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The Too-Short Life of Jessica Lum

Jessica Lum only worked here at KPCC for a couple of weeks before a punishing chemotherapy treatment regimen forced her to return home to Northern California for hospice care.

A year ago, I was thrilled when Jessica became a member of our small team here at KPCC. She had just graduated from Berkeley's master's program in journalism, and her future was bright.

I didn't know she was sick, battling terminal cancer. She had scrubbed public mentions of her sickness from the internet.

We didn't know much about Jessica's struggles until we read this in-depth and powerful article by Sara Morrison that came out last week in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Jessica died on January 13, 2013. She was 25.

Her graduate school final project, Slab City Stories, convinced me that she was the right person for the job. Even if I'd known she was sick, I would have hired her anyway.

Jessica had learned that her cancer had returned in October 2011, just before she was scheduled to make her first reporting trip to Slab City. She went anyway. By her final semester, however, the disease was taking its toll. There were more frequent doctor’s appointments, but she still didn’t tell her classmates or professors what was wrong, alluding only to “health problems.”

Jessica was determined to walk at graduation, though she was in so much pain she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to. She did.

Morrison interviewed me and KPCC photographer Maya Sugarman about Jessica's influence on our work and lives. That influence is strong.

She only made one video in her time with the station, and the article reveals that she did it while in a great deal of pain.

We'll be thinking about stories that Jessica would want us to tell as we go forward here at KPCC without her.

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