“I don’t want to die” were the words former America’s Next Top Model contestant Jael Strauss wrote two months ago after revealing her incurable diagnosis.
Strauss, who placed sixth on season 8 of the reality show, took to Facebook in early October to announce that she had Stage IV rapidly progressive metastatic inflammatory breast cancer.
Doctors only gave her a “few months” to live, but she was hoping for “another one of those miracles that I got back in 2013,” referring to the intervention that helped her overcome her drug addiction.
Strauss explained that she was undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments to help prolong her life, but unfortunately, nothing worked.
On November 22, she entered hospice care, and on December 4, an update on the GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for her medical bills revealed that the former model has died.
She was 34 years old.
“Today we lost our earth angel and she is back in the spirit world from which she came and we know she will be watching over all of us,” read the update. “She will dance at how we celebrate her life by spreading the love that she lived by daily with a reckless abandon.”
Fellow America’s Next Top Model contestant Jaslene Gonzalez took to Twitter to pay tribute to Strauss.
“Guys, I heard about #jaelstrauss passing today and I’m so sad about it,” Gonzalez, who was crowned winner of that season, tweeted. “I wish I could of seen her once more. She was going through a whole lot. We don’t know for what reasons, but man was she one of the strongest I knew. My prayers are with her and her family.”
Guys, I heard about #jaelstrauss passing today and I’m so sad about it. I wish I could of seen her once more. She was going through a whole lot. We don’t know for what reasons, but man was she one of the strongest I knew. My prayers are with her and her family. 💔🙏🏻
— Jaslene Gonzalez (@jaslenegonzalez) December 4, 2018
Gonzalez seems to not only be referring to Strauss’ illness, but also to the ups and downs she experienced over the years.
The late model had a tumultuous childhood in Detroit, Michigan, and things only got worse when she turned to drugs and became stuck in a cycle of addiction that forced her to become homeless for some time.
Her family, including parents Lisa and Larry, were able to eventually track her down and enlisted the help of Dr. Phil to stage a very public intervention. Their initial attempts didn’t work, but Strauss eventually agreed to enter rehab and has remained clean since 2013.
Strauss later said that she’s “the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” after becoming sober. She moved to Texas, started a new relationship, and got a job at a rehab center in Austin.
As her social media updates suggested, life was getting better by the day and things were finally looking up for Strauss when doctors delivered the devastating diagnosis that cut her life short.
According to the fundraiser page, in lieu of flowers, the family has asked for “donations for funeral arrangements and extraordinary final medical expenses.”
“At the very least, please simply share this post and ask others to do the same so we can get it across the world,” they added before thanking everyone for their “love, support, and prayers through the journey.”