Julie’s Memorial Service

Dear All,

We wanted to let everyone know that Julie’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 5, 2018, at 5:30 pm, at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church. The church is located at 157 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, near the 2/3, 4/5 and R lines.

We look forward to celebrating Julie’s life with all of you. We feel so blessed to have such a wide circle of family and friends.

With love,
Josh, Mia and Isabelle

Farewell, Julie

Dear All,

We are saddened to announce that our beloved Julie passed away on March 19, 2018.  She drew so much strength from writing this blog and was deeply appreciative of her readers and the meaningful relationships she forged with so many of you.

Below please find the obituary I wrote to honor Julie, which includes links to her New York Times obituary and her recent appearance on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” program.  We all loved Julie so very much and we miss her terribly, but we also believe that she is in a better place.  We could not be more proud of the life she lived or the person she was.

Thank you for being a part of the life of our family.

Josh, Mia and Isabelle



Julie Ly Yip-Williams

By Joshua R. Williams

Julie Ly Yip-Williams, beloved wife, mother, sister and daughter, passed away on March 19, 2018 at the age of 42, following a long and fierce battle with advanced colon cancer. Julie was born January 6, 1976, in Tam Ky, Vietnam and was of Chinese descent.  She emigrated from Vietnam to Los Angeles when she was nearly four years old and grew up in Monterey Park, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.  She graduated from Williams College in 1997 and from Harvard Law School in 2002.

Julie was a corporate lawyer and also an author.  Her blog, which provides an exquisitely detailed portrait of her battle with cancer and an account of her life during the nearly five-year period that followed her diagnosis, touched thousands of lives and inspired people from all corners of the globe.  Although Julie did not write the blog with the intention of commercializing her work, through a series of serendipitous occurrences the blog was picked up by Random House and is being converted into a book that we all ardently hope will make a difference in people’s lives.  Julie wrote honestly and unflinchingly of her ordeal and articulated universal truths that resonate with anyone. One of her central goals was to cut through the dishonesty, obfuscation and sugar-coating that seem to surround cancer and to allow people a window into the genuine experience of dealing with cancer at such a young age, in the hopes that others might draw comfort and wisdom from her words.

Julie was many things—a brilliant scholar, a talented attorney, a fantastic writer, a lover of life who traveled to places as far-flung as the South Pole, Egypt, Jordan, Bangladesh, the Galapagos Islands, Paris, China and Vietnam, among many others, a lover of fine food, a fantastic cook who owned probably fifty cookbooks and could produce (good) restaurant-quality food, a voracious reader and yet also an avid and unapologetic binge television-watcher—but even more fundamentally, she was a loyal and loving person who put her family first.  She was a wonderful wife who was a best friend and ally to her husband Josh in a tough world, a Chinese Tiger Mom who loved her daughters infinitely but wouldn’t accept mediocrity from them, a loving and concerned sister, daughter, cousin and friend.  She was a tour de force of organizational ability—as her husband loved to say (and she loved to hear), she was a “model of efficiency, organization and clarity,” and she ran a tight, firm ship, but her hand ultimately was always guided by love and concern for those of us who were fortunate enough to cross her path. Her circle of friends encompassed many parts of the globe and included people of all religions, ethnicities, political persuasions, sexual orientations and occupations.  She touched thousands of lives with her blog and her brave fight against Stage IV colon cancer. Although she was born with congenital cataracts and was not able to recover normal vision following emergency surgery during her early days in the United States, her limited vision never stopped her from living a rich life full of adventures and accomplishments.

Julie is survived by her husband, Joshua R. Williams, and by her daughters Mia Seng Williams (8) and Isabelle Yip Williams (6), all of Brooklyn, New York.  She is also survived by her siblings Lyna Yip of New York and Denton Yip and his family (Angel Moon, wife, and Carter and Adrian Yip, Julie’s nephews) of Palos Verdes Estates, CA, as well as by her parents Peter Yip and Ann Yip of Monterey Park, CA.  Finally, she is survived by her beloved cousins Caroline Yip Hendley of Westport, Connecticut and Nancy Yip Ramos of Los Angeles, whom she considered sisters, and by Chipper, her much-adored bichon frise.

Julie died peacefully, surrounded by her family and close friends, in a warm, sun-splashed room of the apartment she so meticulously planned and designed. Her loss is a crushing blow to all of us, and we all loved her so very much. We will always remember her and will hold her in our hearts for eternity.  Julie fervently believed in an afterlife, and our most ardent hope is that she is in a better place, one in which she will one day be joined by her loving husband.

Julie, as our daughter Belle was so fond of saying, we all love you “to infinity” and we always will.  Goodbye for now, my love.


In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance in Julie’s name. Donations can be made online at https://fundraise.ccalliance.org/blue-star-tributes/julieyipwilliams or mailed to: Colorectal Cancer Alliance, 1025 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 1066, Washington, DC 20005.

