I met Julia through the Kick Ass Cancer Mamas Facebook group. Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer when I was 30 years old. I also happened to be 32 weeks pregnant with our first child. I had been very active my entire life and for the duration of my pregnancy. I had worked out earlier in the day and been lying on the ground stretching my back when I found the lump. My intuition knew it didn’t feel right and I mentioned it to my OB at my regular appointment two days after finding it. She immediately sent me for an ultrasound and well, the rest is history…
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I love to travel. I love to workout. I love cooking. I love wine…who doesn’t! I love sailing and being outdoors. I am super goofy….what good are you if you can’t laugh at yourself. I am a dentist and I love what I do. I love spending time with my husband, Dave, and our daughter, Isla. I love spending time with my family and friends. I cannot sit still. I am very OCD. I am obsessed with our pug, Abe…pugs in general.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
Am I going to get to see my daughter start Kindergarten? And then a multitude of others things. My mind kind of went blank. So many thoughts were going through my mind and were so loud, I couldn’t hear anything. I remember the Radiologist talking to me but I cannot remember what he said after “You have cancer.”
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
Working out and self care. One thing that made me feel normal was getting up everyday, showering, getting dressed, putting on makeup and always having a pair of earrings in (my mom always says this). You wouldn’t think that those things help you cope but when you have no hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, jewelry can be a powerful thing. It makes you feel pretty at a time when you feel low. I have kind of made big earrings my thing as my hair has been growing out. 🙂
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of. Where do you get your support from?
My family and friends are AHHHHHMAZING. My husband stepped in after our daughter was born and really took care of her while I was finishing chemo. He woke up with her in the middle of the night and took the role as dad very seriously. My mom and sister came to every chemo appointment with me. My sister lives in Chicago and she would come home on the train every 2 weeks and stay the weekend with us. On Mondays we would drive the hour to the hospital and be there all day and then she would take the 2 hour train back to Chicago late at night to go to work the next day. It’s weird to say but those were some of my favorite memories with my mom and sister. Hours to sit and chat, laugh, while a poison was being pumped into your system, made you forget about that part. My oldest sister lives out East and sent lots and lots of care packages while I was undergoing chemo from a stuffed pug so “Abe” could keep me company at the hospital, to adult coloring books that may have not been hospital appropriate. My in-laws and Dad always made an amazing effort to help take care of Isla when I had chemo, scans, surgeries, or to just have a night out. My friends and coworkers made meals for us. I know there is never enough you can say to people when it comes to thanking them but I was overwhelmed with the amount of love and support that was shown to our family.
Many people are unaware that you can do chemotherapy while pregnant. Thoughts and personal experience?
I found my lump on Sunday, saw my Doctor Tuesday, diagnosed Wednesday, met with my surgeon Friday, and met my Oncologist and started Chemo the following Monday. SIX days in total that it took for my life to be turned upside down. I went through 3 treatments with my daughter. I was monitored very closely by my new OB and perinatologist. I am SO blessed to have had such an amazing care team that all communicated and explained everything to me. I was never told that I could not have treatment while being pregnant. The chemotherapy drugs are too big to actually cross the blood/placental barrier. My daughter was born full term, healthy, happy and has hit every milestone in her development.
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
I have always been a very happy and positive person. But this experience took it to a whole new level. I appreciate things so much more. I try to never say no to an opportunity.
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
You’re never too young. Too healthy, Too nice. No family history. Pregnant so it can’t be. Sometimes you can’t feel a lump standing up- I would do my self breast exams in the shower and my lump was undetectable standing up.
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
Currently I am almost 2 years out from diagnosis and 19 months in remission. As the days go on I do think less and less about cancer. It isn’t the first thing I think of when I wake up anymore. Mentally, I still have my weaknesses and moments where I am scared or cry or can’t sleep. Physically I feel fantastic. I got a personal trainer and he helps me get to goals that I’ve set for myself. I try to workout 5-6 days a week because this also helps me mentally.
Do you have any short term or long term goals that you are actively working towards?
We hope to have more kids. My cancer was hormone negative so it was not fueled by the hormones in pregnancy. I always wanted a big family and in August I was given the all clear to start trying for our second! 🙂