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My Future Grandchild Got Me Through Breast Cancer

My Future Grandchild Got Me Through Breast Cancer

2017 was to be my year! I was turning 50, celebrating 30 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart, and due to take the two youngest of our five children on an overdue vacation. Cancer was not on my calendar.

Funny thing about cancer, though, it has its own agenda with no rhyme, reason, season or timeline.

Having previously worked in oncology at a local hospital, I was very diligent about my annual examinations. In May of 2016, I had a completely clear breast exam.

So how, just over one year later with no family history and a totally negative genetic screening, could I have advanced, aggressive HER2-positive breast cancer?

breast cancerIn an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the end of those dreaded words, “We are sorry, you have cancer,” my life and my family’s life were indelibly changed. I was surprised to find, though, that within this journey, I would learn to not only survive, but to also thrive.

Between June and November, I completed chemotherapy and antibody specific treatments every three weeks. I had a double mastectomy and many lymph nodes removed. I began physical therapy and waited to begin radiation treatments in January. I also had the rare but amazing occurrence, of having a complete pathological response to my treatment, which was chemotherapy, Herceptin and Perjeta.

However, in December we received the best news yet, news which made every bit of my fight to survive worth it. On Christmas Day, our eldest daughter and son-in-law surprised us with the great news that they were expecting their first child, our first grand baby!

Today, I am so grateful for my medical dream team, which has taken wonderful care of me. And very importantly, I’m thankful for the science that extended my life, allowing me to meet and hold my granddaughter, who arrived in August!

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This past August, 51 year old Julie became a grandmother for the first time. An event in and of itself, becoming a grandparent played an even larger role in Julie’s life.

Two years ago, Julie got the shock of her life when her family doctor found a lump in her armpit during a routine physical. She had always been so diligent with her health that she assumed it wasn’t going to be anything to worry about, until she noticed the concerned look on her doctor’s face and the urgency of his calls for follow-up appointments. Suddenly the world was spinning too quickly for this former rodeo queen who has five children with her high school sweetheart. She wanted to be around for the grandchildren she knew were coming.

Within days, Julie received a diagnosis of Stage IIIc breast cancer. She also learned she was HER2-positive, an aggressive form of the disease. Julie worked for years as a hospital cancer registrar and had heard so many tough stories, but she was determined to fight. She connected with a veteran oncologist at the University of Arizona, who was a breast cancer survivor herself, and they developed her plan of care to begin treatment with Perjeta, a HER2+ targeted therapy.

Nearly a year later, Julie is wrapping up treatment and lives with the greatest intention each day. With thanksgiving in her heart, Julie started keeping notes on her phone entitled The Gifts of Cancer. “The science that is available to us now is just amazing. I’m grateful for the science, the research, the medicines. I’m thankful for my doctors. When your mortality is brought to the forefront of your mind, it changes your thinking … there are so many things you don’t sweat anymore …  you learn you can’t take people or time for granted.”

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