Here is the link to a conversation Julie had with Tracy Smith of the CBS “Sunday Morning” program.  And here is a link to Richard Sandomir’s tribute to Julie in the New York Times.


Cancer is completing my life, making it whole.  It’s a strange thing to say, isn’t it?  Most would say that cancer, the terminal kind, is truncating and destroying their lives.  For a long time, especially in the beginning of this cancer journey, I felt that way too, but no longer.  It all makes sense now.  Cancer and even congenital blindness make sense now.  The “Why?” question I’ve spent my entire life asking and which I never thought I would be able to decipher, at least not in this life, has a credible, tangible answer now.  All the suffering and all the joy, all the tears and all the laughter, from the moment of my birth to my very last breath, a life that has seen more than its fair share of excruciating pain as well as spectacular achievements, I understand it all now.  I have found the meaning and purpose I have desperately sought my entire life.  And that is an incredible, beautiful, glorious thing to be able to say.  No one, and certainly not I, could ask for more than that in one lifetime, as brief as it may be.

You see, I secured a huge book deal with the very prestigious publisher, Random House, in which this blog will, in the hands of the finest editors in the world, be transformed into the memoir I always dreamed of publishing. More


Dear Josh,

Sometimes, I can feel the weight of your stare as I feign sleep in those torturous minutes before I fully wake.  Your grip on my hand has tightened; that’s what probably woke me in the first instance.  I can feel your love.  I can feel you trying desperately to save the image of my face in some special place within your soul that might be immune to the amnesiac effects of time.  I can feel your fear as you unwillingly envisage a life without me – how will you comfort the girls like I can; how will plan the birthday parties and arrange the girls’ schedules; how will you fix all the things that break in our home; how will you do all this while still working your demanding job and maintaining the stellar course of your career?  In turn, in my own mind’s eye, I can see you cleaning out our closets and bathroom drawers to dispose of all my things.  I can see you bringing flowers to my gravesite.  I can see you watching what were once “our” favorite TV shows after the girls have gone to bed, in the dark, alone, the television casting its eerie blue light on your face that seems to be permanently sculpted in sadness.  My heart aches for you but I don’t know how to help you.  Beyond solving all the logistical problems caused by my death, what can I say or do to alleviate the pain, to make losing me easier for you, if that is even at all possible?  Just as I felt compelled to write the girls a letter, I feel a similar compulsion to do the same for you in an attempt to help, for to not do so would be a great failure by me as your wife. More


Last Wednesday was the first day of school.  Mia is in third grade and Belle is in first grade.  Parents came together and engaged in some version of the game One-Ups-Man-Ship, as each tried to “one-up” the other, to wear the cloak for Best and Coolest Summer.  Trips to France, Spain, Italy, blah, blah, blah.  Of course, I played the game too.  A part of me needed to play, to feel like despite everything, I could still give my children a semblance of a normal childhood and summer that could rival anyone’s.  “Mia and Belle went to South Carolina to see their grandparents, which put them in the path of the total solar eclipse,  They loved it.  They’ll never forget the experience.” I bragged.  Even as I said the words, I wondered why I even bother at this stage of my life, why I engage in the stupid, vapid games, why any of it matters at all.  I should have just opened my mouth and stunned them with the truth:  “The girls went to South Carolina to see their grandparents and to see the total solar eclipse but I agonized over whether to allow them to go because I was afraid of losing time with them while they were gone for 12 days, or worse yet, that I would die while they were gone.  But  I realized I had to let them go because that is a necessary part of preparing to die and that’s what I did this summer, prepare to die.  And they may not have been aware of it, but they were also preparing for me to die, to let me go, to start forging their own way in this world without their mother.  That’s what our family did this summer.  So, why don’t you top that?”  Oh how, I would have loved to see the looks on their faces if I had said all that.  How I would have loved to see the shock when hearing complete, absolute and uncomfortable truth. More


I was in the hospital a few weeks ago for uncontrollable pain and vomiting.  While there, I also developed sudden and profuse vaginal bleeding, which I discovered in the middle of the night and which freaked me the fuck out.  It turned out the blood thinners they automatically give patients to prevent potential clots that can result from lying around all day long had aggravated the mets in that part of my body and they had begun to bleed.  I was there for four days since they put me on a pain pump and then had to transition me off in lieu of the Fentanyl patch and since we had to wait for the bleeding to gradually subside.  The hospital is a desperately lonely place when you know you are dying.  Unlike my previous hospitalizations, this one was…empty, futile, pointless; it was devoid of all joy or hope or life-affirming possibility.  I had birthed no babies.  There had been no surgery to successfully remove cancerous organs and tumors.  There wasn’t even a promising clinical trial that necessitated the forced observation, confinement and attachment to machines.  No.  I was there simply because my body was deteriorating, beginning the process of dying, and I couldn’t handle the physical turmoil that was causing without medical intervention. More

