October 26, 2012 by Julie
One of the things that the 3day taught me this year is that everyone has a story. Yes, all the stories at the 3day were about breast cancer…stories of loss, survival and everything in between. Some stories were shocking, others were sad and still others were inspirational. What I realized is that we ALL have a story to tell. In fact, we all have many stories to tell. Every one of us has gone through something that has changed us, broken us, helped us grow, changed our future, opened doors, softened our hearts or hardened them. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own stories that we fail to notice that everyone has something to share.
At the beginning of the 3day they ask us to make a promise. The promise I made this year was to not make the event be all about ME. In the past year I added an additional chapter to my life story. It’s quite a dramatic story…not too sad but kind of intense. People need to hear my story but sometimes they don’t need to hear it more than they need to share theirs.
I want to share my story because I am proud of it. But more importantly I want to share my story because I think it will save other people’s lives. I don’t know that I’ll ever know if my story in fact saved someone’s life as I still don’t have the ability to tell the future. I do know that for the possibility of that happening though…it’s worth any criticism I get about speaking out. It’s worth any amount of strange comments from people trying to relate to my situation. I also have many other stories to be shared…some are happy and some are sad.
And for every person I encounter there is something that has changed them…deeply. That funny, sweet fella with glasses….he lost the love of his life and their future just as they were starting their story. That compassionate, selfless family who is always willing to lend a hand…they had a daughter born needing a new heart and even that wasn’t enough to keep her around. That sarcastic, confident woman who’s always online…she’s grown into an amazing woman despite the crappy men who have tried to keep her down and she’s raising a pretty awesome son too despite what a tough life she’s had. That beautiful, athletic woman you see running your neighborhood…she almost lost her son in a car crash and he’s still struggling to get back to ‘normal’. Are you taking the time to know their stories or are you too busy comparing yourself to them on the outside, being critical or just talking about yourself?
You might know their story…but you might not.
Take the time to be a listener…and if you’re brave enough…take the time to tell your own stories.
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,emotions,life,promises,sharing,stories | No Comments
October 25, 2012 by Julie
Sometimes I feel so alone in this journey. I “know” lots of women online who are BRCA + and of course I have my mother. But just like anything in life…it means so much to have a friend going through the same things as you. I mean I pray all the time that none of my friends will ever have this mutation. I desperately pray that none of my friends will get breast cancer. But it’s hard to not have a friend who really understands what it’s like to be dealing with losing your breasts and ovaries at 34…or even the decisions to choose to lose them. I do have one friend who has tested positive but she’s not quite there…not quite ready to deal with it all. I totally respect that.
Please don’t judge me for what I’m about to say and most of you won’t have any clue what I mean but I need to get it out there. It’s hard to not be a survivor. At the 3 day this past weekend the survivors are brought in at the end. They are honored for their courage and their victories. They ARE brave and they HAVE had great victories…I don’t deny that one bit. I have never once been afraid for my life. I have never had to tell my children I have cancer. I have never had to suffer through chemotherapy or radiation. But I stood in the corner, in the back…feeling a sisterhood to the women in pink but still so alone.
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,BRCA,breast cancer,emotions,Surgery | 1 Comment
October 24, 2012 by Julie
Pit 4 Crew 2012
I call this day “decompression day”. I spent the weekend in Atlanta at the Komen 3 day walk. I crewed again but it was an entirely different experience this year. This year I was with my mom, my brother and his wife, my sister and her fiance, my best friend and my “big brother” who crewed our team last year. We all signed up to be on the same pit crew this year. I had no idea if that would be a good idea or a bad idea. Close quarters and family for three days straight is sometimes dangerous. This was the first time for most of them at the 3 day event. I was excited to see how this event would affect them given that it changed my life last year.
Like I said, last year was life changing. We like to call it “The Great Awakening“. I came home from that event, planned my surgery and said goodbye to my breasts. I also said goodbye to the fear, anxiety, risk and more MRI’s and mammograms than anyone should ever have to experience. I became a Previvor. I became a previvor for myself, for my loving husband, for my amazing parents and siblings, for my darling children, for my devoted friends and for those who need someone to blaze a trail ahead of them.
