There’s a tradition at the 3-Day: every Friday and Saturday night, one of our amazing survivors stands on stage and shares her story with a captive audience. Without a doubt, there will be tears. Sometimes there is laughter. And there’s always thunderous applause at the end. This Saturday night in Atlanta was no exception.
In March 2013, Julie gave birth to her son, Harris. Because her mother and maternal grandmother had both fought and survived breast cancer years ago, and her mother was recently re-diagnosed, Julie was already planning to have a mammogram after she delivered Harris. “They say that if it runs in your family, you should have one in your 30’s.”
But Julie didn’t even have a chance to schedule that mammogram. Just one week after Harris was born, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It was a surreal moment when I got the call. I was in a state of shock when I heard the news,” recounts Julie. Her mother, who was still recovering from her own recent breast cancer reconstruction surgery, was there when Julie heard the news. “She assured me that everything was going to be okay. Her positive outlook kept me strong.”
Throughout 2013, Julie endured four months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and 28 rounds of radiation. Her grandmother, a breast cancer survivor for decades, also received a second diagnosis last year. Sadly, she lost her battle in October 2013. She was in her 90’s.
By the end of last year and all of the surgeries and treatments, Julie and her doctors felt confident that they got it all. The radiation had been done only as a safety measure, to ensure there were no lingering microscopic cancer cells. But she still insisted on a PET scan, to confirm that she was cancer-free.
Though she didn’t yet have the results of her PET scan, Julie shared with her women’s group from church that as a New Year’s resolution, she had set her mind to walking the 3-Day in 2014. Being one of three generations of women in her family who had received a breast cancer diagnosis within an 11-month span, Julie knew she wanted to take action to end breast cancer. This was the action she could take; this was something she could do. And as great friends do, her women’s group quickly jumped on board and agreed to do all 60 miles with her.
Just days later, Julie received the call from her doctor with the results: there were new areas of concern. “It absolutely crushed my heart and my spirit. I felt like we had just finished a long marathon and now we were faced with another one with no break in between,” she says, choking back tears.
But in early 2014, feeling loved, protected and like she had angels all around her, Julie and her friends and family (including her mom) formed Team Julie’s Angels. “They all decided to sign up. They’re walking in my honor. I couldn’t not walk with them.”
All 16 team members are first-time 3-Day walkers and together, they’ve raised nearly $60,000. “It is a great cause to support,” encourages Julie. “The fundraising really comes so much easier than you would ever imagine. There are so many people who have a connection – it might not be something you’re aware of – but people are really touched by it. And they’ll give more than you think they will.”
“I have gotten more out of this walk than I ever could have imagined. It has been a positive light in my life as I am continuing my breast cancer journey,” continues Julie. “After experiencing cancer myself, I knew that I wanted to make a difference for other women, especially my daughter. I don’t want Addie Bliss to have to go through this.”
To a captive audience of hundreds at the 3-Day campsite, Julie concludes her story, “I’m Julie, and I walk because I believe everyone deserves a lifetime.” And the crowd reacts with the only appropriate response: thunderous applause and a standing ovation.