The Unwinding of the Miracle
Julie Yip-Williams
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
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Chapter 4

The chapter begins with Yip-Williams considering going to London or Germany for laser surgery, as cancer had been found in her lungs. However, she was advised that the tumors were too small for laser surgery. The horrible news became a torture her each time she woke up, which reminded Yip-Williams that she had incurable cancer, and it gave her a limited time to live. At other times, she would feel it a need to unburden her family sooner rather than later. But she chose to keep on fighting.

In another section of the book, the author recalls how her grandmother almost had her killed. Yip-Williams hates her for this, and she wished that her grandmother was there to answer for her sins. Her own mother had only revealed this to her three decades later because both her grandmother and grandfather “were all dead and gone”. Her mother explains that it was necessary for her to “keep it in the stomach”. Furthermore, the author notes that her mother has a unique skill of repressing dark emotions — or the hiding-away of desires or emotions that are seen as distressing or shameful.

Yip-Williams applauds people who have both children and work on their plates, while also having to deal with cancer. This is because she believes these experiences are some of the toughest situations a cancer patient can endure. For Yip-Williams personally, her experiences with Isabelle and Mia have been tough ever since she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Monday mornings were particularly difficult because Isabelle would be both clingy and refusing to cooperate. She never wanted her mother to leave her sight; and because of this, they would both break down and cry. Yip-Williams felt a strong connection with Isabelle, and she would tell Josh that their daughter was aware of the metastatic growth inside her. Although there are times when Yip-Williams will have an emotional breakdown in front of her children, she thought of her kids as intelligent, and did not see a need to hide things from them.

The author recalls some of her experiences at the NYU Cancer Centre. Meeting with Tanya and Dr. AC made her feel loved and cared for. Yip-Williams is disgusted by the fact that fake doctors are taking economic advantage of cancer patients, and how she has been a victim at one point. Unlike other patients who fear death and are filled with false hopes, Yip-Williams possesses an individual faith that continually cultivates her courage and strength to fight cancer: “I have faith and pride in my spiritual invincibility”. This spirit pushes her to fight against all the odds; she wants her daughters to remember her as a strong woman.

In Section 27 of the book, the author talks about dreams of being reborn. It happened that their neighbor wanted to sell their home; so Josh and Yip-Williams believed it would be a great idea to purchase the apartment and extend their home because, at some point, their daughters would want to live in separate rooms. However, Yip-Williams had envisioned how she wanted the apartment to be like, and this prompted her to tell her contractor to stick to the plan in case something happened to her before the building was complete. What struck the author is the level of support she received from the contractor. This made her believe that life becomes more comfortable when surrounded by individuals who support, love, and care for you. Yip-Williams writes that she has learned to accept the inevitable and that nothing can hinder her from planning for her family.

Yip-Williams believes that honesty is a source of liberation rather than shame, vulnerability or disgrace. One night, she decided to tell Mia a different story about herself. She told her how she was born blind, made her way to the United States, and finally found a doctor who gave her partial eyesight. For a moment, Mia went silent; she then told her mother to write down the story, so that Mia would hear it again when she is old enough. Yip-Williams believes cancer has dominated her life and her thoughts, all of which continually pushes her over the edge. She is, however, thankful that the cancer journey has made her analyze her beliefs on whether she is strong or weak. Her recent results, showing no signs of improvement, filled her despair, hate, and loneliness.  As her condition worsened, Yip-Williams believes that her children, especially Isabelle, are preparing for her death, even though they wish her mother remained alive. The author notes that such preparations for her departure is right, as it would ease their eventual pain. She believes they are grieving together as a family, and she refers to this particular aspect as the “gift of grief”. Through the gift of grief, the author thinks that they are collectively mourning her death.


In this chapter, Yip-Williams talks explicitly about the events that occurred in 2015, specifically after having established that cancer was in her lungs. She did not receive the news lightly as she had “fallen into complete darkness”. The cancer had begun spreading throughout her body, and this was making her both angry and scared at the same time. Once again the author questions God for having her experience these kinds of trials and tribulations, and asking, “Haven’t I had enough suffering? Haven’t I lived a good and moral life?” The main idea brought out from this sentiment is that cancer makes people experience low moments in their lives, with questions as to why they were the ones who had to persevere the painful experiences of battling this condition.

Another idea that is brought out in this chapter is the aspect of “keeping it in the stomach”. This phrase is used by the author to refer to the act of keeping painful secrets just for the sake of maintaining peace. It took the author’s mother 28 years to reveal what almost befell her upon the realization of her family learning that she was born blind. This was because revealing the truth would disrupt peace between Yip-Williams and her grandmother. She also discusses the aspect of honesty in this chapter, and how she realised that there is no point in hiding the truth from her daughters, telling one of them about her life events since birth. She perceives honesty as a source of liberation for her children, which would prepare them for the future.

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