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  • Writer's pictureJessy Tolkan

Day 125 - BACK IN THE WORLD - and turning 41

It's a sunny afternoon in Washington, DC, and I'm sitting on our back porch...And just like that, I'm back to my old life - except everything is totally different.


It has been an absolute whirlwind return from Wisconsin. Filled with all the exact things I dreamed about while away for nearly 4 months. I've seen my dear friends, eaten at my favorite restaurants, visited the medical team at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and spent the last 48 hours BEGINNING an epic Birthday celebration.


This return doesn't just sound like a fairy tale ending to a brutal few months, IT FEELS like a fairy tale ending - (and its way more of a beginning than an ending).


It has been nearly 2 weeks since I left Wisconsin, masked up, boarded a plane and had my love Raj waiting for me when I touched down in Washington, DC. I was welcomed home to a house almost unrecognizable to the one we left (THANK YOU KITCHEN RENOVATION AWESOMENESS), but way more importantly I returned at all. I am the queen of espousing positivity, it's kind of a Tolkan way of life. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the positivity is fake, its just that in reality, when I left departed DC on November 13th, there was certain a scary, dark, quiet but loud enough to hear part of me that wondered if I'd ever make it back. To touch down in DC last week, to walk up the steps to the home I believe I'll spend the next many many decades living in with Raj was more than just a joyful return, it was a feeling of relief and BELIEF, and thankfulness the likes I've almost never felt before.




The reunions with friends, over drinks, and meals, and walks have been approximately 100 times more amazing than I imagined during all those weeks away. The appreciation I feel for the friends that remained the glowing light on the other end of this tunnel will never be able to be fully repaid, but I think I held up my end of the bargain on this whole thing...They all agreed to still be here, I just had to survive and get better. Now its time to just get on the BIG living of life.


Health Update


In addition to seemingly eating at every single New York City restaurant last week, my trip back to NY was in fact NOT all about the fabulous food, broadway show (Plaza Suite with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick), or the First of 4 Birthday parties. It was to reconnect with my medical team at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and begin the next face of recovery.


My Froedtert team in Wisconsin has passed me back over to the east-coast based team, but I've won over a legion of medical folks in both places that I think will stay pretty involved every step of the way.


When I left Wisconsin, I had a beautiful farewell lunch with my team in their office, and my doctor put his hands on my face, and said "Jessy, remember you're not as strong as you feel (note: I feel like fuckin' Superwoman these days, so PLEASE be careful." He then went on to say, "But go your life your life, because we didn't go through all of this for you to sit on the sidelines." I don't think I could have received a better send off, no matter how hard that advice is to put into practice.


I'm sailing high at 1264 White Blood Cells. The increases have slowed, but this is a safe enough number for me to be out in the world.


I received a second dose of monoclonal antibodies, meaning I do have some real protection from COVID, and I'm seizing this window before Omicron 2 makes it pretty scary for me to be so out in public again.


My Diabetes is slowing getting under better control. Taking more insulin really seems to help, and by next month I should have an insulin pump and most of the management will be fully automated.


I need to assume that I will catch something now that I have real exposure again, but the hope is that while I will get sick, it won't be severe enough to hospitalize me, etc. I'm doing my best to MASK everywhere, and ask friends to test for covid before seeing me. I've eaten INSIDE a few restaurants with caution and care, and generally the level of joy I feel seeing the world LIVE IN PERSON - is INCREDIBLE!!!


In the past week I had: a CT Scan, Pet Scan, Upper and Lower GI, Ultrasound, endoscopy, blood work, blood work, and more blood work, stress test, cardiogram. These tests all say, I'm BACK in working order...still a ways to go on the immune system, but we are in DAMN GOOD SHAPE! Could NOT ASK for better news!!


What's entertaining us...


I am a kid in a candy shop...The world is just so exciting to me right now, I can't tell you how long this feel will last, but I'm soaking up every bit of it. Lunches with clients and collaborators, dinners with dear friends, every moment feels worth celebrating, and I have zero worry in celebrating this moment of recovery, and good health, and happiness.


When I think back on it, I think I probably way feeling pretty AWFUL medically for at least the last 3-4 years, and icky another 2-3 years before that. You just get used to feeling that way after a while, but the beautiful side of all of that, is the feeling I have every day when I wake up now, feeling so strong, so cancer-free, so vibrant, and actually happy too!


Checklist of fun from the past 13 days, means I'm closing in on making up for the slow pace at Friess Lake I think!


