about worrying. Exactly. That’s right. Just some normalcy. Just let me feel good. And check it all off the list. And we can get this life underway with this new person. And then she contacted me somehow I was like, wait, wait, wait a minute. There’s something else.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 26:05
The doctor says they need to run a blood test. So over Independence Day weekend, Jen tracks back to the hospital to get her blood drawn. And then back home where she waits in hopes of finally getting some answers.
Jen Curran 26:19
She called me. And I think this was on the Fourth of July, and I was eating a frozen enchilada that I had cooked.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 26:30
From a box.
Jen Curran 26:34
And she called me and I do not like to talk on the phone. And I did not want to answer the phone. But I knew I had to. And Kevin was in the other room with a baby. She had just woken up from a nap. And I’m talking to this doctor and she says we the blood test confirmed it. And it’s either a bone marrow disorder or bone marrow cancer. And she said multiple myeloma which is, which is bone marrow cancer. And I had never I guess I had heard that before maybe like on TV, but I’m like, Googling it really fast. And like, What a dumb idea to like Google while the doctor is talking to you. Because immediately that pops up and is like, you’ve got five years to live like get your affairs in order the end. They don’t even say five years. They say like, you know, 79 months or whatever, however many months five years is. So I’m like doing opening up the calculator to see like, how long are we talking that I get with this baby? So Kevin came around the corner and I was like, just kind of like shaking my head at him. I had hung up the phone with her. And she had told me that I needed to see a Hematologist Oncologist, which was like a phrase, I had to get her to repeat several times. And she gave me like, Oh no, she said she would email me with those people. And then she said, There’s nothing else we can do now, like enjoy the holiday with your family. I don’t remember feeling anything. So it was all mental. It was not physical. And I felt panicked. I felt a sense of panic because I am someone who I wouldn’t say I’ve had a lot of up until this point trauma in my life. But you know, my mom was a teen mom, my parents are divorced. I didn’t have like the picture perfect. Childhood. It also wasn’t terrible. But I’m someone who when bad news comes like, I can pretty quickly figure out like, what we could do next to like, feel a little bit better. And this was the first time in my whole entire life where I could not figure out what to do next. to like, make this go away or change or feel different. And he came around the corner and I got up to go to him but he’s got this baby. So I can’t like fall apart or I don’t even think I was going to fall apart. But I must have made some face that made him think like, oh, this is good. And so he said it’s okay. And I said no, it’s not okay. I said it’s cancer. And I don’t even remember what happened next we went into the bedroom, all three of us and like he’s sitting there on the bed. We’ve got this little like beautiful creature crawling around, you know, not even crawling just like lolling around. Round. And I’m sitting there. And I’m just shocked, like, every moment is like a new feeling of shock. Like, I can’t get past a moment, without the next moment, just hitting me in the face. And I’m looking at the two of them. And they’re together. And I’m just immediately thinking, well, this is how it’s going to be. It’ll just be the two of them. And, like, here they are, and they seem okay. And like, you know, they’re gonna, they’re gonna be fine. Look at him, he’s with her, she’s happy, like, this will be fine. This will be what it’s going to be, you know. And you know, and I was not expecting to be like a crier, when I had this baby. I don’t know if you had this experience, but I, I was like such a crier after she was born. Like, for the first few months, I just, everything was crying it everything. And I mean, I like her finger, and I would sob about it. So this was just like, forget it, like, just now forget it, like, now I’m just going to be crying for the rest of time. And I don’t remember if I said to him, like, it’s just going to be the two of you or what I said. But I was just immediately and immediately thinking, I’m gonna have to write her letters. I’m gonna have to, like make videos or write letters for like, prom, and like, whatever else, you know, like, let me start thinking now like, what’s the list of things, you know, like, like, as a mom, you just like, kick into that mode of like, okay, like, I’m just gonna, like, take care of it, you know, like, what is she going to need. And such a terrible like, unmooring feeling to, like, have this new sense of motherhood, just be like, ripped out from under you in this way, you know, where it’s like, well, I was going to do this one way. But now we’re like, now it’s looking very different.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 32:22
Jen is N-diagnosis purgatory. She can’t change that. But she knows she doesn’t want to stay in her bedroom and spiral.
