241
241
9

Julie's medical fund

$18,519 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 247 people in 7 months
My Cancer Story:Dashboard



In the first week of May, 2017 I got the phone call no woman wants: "Your radiology report shows questionable tissue in your left breast. We need you to come back in for an ultrasound guided biopsy." It was a follow-up from Virginia Mason Hospital regarding a routine mammogram.


From that moment, my world was forever changed as I began my relationship with breast cancer.


This news brought fear and uncertainty in the midst of an already uncertain time; my husband and I are in separation after 16 years of marriage. 2017 began with our separation on January 1st. Through the early parts of this year, I had already been grappling with the foundation of home and marriage becoming unstable. I chose to leave. I chose to walk away from so many familiar sources of comfort, the soothing routine of my daily life. And now I’m facing cancer- alone. I’ve been forced to befriend solitude in a time when I most need support. I’ve been forced to test my resolve to be on my own during one of the most painful moments of my life. This is where my journey begins.


May 8th, 2017: Ultrasound-guided biopsy.


Until this round of screening, the mass found in my breast was considered benign. Results concluded that I had a tumor in an already existing mass that I had found 7 years prior. From this point forward, the cancer became real and took  the sovereignty I thought I had over my body.


I was sitting in my car about to teach a private yoga class when I got the call. I was crushed, heartbroken, and scared. I felt a deep heaviness in my chest. It took my breath away. I sat there staring at the steering wheel of my car, vision tunneling,heart racing.


I tested positive for invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC).IDC begins in the milk ducts and spreads to the surrounding fatty tissue of the breast. It accounts for about 80 percent of invasive breast cancers. That morning, I was told a lot of information in a language that I didn’t yet understand (and am still learning). The hard fact was that I was about to start treatment and had some really big decisions to make about my life.


May 18, 2017: MRI-guided biopsy.


For this test you are injected with contrast dye through an IV, then rolled into an MRI machine for a series of VERY loud, clanky scans. About halfway through, they inject a large needle (9 gauge core sample) into the breast and take several (8) tissue samples for more analysis. A second non-invasive mass was found: “There is a broad area of nonmasslike enhancement in the outer quadrant existing from the pectoral muscle to the nipple.”


At this juncture, my disease was  considered Grade 1 (good) which is low aggression or, as my oncologist likes to call it, a lazy cancer. The pathology report states it is HER2 negative (good) and estrogen/progesterone positive (also good for treatment). As far as getting cancer goes, I was dealt a solid hand. Until I wasn’t. And I’m sure there’s a poker term here for when you think you’re dealt a solid, and then it turns to shit.


June 14, 2017: Lumpectomy with breast reconstruction.


It’s important to look at the bright side of these things. After a consultation with my surgeon, she enthusiastically reported that she would gladly give me a nipple lift since my breast will need to be “rebuilt” after removing the two masses. I have to say that she did a really nice job on that. Thanks Dr. W. I was focused on my nipple, but during the surgery, six lymph nodes were removed and biopsied.


June 16th, 2017: Reading of results.


Two days after my surgery, pathology results came in. Results showed that a trace amount of cancer was found in node #5, one of the lymph nodes they’d removed to see if the cancer had metastasized. This discovery leveled my cancer up to Stage 2a. The results showed clean margins found around the invasive mass, but not clean margins for the other non-invasive tissue.


My poker hand had  gotten a lot worse.  I was getting settled back in at home with my mom and a close friend with me when I answered the call. Still very weak and fragile from the first surgery, on pain medication, and trying to process this news, I heard my doctor speak the words that it spread into the lymphatic system, one of my lymph nodes showed trace amounts of cancer. AND there was still cancer remaining inside my body.  I wonder for the first time, “Could this cancer kill me?” as I face  with potential chemotherapy and the fear  that it may be found in other parts of my body. This news also means another invasive surgery, as we have  to go back inside my body to try to cut out the rest of the cancer around my nipple. That’s  the thing with cancer, it’s like a ninja - dark and sneaky and shadow like.


Next, my tissue is sent to a lab in LA for an oncotype test. The test  helps patients determine whether chemotherapy will be beneficial or harmful. I’ve failed my share of tests in my life, but this is the one I really hope I bomb. After three long weeks of waiting (you do A LOT of waiting through this process) my score came back an 8 - out of 50. You want a low score for this test. That’s a solid  fail. No chemo for Jules. Whew, relief.