Thank You

When I started writing this blog exactly four years ago, I never knew what it would become.  On August 19, 2013, I began writing and writing and writing, to keep my family and friends apprised of medical updates, to maintain a record for my children and, most of all, to create an outlet for myself.  Sure, it would be nice if people beyond my family and friends read my blog, but that was far less important to me than the exercise of self-expression such that I could vent all the complex emotions that come with having cancer, so that my mind and heart wouldn’t explode.  As a record for my children through which they would really know me and as a vehicle of self-expression, I vowed to be truthful and brutally honest, knowing that such honesty would be too dark, heavy, frightening and offensive to many and that the blog itself would be disdained by many as blatant narcissism and self-indulgence.  But I didn’t care.  This was my space I was carving out for myself.  Read or don’t read.  It didn’t matter to me. More


Dear Mia and Isabelle,

I have solved all the logistical problems resulting from my death that I can think of – I am hiring a very reasonably priced personal chef to cook for you and Daddy; I have left a list of instructions about who your dentist is and when your school tuition needs to be paid and when to renew the violin rental contract and the identity of the piano tuner.  In the coming days, I will make videos about all the ins and outs of the apartment, so that everyone knows where the air filters are and what kind of dog food Chipper eats.  But I realized that these things are the low-hanging fruit, the easy to solve but relatively unimportant problems of the oh-so mundane.

I realized that I would have failed you greatly as your mother if I did not try to ease your pain from my loss, if I didn’t at least attempt to address what will likely be the greatest existential question of your young lives.  You will forever be the kids whose mother died of cancer, with people looking at you with some combination of sympathy and pity (which you will no doubt resent, even if everyone means well).  That fact of your mother dying will weave into the fabric of your lives like a glaring stain on an otherwise pristine tableau.  You will ask as you look around at all the other people who still have their parents, why did my mother have to get sick and die.  It isn’t fair, you will cry.  And you will want so painfully for me to be there to hug you when your friend is mean to you, to look on as your ears are being pierced, to sit in the front row clapping loudly at your music recitals, to be that annoying parent insisting on another photo with the college graduate, to help you get dressed on your wedding day, to take your newborn babe from your arms so you can sleep.  And every time you yearn for me, it will hurt all over again and you will wonder why. More


I was Daddy’s little girl, his favorite, his precious one, his gold nugget.  He would tell anyone and everyone exactly that, in Vietnamese or Chinese.  It was embarrassing, especially in those teenage years, but I loved him too, even if he was often too nosey and annoying in so many other ways   Perhaps, it was because I was the child most like him, inquisitive and interested in the world and its people.  Perhaps, in me he saw all his own potential and dreams never realized – the intellectual, the fearless world traveler, the money-making professional.  In him, I saw a man who loved me beyond measure, who would spend hours in traffic driving me to and from the airport, high school competitions, study group sessions and the orthodontist, who believed that I could walk on the moon if I so chose,   Sometimes, I felt somewhat bad for my older brother and sister.  He loved them too, of course, but it just wasn’t the same.  (It was widely known, however, that my brother was my mother’s favorite and my sister was my grandmother and the uncles’ favorite, so I didn’t feel too bad.)  During one of our many car rides together, I asked my father, “Don’t you think that it is not right for you to love me more than Older Brother and Older Sister?”  He took his right hand off the steering wheel and held it out to me, its fingers outstretched.  “Look at my hand,” he ordered.  “You see my fingers?  Are they even?  No.  It isn’t possible to love your children the same.”  And that was that.  My father, the sage Chinese philosopher, had spoken.

Anyhow, knowing that he loved me as much as he did, I felt incredibly sorry for him as he stood helplessly by as I left for college three thousand miles away from home and then on my various adventures to far-flung places, the kind of impoverished places that we had risked our lives to escape decades earlier.  He was and is a worrier.  He would sit morosely watching me, shoulders drooped, as I packed for my next adventure, wringing his hands and running his fingers through his virtually non-existent hair.  Sure, I was nervous about my travels, somewhat afraid of what I might encounter, but mostly I was excited and enthralled by the promise and possibility of newness and all the things to be seen and experienced.  I was off to have fun, to grow and learn, to be changed and challenged; my father would be left behind at home, worrying.  His life centered around me and that center was leaving.  I swore then that I never wanted to be the one left behind, even if I were to have my own children, that I was and would forever be an intrepid traveler and adventurer.

It seems that with the latest bad scan results, I will now continue to make good on that promise I made myself so long ago.  I will be the one to die young.  I will be the first among so many family and friends to embark on the greatest adventure of all, the one that involves traveling beyond this life into the next.  Were the choice mine, I would stay longer, to watch my children grow up and to age with my husband, to bury my parents, to see more of this life that I have loved so much.  But the choice is not mine.  It has never been mine. More


For a week, I’ve been trying to write but nothing comes out.  Nothing coherent.  Nothing good.  I am in chaos, and so there can be no good writing under the circumstances.  I decided I should just write to provide you all with an update before more time passes. More

Previous Older Entries