Jen Curran 32:34
So I was like, okay, like, we have to go get a hotel. And I want to like put on Real Housewives when we get there and like order Chinese food. And we’ll bring the dog and we’ll bring the baby and I just like need to be out of this environment. I just need everything to feel completely different right now. So that’s what we did. We got a hotel nearby and like, went to a hotel. And we went to the grocery store first. And we had never brought her into a grocery store before, because she was a tiny baby. And so this was the big moment that we’re going to do it for who knows what reason. And he goes in with her and it was really cold in there. And so she starts crying. And so he’s just a mess of a person and can’t make that happen. And so I end up having to go in while they go wait in the car. And so I’m by myself in this grocery store on the Fourth of July. And I was walking down this chip aisle. And there were these two daughters with their mother like adult daughters and a mother but they were together because it was a holiday. And they were talking about chips and how many chips they could have and what they should eat on the Fourth of July and oh, it’s a holiday and I’m on a diet but today’s July fourth. And I just had this like it was it hit me like a tidal wave that these women were just getting to like, enjoy talking about dieting, and I say enjoy because talking about dieting sucks. But like, what a privilege to just get to like, talk about some chips. And I had to like grab the chip I’ll like shelf because I was felt like I was gonna fall over I was just like, so overcome by how mundane life can be and then how you know, and everything was wounding me to look at any child anything anything. And I couldn’t believe that I had cared about anything. Before this. I can’t believe that I had cared about my weight, my career, my hair anything. I could not believe that I had spent a fucking second giving a fuck and I litter really was like that thing that they say people do. I was making bargains, like, just let me watch this baby grow up. Let me see her turn 30 You know, like, let me anything, please.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 35:14
A few weeks later, she’s back in the doctor’s office for an official diagnosis, which fucking sucks. But she also has this pretty profound moment of clarity about her daughter. What did that feel like when he said, like, this is real, this is happening.
Jen Curran 35:34
Rose was in my lap, and she was screaming. And she was a little baby, and she wouldn’t stop. And I was like, you’re just gonna have to go ahead, like, and so she was screaming into my ear, as he said, you do have multiple myeloma. And, you know, there’s so many things that I will forever be grateful to her for things that she couldn’t have known, you know, of course, and that’s one of them. Because it was like, she’s not gonna let me be by myself right now. And she’s not gonna allow me to check out of being her mom. And it was like, such an important grounding into what this really was. Which was, let’s figure out what’s going on. And let’s move on, because like, this baby needs a bottle. And, you know, truly, truly and I know you can relate to this, like, Thank God, she existed, because I would have no reason to move a muscle ever again. If it wasn’t for her.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 37:12
Are back, Jen begins chemo for bone marrow cancer, all while raising a newborn baby. She’s told that Multiple myeloma is treatable, but it’s not curable. She would have it for however many years she had left. And it would potentially damage her bones, kidneys and immune system along the way. And mind you, Jen had had basically zero symptoms when she got the diagnosis. So overnight, she goes from identifying as a totally healthy person, to a person with a chronic disease.
