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Suleika Jaouad (pronounced: su-LAKE-uh ja-WAD) is a 23-year-old writer, adventurer and cancer thriver. She is the author of the weekly New York Times series ‘Life, Interrupted,’ which chronicles her journey with cancer. A video series accompanies the column.

A triple citizen, she hails from New York, Tunisia and Switzerland. Suleika graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in Near Eastern Studies and certificates in French and Women & Gender Studies. Since graduation, she has been battling an advanced form of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) which, by the time it was diagnosed, had turned into acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Suleika is currently undergoing a bone marrow transplant (her 21-year-old brother, Adam, is her donor). She provides advice and a listening ear to people who are affected by life-threatening illnesses.

Suleika Jaouad’s interests have brought her around the world. As part of her undergraduate scholarship, she conducted field research on women’s rights in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Palestine. Her work culminated in her prize-winning thesis, “From the Patriarchal Family to the Patriarchal State: The ‘Woman’s Question’ in Contemporary Tunisian History.” One recent summer she worked for Oxfam and the African Union in Ethiopia. After college, she interned for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, before moving to Paris, where she worked in international arbitration.

Fun facts:

Suleika studied the double bass at Juilliard as a teenager. She speaks Arabic and French. She’s saving up to buy a pair of “petrol” Doc Marten combat boots to compliment her new post-chemotherapy mohawk. As a 10-year-old, Suleika ran a hamster-breeding business. She is currently listening to a lot of  Sam Cooke, the Black Keys, and Mahler.

Once she is in recovery, Suleika aspires to write a book, adopt a puppy, and throw lavish dinner parties for her incredible friends.


You can follow me on Twitter here or email me with questions, thoughts, stories, and advice at:

secretsofcancerhood [at] gmail [dot] com

All questions involving press, publicity, and other inquiries should go to my literary agent, Susan Ginsburg: 

sginsburg [at] writershouse [dot] com


26 Responses to “About”

  1. Nicolette Asselin January 9, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Write on. This is great. Perhaps this may be part of healing you.

  2. liz punchatz January 11, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Thank you for blogging on this. My mom was diag. with MDS a year ago this month. I am eager to follow your journey. wishing you much strength and peace. liz in Dallas

  3. Ali January 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Best to you! You are a wonderful writer. Fight on.

  4. david January 12, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    Thank you so much for putting into such eloquent words the feelings, frustrations, understandings and emotions that you feel when you have cancer. I am a two time cancer survivor who had to do it all 1000’s of miles away from my family in a country i didn’t even speak the language.

    I tried to write how it was, and may have captured some of it, but not nearly as succinctly and honestly as you have been doing. I sat on my train today coming home on a beautiful summers day in Sydney (I finally returned home), and tears ran down my face reading your words.

    Most certainly in sympathy, definitely with empathy, and completly in awe that someone was finally able to put into words that which I had never seen written before, but resonated so accurately and exactly with all whom i know joined Club Cancer.

    I suspect you have found your calling with this! In just a few blog entries you have given more helpful and welcome advise on how to fight along side someone fighting cancer.

    I’m looking forward to each new entry and your next chapter on how to survive with someone who has survived cancer. There are a few topics to cover there!

  5. Beth January 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. You’re an amazingly generous woman to offer up your personal thoughts and words for the world to take in and, so eloquently written are these posts. Coming from the perspective of the “caregiver”, It’s incredibly helpful to have such insight into the world of someone living with cancer. Thank you ever so much.

  6. Judy Sugarman January 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    “Because I have known the torment of thirst
    I dig a spring so that others may drink.” E. T. Seton

    Thank you Suleika, for your incredible generosity!
    xoxo, Judy

  7. Ali Gleneak January 14, 2012 at 12:30 am #

    Sending love and strength from California. You are courageous.

  8. Stu January 20, 2012 at 10:46 pm #


    I echo all the other commenters contributions. Your blog is terrific. I hope it proves to be as much benefit to you as it will be to others who read it and are affected by leukemia and other serious cancers. Good luck to you. I will be following your progress, and look forward to hearing more about the journey.

    FYI, I have CML; a close family member has MDS.

  9. Mike January 21, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    your writing is an inspiration! stay strong!

  10. David Eisenberg February 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    You are one of the most inspiring people I know. We’re wishing you the fastest possible recovery so that we can throw lavish dinner parties for you, perhaps in the hopes that you’ll grace us with multi-lingual conversation, beautiful music, and randy hamsters.