I felt so much emotion last year about making a decision to be proactive. I was moved deep in my heart to act. This year I came to event with my own story. I feel like I had more to give this year. This event this year was about gratitude. Without research and the discovery of the BRCA gene where would I be? I feel so grateful to have been born when I was, to live where I do, to have the technology available to me, to have the learned what I have learned at this point in my life. Others have not been so lucky. It felt so big picture this year. I want to appreciate every moment and take from it everything that I possibly can. I want to live a life of purpose. I want to be intentional. I want to be a teacher. I want to be an example.
Thank you 3 Day family for what you are and what I have learned from you. Thank you for raising $4.2 million this weekend to find a cure.
I have so much more in my heart to write…it’s still in translation mode…working it’s way from my heart into words. Stay tuned.
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,emotions | No Comments
March 5, 2012 by Julie
I spent a weekend in October in Atlanta in a sea of pink. I was working on the crew at the Atlanta Susan G Komen 3 day For The Cure. I worked on the crew which means I was one of the 425 who supported 2400 walkers in walking 60 miles in 3 days to raise money to find an cure for breast cancer.
I carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and carries the BRCA 1 gene mutation. My grandmother was a double breast cancer survivor. My aunt died of complications from her breast cancer therapy. It is an event that means a great deal to me and my entire family.
It was an amazing event and I’m so grateful that I was able to participate. I have already signed up to be on the crew in Atlanta in 2012 along with my mother, her best friend, my brother,his wife, my sister, her fiance, my best friend and a friend I made at the 2011 3day. I plan on walking my first event in 2013 with my husband. The 2011 Atlanta 3day event raised 6.5 million dollars for breast cancer research. I stood in awe at the closing ceremony looking around at all the other people who had worked/walked that weekend to support something that affects me so deeply. Several of you donated to support my efforts. For that I am beyond grateful.
I’d love your support for 2012! Will you help me reach my goal of $500?
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,BRCA,breast cancer,crew,family,friends,walking | No Comments
February 1, 2012 by Julie
This is the place I will leave my risk of breast cancer. This is East Cooper Medical Center…a beautiful facility. We have met nothing but nice and helpful people. I was there twice today and it will become my new home through the weekend. I am so grateful that I was able to afford to travel here with my mom. I am so grateful for Dr. Craigie and Dr. Kline and Dr. Baron who will perform my surgeries. It will be mind blowing, life altering and life saving. I am so grateful that I do not have cancer and I get to tackle this as a healthy 34 year old woman. I am so grateful that the BRCA test was conclusive and I was able to confidently move foward with this step. I am so grateful for each and every person who is at home feeding, hugging, nurturing, driving, dressing, bathing, teaching, snuggling, and taking care of my dear sweet children.
I feel the prayers and positive energy of my friends. I am envisioning the candles that will be lit for me tomorrow. I pray for peace for my friends and family while I’m under. My wish is that tomorrow not only changes my own life but that it changes many people’s lives. I hope it inspires a woman to get her mammograms or research her genetics. I hope it encourages a husband to be completely supportive of radical preventative measures his wife may want to take for her health. I hope that it challenges more people to participate in the 3day and other events that support breast cancer research. We need more research. We need to find a cure.
Goodbye to the breasts I know and have loved…the breasts that have nourished my three children and have been loved by my husband. I am looking forward to meeting my new breasts…the ones that will carry me into my old age. I suppose if you want to be technical I have known those breasts all along since they will come from my back side. :)
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,plastic surgeon,surgeon,travel | No Comments
October 28, 2011 by Julie
My first appointment…with a breast surgeon in Atlanta. Mom is going with me. It makes me feel good to be in action…moving towards something. I went today and picked up my old mammogram films. I feel so grateful to have my family nearby…and have my mother with me for this journey. It’s time to do what needs to be done.
“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
I am almost 34. I feel so young to even be thinking about this sort of thing but at the closing ceremony, in pink, I saw so many women who looked to be my age. How in the world? It’s overwhelming…daunting to think about how many people are affected by this disease. I feel nauseous when I think about it. My grandmother was 38…so very close to my age. What if we didn’t have this research? What if I didn’t know or have access to surveillance testing. I am humbled. It reminds me that you have to live life everyday to the full. Do what you really want…be who you really want to be.