Jen Curran 37:49
One of the first things of it is telling people. Yeah. And it’s like the absolute worst. And you can only do so much of that, you know, like, I had a couple girlfriends that I was like texting throughout all of it. And then, you know, I had people like our friends, Steve, who were going to be like, really painful to tell. A and like people like my parents were going to be really painful to tell. And I actually ended up having Kevin tell my mom, because I just couldn’t get myself together to do it. It just felt like too much to ask of me. But so that was a big part of it was like, letting the people in my world know that this was going on. And then I pretty early on decided that I was going to tweet this thread about the weight loss thing about this doctor wanting me to lose weight, and that not being what was really going on. And it’s interesting because it was a way for me to feel quote unquote, what was happening without really feeling it, right, like a way to make it into something creative, something that was happening to all of us. And you know, people will always say like, Oh, it’s so inspiring the way you share your story, but like I’m not doing it for anybody but me because it helps me so much to have to not be the only person suffering with it. You know, to make you have to think about it for a minute because I don’t want to like be dealing with this and be sitting there getting chemo and like it’s all just my own private Idaho.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 39:37
One of the things you did that is one of my favorite things to this day on Instagram, is it’s chemo day.
Jen Curran 39:49
Yeah. Oh, hello. It’s chemo day. Listen, I never thought I would do something like this so I feel special and it feels unique. I’ll keep you posted.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 40:01
And you like, type all these stories about, like the drama happening between the nurses and the patients. And you know, it’s so fun. It’s so fun. It’s like how Jen would have cancer.
Jen Curran 40:16
Let me tell you what happened really quick. We got to chemo, we’re all here together, evacuated the building. I’m so hooked up to something.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 40:23
That’s, like, the most fucking entertaining thing. I’m always like, when is this going to be discovered? And when is she getting a TV show? That is like, a woman who makes these, you know, it’s so joyful and refreshing. And that’s not how you’re feeling, I’m sure. But like, it is an interesting, it kind of reminds me of the tweet thing, right? It’s like an interesting way to process in the way you would process. Yeah. And also, like, when do you sort of start to shift into this mode of like, now I’m a person that has cancer, and it’s going to be a long, a long road/
Jen Curran 41:01
I have a friend who had breast cancer and still does, actually. But when she first got it, she wrote this little musical with her ukulele. And it was just so positive and cheerful. And God bless her that this was her, you know, what, what she wanted to do. But I was like, I am not like a ukulele, I’m not going to be like a ukulele person, I’m not going to like, make a one woman show about this, I’m not going to like run, docking going to do the 5k. And my friend was like, you don’t have to be like some version that you’re imagining of a person with cancer, like you can be Jen with cancer. And that helped me a lot too. Because I was able to start sort of imagining what this looks like, you know, but there’s such a huge aspect of it, that’s humiliating, to be sick, quote, unquote, whatever that means to be someone with this stigma now, and realizing my own judgment that I had toward other people with disabilities, or people who had, you know, chronic illness or whatever it was, and that I, I don’t know if judgment is the right word, but I had some sort of, you know, I was really able to consider them the other. Yeah, you know, and it really made me examine that, and what does this feel like now that I’m the other? And how can I? What is that really about? And what are these feelings about? And who am I going to be? Now that I’m like, the first of our friend group to get cancer, you know, totally. So it was a big adjustment and a lot of vulnerable, it was a very vulnerable place to be because I’m not someone who likes to be like, outwardly vulnerable. You know, I’m pretty private in that way. And so, this was a big adjustment, to letting people see my tears or hear that something was hurting me or, you know, and just the juxtaposition of having this brand new baby and nobody really knowing like, are you going to live?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 43:26
Despite the dire predictions, Jen googled the moment she got her diagnosis, her prognosis starts to get better. The chemo and medication are doing their jobs. And she said she doesn’t feel the symptoms of the cancer as much as the side effects of her medication. One of those side effects was that she developed cataracts thanks to being on long term steroids. So now she has to grapple with not just having cancer, but living with it for the long haul.