Side note: My parents have been such a strong support through all of this. They are also my means of transport. They have come to all appointments and have supported my anguish and sorrow with unfaltering love. During my next surgery, they came and sat and wait. I emerged from the first surgery drugged up and sore; my parents dropped me off at Evan’s for after care. I was really messed up after the first surgery. Swollen, bandaged, immobile left arm. 10 pounds of fluid retention. Changed. Never to be the same. Never to feel quite at home in my physical form. Scarred.


June 15th, 2017: Genetic testing.


The very next day I did the BRACA gene mutation test to see how all 33 of my genes look. This test shows if either of two genes (BRCA1 or BRCA2), if inherited in a mutated form, may predispose some carriers to develop breast or ovarian cancer.  After 3 weeks of waiting, I tested negative for any gene mutations including the BRACA genes. Regardless, I am always wondering when and if the cancer coming back.


Always.


July 11, 2017: Second lumpectomy surgery.


I had an extraordinarily long wait this time in pre-op which happens sometimes. I was the second patient of that day so my start time depended on when the first surgery was completed. My Mom and I sat together, tears running down our faces as we watched the hours go by. She held my cold hand and told me she loved me. I was missing Evan terribly, wondering why he hadn’t called to wish me strength and a positive outcome. During this time he was taking a MUCH needed vacation and believed I had the support I needed. I was vulnerable, terrified, and desperately needed to know he was thinking of me. Because of where we were  in our separation and personal growth, he was taking care of himself while I was taking care of myself. It felt desperately lonely and frightening.


The procedure included general anesthesia, breathing tube, pain medication, reopening a tender scar tissue from the last operation, and the process of reawakening from a deep dark place. The works. It is not an easy surgery. The sense of not being in control of hits you hard when you wake up from a drug induced unconsciousness. Having no conscious memory of the procedure is both a relief and a nightmare. This time around, recovery on a physical level was less traumatizing, but on an emotional level, I felt devastated.  I had to keep telling myself, “All the comfort I need is in me.All the home I need is in me. All the support I need is in me.”


And even though I KNOW this, it is still an enormous mountain to summit. As the days passed and I got back to the things and people I love, I found my feet. I cradled this wounded breast, wiped the endless stream of tears and walked on.


I have radically upped my game on self care. Healing for me includes, but not limited to:Rest, retreating, manual lymphatic drainage, massage, laughter, meditation, CBD and THC consumption, energy work, yoga and AcroYoga. Talk therapy. And after radiation, the disease will need to be treated with Tomixifin will last 10 years and is a very expensive drug.  


July 14th, 2017: Test Results Round 2


The labs come back from my second surgery. Again, the margins are not clear.  (Insert suspenseful poker reference here). Hearing this left me speechless and defeated. How can I move forward through this with another set-back. How will I recover this time? What will my boob look like after three incisions in the same spot? My femininity, my familiar shape and feel, my beliefs about my beauty or lack there of, the curves I have struggled to love and accept - now carved and reshaped to be cemented by the scar tissue layered upon scar tissue. Will I find love again? Will another human see my beauty beyond my scar?


I have now come through two surgeries to remove the masses, and will endure another in early August. After the cancer is successfully surgically removed and the tissue healed, I will begin radiation therapy and hormone therapy (antiestrogen therapy). In addition to Western Medicine, I am exploring alternative forms of healing that are not covered by my insurance.


I have begun to realize that this is a time to put away my pride and independence and ask my friends and family for help. All of this is physically and mentally draining but, in certain ways, has been and will continue to be be fulfilling as I reach out to friends, family and other women survivors for strength and emotional support.


The time is now to widen my scope to share my story.


So many people are lovingly asking me, “How can I help?”


Here are the ways:


If you think of me, give me a call or send me a text reminding me that it’s okay to feel all feelings. If you see me just give me a hug and tell me you love me. Ask me for a walk or to share a meal. Ask me how you can support me rather than telling me what a badass warrior I am, cause honestly that doesn’t really soothe me. And even a warrior feels broken, depleted and lonely sometimes.


If you are inclined to donate to my medical costs and have the means to help, your contribution  would give me relief from the constant stress of covering the expenses of this disease. Care, treatments and talk therapy will be crucial to my emotional and physical healing for the near and distant future.


All of these things are crucial to my healing process, and I can’t do this alone. As I continue to write, share, and connect with you - I know more needs will arise and I will name them. Asking for what I need is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on this journey.


