Learn about the blogger/author who planned for her own death in ‘Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle’
Audacy’s Pineapple Street Studios presents the podcast, “Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle.” Based on Julie Yip-Williams’ posthumous memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle, this series shares her revelations as she watches herself die from Stage IV colon cancer.
Julie was a lawyer and mom who lived in Brooklyn and ran a blog for years about her life, illness, and treatment. Leading up to her death, Julie made videos of her daily experiences to document as much as possible. As part of this process, Julie invited producer and host Eleanor Kagan to create a podcast to further record her journey.
The first episode brings Eleanor through Julie’s family’s apartment. Julie’s husband, Josh, is interviewed. She had 3 years to plan for her death and ensure everything was in order. Julie indulged in designing a cozy room for her family to join her in her final years. Snippets of Julie speaking to her children while engaging in daily activities together around the house are played in the episodes. They are aware of their mom’s impending death.
In 2013, Julie suffered from extreme stomach pain when traveling. When rushed to the hospital, the doctor tried to do a colonoscopy and observed a suspicious blockage. Julie received a Stage IV colon cancer diagnosis. While Julie was in the hospital, Josh did research and found out there’s an 8% survival rate for Stage IV cancer patients with 5-10 years to live. Julie was disinterested by these statistics, since she had faced adversity her whole life, but she was ready to accept the truth.
Julie was born legally blind from cataracts. From what Julie’s grandmother surmised as a birth defect, she wanted Julie killed. While still an infant, Julie’s grandmother sent her parents to an herbalist, with gold bars in tow as payment. The instructions were to concoct a potion to kill Julie. The herbalist rejected the gold bars, and no potion was administered. This unsettling secret resurfaces by the podcast’s second episode, and she’s ready to grapple with this unfortunate event to her deathbed. Shortly after their encounter with the herbalist, Julie’s family emigrated from Asia to California after the Vietnam War. Julie spoke about feeling like an outsider.
Julie turned to the internet to learn others’ stories with Stage IV cancer. Other than stories of encouragement and blogs touting false hope and denial, she didn’t find any relatable material. So, Julie started her own blog filled with the truth. Her blog reached many individuals suffering with cancer. People commented they were grateful for her sincerity. Through the blog, she met magazine editor, Mark Warren, calling her a “funny fatalist.” At the time, Mark’s friend was dying from colon cancer, and they’d read Julie’s blog. After losing his friend, Mark contacted Julie, and they became great friends.
A memoir in the works…
A few years into their friendship, Julie floated the idea of writing a book. When asking Mark about her story’s potential, Mark said it would help people cope with their hardships. Julie started writing and asked Mark to help Josh find a publisher for her memoir in case the book was ready after she died. Shortly thereafter, Julie received a book deal with Mark’s assistance. With Julie’s blessing, Mark started recording their conversations. In preparation for this podcast, Eleanor listened to all of their discussions. Julie is practical about thinking how she wants to die on her own turf, at home in her bed, rather than at the hospital. She wanted her death space to be a place brimming with warmth and laughter, joined with her friends and family. Writing the book helped her come to terms, with an end goal in mind – to help others with her story.
Julie’s podcast series, the book, and her video diaries are also gifts of love for her kids – tokens of devotion to her family while leaving useful instructions for them to review as they’re growing up without her.
In 2018, Julie passed away, but her story lives on through her memoir and this podcast.
All 4 parts of “Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle” are now available to stream. To learn more, check out Julie’s book, The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After.