    Dave & Soph

  11. Callie March 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi! I wanted to write to let you know how much I have been enjoying your blog since a friend sent it out to our medical class earlier this year. Your perspectives are delightful and real, and your voice is brimming with life and beauty. I’m also dealing with a chronic illness that made me put school, life, travel, and other plans on hold. It’s isolating and odd living in a what seems to be an alternate universe of illness. Your writing has been good company, encouragement, and makes it all seem a little less lonely. Thanks 🙂 Also, love the new ‘do!

  12. totaltrust March 29, 2012 at 12:20 am #


    I just read your column this morning in the NYT. You will prevail over this! I am 10-year thyroid cancer survivor, and know that you will face a great deal over the coming months, but you will not face it alone. Be sure to take advantage of the Tiger network (I’m Class of ’84), as there are many cancer veterans among our fellow alumni who can provide encouragement, insights, and listening ears. Count on me as one of them!


  13. Dan March 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Dear Ms. Jaouad,

    I read your column in the NYT today. Thanks for the excellent writing. Looking forward to more.


  14. Carol Adinolfi March 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Dear Suleika,

    I am truly impressed by all you’re doing! I’m certainly not in my twenties (I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at 51: two years ago) and there is absolutely NO comparison, except
    that in the waiting room at my oncologist’s I am most always the youngest one!

    But i’m not writing about that; i’m writing to tell you of a friend who was diagnosed with Leukemia
    in his early twenties, and this is a Long time ago…He eventually was cured by an autologous
    bone marrow transplant, and is alive and well and has a child today!!!!

    sending you love and support
    as you enter this phase of your treatment,

    i wish you health and peace,


  15. Jeff LaBoskey April 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Dear Suleika,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know that it is having a positive effect on many people. You are clearly a very strong individual and very beautiful with and without your hair.

    Know that there are thousands of people out there cheering for you and doing all that they can to fight cancer in young adults. This is some of what I am doing: http://www.sunbeamfoundation.org. You inspire me.

    I wish you health and happiness,


  16. Howard Crane April 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Dear Suleika Jaouad,

    I gather you are by now in the hospital undergoing the bone marrow transplant that hopefully restore to you the health and well-being most young people take for granted. You may not be able to read this now, but I want to say that I was moved by the first installment of your journal in the Science Section of today’s N.Y. Times. You are giving a gift to all your readers.

    I am writing as well because I want to share with you my own experience, which though different in many ways from your own, has nonetheless in its uncertainty and liminality, certain parallels with your own. I should say that I am now 71 years old and recently retired from the faculty in the Department of History of Art at Ohio State University where I taught Islamic art and archaeology as well courses relating to the ancient Orient for 36 years. As a young person, in my 20’s, I spent many years in the Middle East: my wife is Turkish and our children were born in Turkey as well. We are now on the cusp of our 50th anniversary together.

    Be that as it may, at the beginning of the 1970’s, while still a graduate student, I worked for the Smithsonian surveying archaeological sites in the Sistan Basin in southwest Afghanistan. As all young people, I thought I was relatively invulnerable, but after two years I suddenly fell ill. At first I thought I had a form of malaria, but by the third day I realized that it was very unlikely I would make it out of the Sistan. Without going into detail, through a series of what I can only call incomprehensible events, I made my way the 600 miles back to Kabul, and ultimately spent weeks in hospital in Germany and finally at the Peter Bent Brigham in Boston. When I was released, I was physically the likes of an 80 year old man.

    Although the etiology of the problem was never diagnosed (Afghanistan being then and probably no less now) an epidemiological terra incognita, over the following months I did gradually recover my strength and until the early 1980’s appeared to be normally healthy. In the early 1980’s, however, I began experiencing an almost uninterrupted chain of infections and pneumonias and it was ultimately determined that the illness had damaged my bone marrow. Our youngest child at that point was only two or three years old and, once he began primary school, I remember vividly thinking to myself each morning that my greatest wish would be to see him through the first or second grade. That was all I would ask.

    At various times I was diagnosed with a variety of cancers, lymphoma, etc., but it is clear now that that initial illness in Afghanistan was the catalyst for something called Common Variable Immunodificiency Syndrome. It is one of those so-called orphan diseases in that it is so rare that little research is done on it. Nonetheless, two very special doctors, one at Duke and Slone Kettering in New York, as well as here at OSU, have over the years accomplished marvels and I have been able to carry on a relatively normal life these past 25 years. I am more grateful to those who helped me, wife, family, professionals, than I can ever say. I often feel guilty, having worked in the Middle East and South Asia for most of my adult life, that I have been the consumer of so many scarce and expensive resources, and in the end I am not sure how to balance it all out.