Jen Curran 43:57
I think that this idea of maybe I won’t die, and I’ll just be a person with cancer has just happened. So I’ve had this for four years, and I just had this crazy side effect from a bone strengthener I was taking, which is that it can cause fractures in your femurs very rarely, this can happen. And it happened to me. And it happened to me, and I had to have like, this big surgery to put rods into my femurs. But the thing is, well, first of all it was it’s not from the cancer, it’s from the medication so that in and of itself has like mentally helped me be like, okay, like, this is not because this cancer is eating away on my body. This is because I’m on strong drugs to make sure the cancer can never eat away at my body. So I just went through this whole process of being in the hospital, and then in a rehab center, the whole thing took 17 days. If I was away from my child, I was on such intense pain medication, it was crazy. The point is that I just now have started to coming out of this hospital experience, feel a renewed sense of like, you know what, maybe I am like kind of a typical person. And like, maybe we all have chronic issues and illnesses. And like, mine’s just called cancer. So it sounds a lot worse, but like, I’m not going to die. I’m not going to die anytime soon, that we can see. And I think I’ll know, like, at least six months in advance, if I do start to die, but I don’t think I’m going to. And I think they have a pretty good idea that I’m not going to soon. And so I feel really hopeful about that. And I also feel this real desire to be like other moms for my kid. I just want her to have the experience of like, looking up around the room at, you know, preschool day or whatever. And like, me just being another mom. Yeah, instead of her seeing someone who’s slow, or someone who maybe smells different. I don’t know what her experience of it is. But, you know, she’s had to do a lot of adjusting. And I’ve tried tremendously hard to not have that be the case. But it’s impossible. Yeah, it’s inevitable. So yeah, I think like, now is maybe when I’m gonna start to kind of reinvent what that looks like. And I don’t really know what that looks like, you know.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 46:48
Jen is starting to get a taste of what it’s like to not just survive to see tomorrow, but to thrive for the long haul. And the building blocks of that journey. Are those mundane things that most people take for granted?
Jen Curran 47:07
Like, having a new shirt, you know? Or, like, maybe I’m gonna, like, do my hair a little differently. Just even considering any of that having the, like, desire to consider the bandwidth, and then the motivation, anything you know, and to feel worthwhile enough.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 47:33
I mean, what you just said is you were like, before, when I was in the bliss state, and I didn’t even know it. I like had a great shirt, and I wore cute shoes, and I had great skin. Like, there’s a selfishness. There’s a I’m investing in my appearance, which is such a fuckin luxury, isn’t it? Like to be able to invest in your appearance to be able to like, wear your hair a certain way or get a shirt that you like, is a layer of frivolity that God bless it, could we all have, you know what I mean? Like, it’s just what it luxury. And, you know, that’s something grief permits. And it’s not something illness permits, and it’s not something like when you’re in the thick of survival mode, you’re gonna put a bag on your body, if that’s what you have to wear.
Jen Curran 48:23
That’s right. Like I am really, really ready to look in the mirror and see the next chapter of this thing.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 48:33
Yeah, and maybe like see you again.
Jen Curran 48:37
Yes. Because I will one of the hardest parts of this is looking in the mirror and seeing someone that you don’t recognize, you know, just you look different, everything changes your body is totally different. Cancer the treatment for cancer just does that and I’m now finally like accepting who this person is and that this is who I am and this is how it’s going to be and maybe like she can wear a lip too. Of course she can. Give her a lip. The poor thing. And you know, like I want so much for my kid to see me doing this all with grace and all of that stuff so that’s like my motivation throughout the whole entire thing obviously like you know, being at the hospital they’re like wow, you’re so Brazilian. you doesn’t that and I’m like I have a four-year-old at home like nobody makes the mac and cheese quite right. So I gotta get back there man.
There’s even more LAST DAY with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like an AMA with yours truly. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything in case you didn’t know. So just FYI and FYI means for your information. So subscribe now in Apple Podcasts. LAST DAY is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Tiffany Bui. Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannis Brown. Steve Nelson is our Vice President of weekly content and production and Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content and production. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and me Stephanie Wittels Wachs. If you’d like what you heard today, we have three other seasons that you can check out. Have a story you’d like to share, head to bit.ly/lastdaystories, or click the link in the show notes to fill out our confidential Google Form. follow and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me at @WittelStephanie. Thank you for listening, we will see you next week.