The miracles of Julie Yip-Williams’s life and death

A cancer memoir about a life sustained by improbable events

In August of 2013, a month after discovering she had stage IV colon cancer, Julie Yip-Williams created a WordPress blog. Over the next four and a half years her blog, My Cancer Fight­ing Journey, attracted thousands of readers. A Random House editor discovered it and offered her a six-figure advance plus a promise to turn it into a posthumous memoir. CBS Sunday Morning devoted a segment to her story. When she died—just a week after the TV show aired—the New York Times published her obituary. And a year later, when The Unwinding of the Miracle was published, it immediately hit the New York Times best-seller list.

No one who has ever blogged could be surprised that Yip-Williams believed in miracles. Yet no one who has ever perused self-help books in an American bookstore would expect to find cancer, dashed hopes, death, and miracles all intertwined in one memoir. “Paradoxes abound in this life,” Yip-Williams ex­plained. “Living is an exercise in navigating within them.”

Miracles, for Yip-Williams, do not require divine intervention upending laws of physics and biology. Nor do they occur as a result of optimism, hope, the right diet, or expensive varieties of snake oil. Rather, miracles are improbable events that give life and then sustain it, even as it eventually unwinds.