  • Drinks & Snacks with my sister-in-law Abby



  • Dreaming big lunch with Adrianna Logalbo

  • Lunch with my childhood babysitter and her incredible kid Faye while they were on a college visit!!


  • Dinner at St. Anselm with Adam Ruben & Philippa Hughes, and receiving the most EPIC gift of a signed photo from THE REAL WONDER WOMAN!!!



  • Coffee and conversation with the awesome Ilyse Hogue

  • Amazing drop-by visit from Michael Silberman and Rachel Pacheco complete with the best news friends could bring you :)

  • Drinks with my old DC roommate Leila Deen, that almost meant running into many of Ben's awesome friends (Helen, Nancy, and Joe)

  • Seeing my TO-be in-laws, Sister-in-law, and nephews and niece


  • Sitting on our brand new couch in DC and eating Ledo's Pizza with my LOVE

  • Brunch at Le Diplomate with Adam Lioz and Mei-Wah Lee, their dog Bader, and their baby-to-be who is due next month :)



  • Dinner @ Dirt Candy in NYC with Brianna (Delicious Tasting Menu)



  • Catch up drinks with my old boss, and dear friend Dan Cantor of Working Families Party

  • Breakfast with Sabelo - a new colleague, who is blowing my mind with his brilliance

  • Lunch with my favorite former colleague and collaborator Rosy Kalfus



  • Lunch in Brooklyn with my fellow-rebooter and brilliant movement mind, Pamela Shifman

  • Dinner at our favorite spot, Romans in Brooklyn with Libby Lenkinski

  • A joyous reunion lunch at ABCv in New York with the AMAZING Liz Manne

  • Tapas & Cava with Jeremy Heimans (Former Purpose Business Partner)

  • Drinks with Kate Swann another former Purpose colleague

  • 2.5 hours for the first in-person meeting with the incomparable Kathryn Esteves at Little Owl (my current ride or die at Drive Agency

  • Drink & Snacks at our old regular spot FAIRFAX on the corner of West 4th and West 10th with Heather Smith, followed by REAL LIVE BROADWAY! (Plaza Suite with Sarah Jessica Parker & Matthew Broderick

  • Breakfast with Breanne Rehley (yet another fabulous Purpose colleague)

  • Birthday Dinner #1 at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, my forever favorite neighborhood spot, complete with my Dumbo and lifelong besties Michael and Ian, and also featuring Lisa, Ana, Libby, and Brianna



  • Birthday Dinner #2, Rose's Luxury (my FAV DC restaurant) catered, like actually COOKED in our brand new kitchen with Gillian, Louis, Nicole, Zach, Adam, Philippa, Michael, Rachel, Jeremiah, and of course Raj




PHEW, that is quite the list! I'm certainly making up for lost time, and I imagine I'll have to slow down at some point. However, I just feel so powerfully energized by seeing all these beautiful humans.






On the horizon: Sherry comes to town (DC, which I ALSO LOVE) tomorrow for an epic celebration of my ACTUAL birthday with is March 28th, her birthday which is March 29th, and my mother-in-law to be Sunita's birthday which is March 29th! I will have to do another post, because of the amazing meals ahead.


AND...TONIGHT ARE THE OSCARS!!!!!!!!!! Finally all the diligent movie watching that Raj and I did over the past many months comes down to our selections on tonights ballot. Small gathering with the neighbors is on the horizon.


What I'm grateful for...


It's likely pretty obvious from the above list, that I'm insanely grateful for my friends, a community that has been there through so many ups and downs over the years, and remains as steadfast, loyal, and present as ever!


I'm so damn happy to be turning 41 tomorrow. No comments about turning older being a problem here. It's a HUGE damn privilege to be this age. It wasn't a forgone conclusion that I'd make it here, and so you better believe I'm squeezing all the life out of every day, and hopefully that's for another 50+ years. In this year of being 41, I'm likely going to be healthier than I've been in almost a decade, I'm going to get married, I'm going to be happier and more fulfilled in my work than I've ever been in my life, and I'm going to have a lot a lot a lot of fun.


I'm going to keep this blog going...Posts will be fewer, but its fun to track the progress of life here. Thanks for being on the ride with me.


Here's to being 41 and FEELING FABULOUS!


Enjoy the Oscars Everyone!



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2 Comments


Sam Dorman
Sam Dorman
Mar 28, 2022

Look out, world! I mean, really.

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Nolan Lehman
Nolan Lehman
Mar 27, 2022

Early HBD Jessy! I'm tired just reading your post. Linda Carter has nothing on you!

Have a great time and 'let's be careful out there!"

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