© 2023 MJH Life Sciences™ and CURE - Oncology & Cancer News for Patients & Caregivers. All rights reserved.
I am Julie, wife of Jeff, mother to Kalyn and Hannah, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, daughter and sister-in-law, friend and a metastatic breast cancer survivor of six years.My story begins in the shower. A horrible fear encompassed my being as I felt a lump on the left side of my rib cage near the start of my breast. Never had I completed a self-breast exam--that task I left for my OB/GYN. After a mammogram, ultrasounds and antibiotics for swollen lymph nodes, a biopsy proved that I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma, a 0.9-cm ER/PR-negative, HER2-positive cancer with 8 of 12 nodes testing positive.I had a bomb dropped in my lap that I did not know how to dismantle. Overwhelmed with the news, I eventually had to leave the surgeon's office. I was a mess. I stared at the elevator and saw a man and woman waiting for the doors to open and, I asked myself if I should wait or go.The elevator door had closed and the couple was still behind me. The lady asked if I believed in God. I told her yes. She said, "Honey, he is with you now and will be with you on your journey." It felt like it was the first time that afternoon that I had taken a breath and felt calmness. It was just one floor, just two minutes and already I was starting my healing process with this beautiful gift from a stranger. As we left the elevator, I stopped her, embraced her and thanked her. Yes, God was with me. I armed myself with my family, friends, prayers and the best oncology team in Ohio. Adding whatever I could grasp from the Internet, survivors and books to my warrior strategy, I was ready for this cancer battle. I think I ended up knowing enough to get a college degree in oncology. All that studying really didn't matter. God had a plan for me, and I told him that he knows how sassy I am. I had plans as well. I said that I am going to do this in a "sassy Julie" style, and I hoped he would be proud of me.Timing was great for my breast cancer (Herceptin had just been approved for non-metastatic HER2-positive cancer), perfect for my chemotherapy treatment and continuation after radiation. My family shaved my head; we took a lot of pictures, had hat parties, went to school plays and games, laughed and celebrated holidays. I thought that as a walking "bald woman" billboard would start some conversation and create awareness. I still had what my husband called my "high maintenance days" when I would get concerned with the "what ifs." My wellness plan was to allow cancer to live in my life, and for me not to live in cancer's life.I cannot let life pass me by. I want to live and continue to be positive about everything, even throwing up, which means the chemotherapy was doing its job. I have much more to do. Each day I looked for one good thing and somewhere along my journey everything was beautiful and life trumped cancer completely. The headache that would not go away did not go unreported. Now I listen to my body and have learned that my cancer had spread to my brain. Hearing the results, I was ready for action. While they were setting up my radiation schedule, I was calling all my friends and family for a dessert party and hair shaving party when we arrived home that evening.Again, it was perfect timing for me with those innovative people that come up with new medications. Tykerb was the ammunition that filled my warrior belt this time. Aggressive radiation, prayer, Tykerb, radio static gamma surgery, more Herceptin and positive attitudes of all the people that surround me made for another successful treatment.My degree is not in oncology but life. I continue to take Herceptin every three weeks. I look forward to going to the infusion center to visit with friends and meet new people. A world without cancer may not be in my lifetime, but I am happy to be a part of putting an end to it. I have no complaints about my cancer journey. I am blessed to have the opportunity to grow into the woman that God intends for me to be. What I have is an open door to give to others as they have given to me. You are important. Take care of yourself. Surround yourself with faith, family and friends. Celebrate life and be ready to jump into your elevator, as you may not know what is waiting inside for you.Julie Tate is featured in the Faces of Metastatic Breast Cancer video that provides a look at how metastatic breast cancer is different from early-stage breast cancer and offers simple ideas on how friends and family can help. For every video view, Genentech will donate $1 to MBC initiatives and programs (up to $20,000).