    The doctors in Germany and Boston were quite open with me in 1973, sharing with me their skepticism about chances for survival, a candor that at the time led me to have faith in them. And now, here it is 40 years later. At the time, I was so sick that mortality did not frighten me (or perhaps it simply didn’t seem real), but in retrospect I have thought about it a great deal. I know it is a cliché that we should live for the day. And I know it is maybe the hardest thing in the world. We always think ahead, make plans, have hopes. In Kabul I dictated a last letter to my wife and expected that was the end. And yet, and yet….

    If I believed in the efficacy of prayer, you would be in mine. Not being a believer, I nonetheless want you to know miracles do abound in this life, that the human body is capable of coping with things that seem insuperable, and that the world needs people like yourself with the courage and faith that adversity can be overcome. In this time of trial, do not give up hope.

    With heartfelt best wishes,

    Howard Crane

    Professor, History of Art
    Ohio State University
    Columbus, OH 43210

  17. muslimrunner April 3, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Salaam Suleika,

    I am so moved by your story–you are strong and inspiring. May God cure you and speed your recovery.

    أَسْأَلُ اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ رَبَّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ أَنْ يَشْفِيَكَ

    With prayers and best wishes,


  18. Sasha April 5, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    I just watched your video on the NY Times website and subsequently discovered your blog and your story. This is just a short note to say that I think you are stunning both inside and out.

  19. Kay April 5, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    You are a survivor….and so am I. I had MDS which progressed to AML six years ago. Even with an unrelated donor, I had a successful transplant 5 months after my AML diagnosis. Today, at age 56, I am completing my first year in grad school, working on my Master’s in Social Work degree. Your honesty and transparency is bringing back so many memories. It’s hard for me to read and watch what you are going through, even after all this time. I thought I had processed all I went through, but following your journey is helping me continue on my journey to complete wholeness. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  20. Meagan Jain April 6, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Hello Suleika,

    I am one year younger than you and am a Hospice volunteer but I have never been as moved about death, dying and loss as I have been when reading your blog. Your story, for some reason, hits very close to home — perhaps because we are very close in age and I resonate with your actions and determination. You are a tremendously strong young woman and I hope you are cognizant of your strength and power with words.

    I wish you the best of luck and believe with all my heart the universe cradles all humans with the utmost care and love. Let yourself move with the rhythms of the universe and trust that you will be taken care of no matter what. And I hope you remember

    You are truly amazing and I am in awe of your strength.

    Peace, Love, Compassion and Wisdom,


  21. Suzi April 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    “Life, Interrupted: Facing Cancer in Your 20s” brought me to your website and brought tears to my eyes. I too was diagnosed with cancer at age 22 after graduating college summa cum laude and looking forwarded to a long and fulfilling life. Doctors didn’t know what to make of my symptoms, either, but after persistence I also finally received the diagnosis I had feared the most: cancer. By that time, my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma had advanced to the point that it was a coin toss as to whether I would live or die. Your article eloquently articulated my experience as a young adult cancer patient, and that of many others, I’m sure. Although your fight has been a longer and harder one than many of us will ever know, it is by no means unwinnable. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am thinking of you and wishing you the best.

    • Suzi April 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      *looking forward*

  22. '13 April 19, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    I am a junior at Princeton, your alma mater. You writings in NYT are very inspiring. You are a very strong woman! Your columns make me appreciate everyday moments and opportunities. I look forward to more of your writings!

  23. Janasa April 25, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I am so grateful I came across your story in the NYT articles. You are truly an amazing woman and your story has changed my life forever. I can’t even begin to imagine what you and your loved ones must be going through and what you have experienced thus far. Keep up the fight because you are extremely strong and will get through this. By the way, I absolutely love your writing (you are brilliant) and will keep tabs/follow you through the blogs you post. Thank you for sharing your story with the world.Best of luck and you are in my thoughts and prayers<3


  24. David Thompson June 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    I so admire your humanity. Your story has so positively affected my approach to living. You are a wonderful woman.

  25. marie July 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    May you continue to fight this battle with such inspirational courage and valor.

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