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,breast cancer,surgeon | No Comments
October 27, 2011 by Julie
Last night was the first night that my husband and I got to talk about the 3day event. Such is life when you have three children…it takes a while to connect. I think it was actually good that I didn’t talk to him about it on Monday or Tuesday…it gave me a little more time to process the emotions. It was very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t seen the event before. We discussed my surgery plans and he was, of course, completely supportive. He’s planning on going with me to visit all the plastic surgeons. We also talked about walking the event together in 2013 after my surgery. That made me so extremely happy. I need him to see the event. I am so grateful to be married to him. He is not afraid and I know he will love me no matter what complication arises in surgery. I think this will be harder than he thinks to see me go through.
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,breast cancer,mister,walking | No Comments
October 27, 2011 by Julie
This weekend I participated in the Susan G Komen 3day for the cure. I am so grateful for this weekend in Atlanta. I feel like I went through a roller coaster of emotion. I loved every minute of freezing our tails off in the morning cold, sleeping between my snoring friends, driving in circles all over Atlanta and most of all exploring all the emotion inside of me that I try so often to ignore. I do believe I was exactly where I needed to be with the group of people I needed to be with.
Breast cancer has affected my family in so many ways but it hasn’t been as personal as it has been for many of the people I came in contact with during this 3day. In my mind it’s always felt “manageable” for some reason. To be there at the event really put some reality to it that I had not experienced before. I haven’t ever watched someone die from breast cancer. I haven’t ever had a friend diagnosed. My mom’s diagnosis didn’t even really seem “real” to me because it was after she had her breasts removed. On Friday my friend showed me the memorial tents and though they were moving….it didn’t really beckon me inside. I had fun encouraging walkers and just being with my team.
Saturday…was a big day. Something really hit me. I saw way too many buttons, signs, tshirts with people missing their mamas and I realized that could have been me. I felt so humbled and grateful for the gift of research and genetic testing and most of all for the voice inside my mother’s heart that led her to have her surgery before anything grew out of control in her body. Then my thoughts quickly went to my children and what I must do in order to ensure they aren’t wearing buttons with my picture. It was like my heart was being stepped on. I felt so heavy. I feel so sad that my mom knows I carry the gene. I don’t know how in the world I will feel when I find out someday if I have passed it along to my own children. How will I feel as they make decisions to deal with that diagnosis? What if they don’t choose what I think they should choose? What if they are afraid?
The rest of Saturday was me coming back to peace with what had been opened up in my heart. I had a moment of clarity on our walk back to camp when the sun was shining bright over the empty parking lot and I realized that my path is clear. I will do the hard things that I have to do to stay healthy. I will hold that moment in my heart for a very long time. It was a content feeling…just peace at being where I was.
Sunday was another great day…mixed with so much emotion and so many laughs. Our team had found their groove and we were so happy to be together. After working all morning we sat and ate our lunch quietly while we listened to the music. I could have sat there all day just in the presence of my new friends. It was perfect. We gave our crew captain a tshirt that we all signed. I don’t think any of us were able to express in a 10 word little blurb how grateful we were for him. For his dedication to the cause. For his vulnerability for sharing his story. I feel like I truly gained a friend for life this weekend. He was like an older brother to me…listening knowingly…understanding all the emotions that I was trying to put into words…happily watching me “get it”. I know there was so much going on in his heart that weekend. I don’t know him well enough to really understand but I will. He needed to come to Atlanta and we needed him to be there. He needed to see how what he was doing WAS and IS making a difference to people like me. We were right where we needed to be.
The final walk into holding was so much more than I expected it to be. It was the connection of the walkers and the crew realizing that we were there for each other in a way that noone else really understands. Inside where aching feet turned to dancing feet and the victory everyone felt for pushing themselves to the limit and beyond what they thought they were capable of. Looking around and seeing all the pink survivor shirts. Seeing women my age in pink…my age! Almost none of them know MY story. Almost none of them know that I will be there next year hopefully post surgery. Who else in that space was just like me? Who there was too afraid to be proactive and now wears pink or worse…isn’t there at all. They walked for me. They crewed for me. So that I can be brave. We walked in a line out to the closing ceremony and I was overcome with gratitude. Their eyes all saying “we know…you can do it”…knowing my team was there with me….in front of me and behind me not letting me run away. I am not alone.
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,breast cancer,crew,decisions | 1 Comment