My light through the darkness
Julie with daughter Skyler Jade
I was 36 when I was diagnosed. The news didn’t surprise me, but my age and the timing in my life did surprise me.
Both my grandmothers had breast cancer, and when my mother had breast cancer when I was 30, I went and got gene tested. I came back negative for BRAC1 and BRAC2 and was told that I was back in the general population of statistics of getting breast cancer. So I went about my life thinking I would most likely get breast cancer, but after menopause like the general population.
At 35, I gave birth to the most beautiful and wonderful gift of my life – Skyler Jade. I breastfed her for eight months, enjoying this most magnificent time, not even considering breast cancer as a possibility at that stage of my life.
Two weeks after I stopped breastfeeding, I not only felt, but also saw, a huge lump in my breast. Ductal adenocarcinoma, stage II, oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) with lymph node involvement.
I had four rounds of chemo and a bilateral nipple-sparing mastectomy with axillary clearance. I am currently going through 25 sessions of radiation.
The one person that kept me going and made the biggest difference in my journey was my precious little girl. I described her as my therapy, my medicine, during some very sick days with chemo. She was my reason for fighting. Although it was challenging at times, she certainly made the days and long nights better, just with a smile or by watching her learn to walk, talk, play and cuddle.
It was magic and light at a time of my life when some moments were dark. I was desperate to protect her from what was happening to me and be as normal as possible around her, which many breast cancer survivors can relate to.
Having a strong reason to survive and protect gives the strongest reason to cope, stay positive and not allow cancer to win. Fight like a girl.
First published in The Beacon, issue 78, Autumn 2017