I thank you in advance for any support you can give.


With love and gratitude, Jules
+ Read More
It’s taken a lot of faith and courage to start writing my experience, to tell my story. It’s felt like work because it is work -- the hard work of examining the daily ups and downs of my relationship with cancer. Chronicling my story forces me to relive and come to terms with some of the most painful parts of this ongoing journey. Leaning into discomfort, however, is a very real way of living yoga. Yoga is a practice, never perfect, often messy in my case. In my life and in yoga I aspire to strike a balance between effort and ease. One of my teachers says, “Equanimity is living life on life’s terms, without drama or fuss.” A true lesson in learning balance. All the work, the inquiry, allowing others to see my struggle, it’s all worth it.

As a result of sharing my story with you I have received a tremendous amount of loving support from my community and even people I have never met. I am touched deeply by the kind words. I can feel all of the loving prayers. I want to say thank you to all who have taken the time to read what I wrote and respond in a way that feels supportive to both you and me. You all have helped me both emotionally and financially. Your donations have past the halfway mark of my goal - that is amazing!!!! Since my original post, I have lived another couple chapters of struggle and triumph. Here’s what I have done:

August 3, 2017
Third surgery. Left breast, re-excision. In simple terms: Lumpectomy.

Soon after this procedure, I went to Breitenbush Hot Springs for a Woman’s Wisdom retreat. A close friend donated this retreat to me as she was unable to go herself. It was a magical three days of reflection, sitting with the river, sharing stories with other women. I grew into my heartspace there by being vulnerable to those around me; I felt my deep grief and sadness about loss. The loss of my marriage stability, the loss of my breast, the love I held in reserve for myself only.

My heart is vast like the open sky; I’m learning it holds more than love and joy. My heartspace extends in all directions and envelopes my senses. Being in the raw nature of this sacred place for those few days relaxed my nervous system, opened me up to love all beings around me -- deeply. I even told a new friend that I love him, looked him dead in the eyes and said it out loud.

Cancer and death and the unknown are uncomfortable places to be for extended periods of time. For all of us. And we all have to touch this part of being human. Those who have experienced compromised health intuitively understand. And it’s easier be held by those who know. I’m finding patience for those who freeze, those who shy away from me or feel too scared to dig deeper.

The drive home from the retreat was long. I knew my results were probably in. Waiting for the call, I pulled into my driveway. My phone rang. The results from my surgery were in. The third surgery showed that more cancer in situ was found. In situ cancer cells take the form of a web rather than a tumor. The doctor sounded surprised and disappointed. She explained that each time she does a surgery on me, she finds more of this allusive spread of cancer cells.

A strong sense of defeat welled up inside me as I heard her outline the newest information. I was angry. How could this be?

During my phone conversation with my surgeon it was made clear to me that my choices were these:

1) Try again to blindly re-excise the cancer out (this is a gamble because the cells are spread out like an invisible web), or 2) Undergo a mastectomy with axillary node dissection.

The word Mastectomy -- the thought of literally losing a part of myself -- makes me want to throw up. You hear the phrase, “I lost that part of myself” used figuratively, but this is the real deal. If I did this thing, I would lose a physical part of me, a part that carries with it the weight of my female identity, the richness of my sexuality, the strength of my yoga practice. I would be flattened on my left side, nippleless and scarred. Healing from this on a physical level takes anywhere from three to six weeks. Emotionally -- a lifetime. Again, it triggers my ego (will I find my life partner who will see my beauty beyond my physicality), my vanity (will I still appear beautiful), my need to fit into society’s standard of beauty as an aging woman (yes, I’ll forever rock my silver fox head of hair!). I’m a childlike 46 year old, facing the world as a survivor of a life-changing disease -- and I am one of many.

So many people I talk with about these fears just blink at me and say, “SO WHAT? Do you want to live???? Cut it off! You can get a new one.” I sigh. There are a whole lot of things that construct a valuable and meaningful life, and yes, of course I want to live. The question is: How do I let go? Of my breast, of my life partner, of my identity as I know it.

Aug 14, 2017

I met with my surgeon. She examined my breast to assess what the next steps could be. Now I am faced with big decisions about the future of my body and my health.

Since my first post about my breast cancer, I have received a TON of loving support from all of you. I want you to know how deeply moved and lifted up I have felt from each and every one of you. Words cannot express my gratitude for your emotional and financial generosity. It takes my breath away. You have helped me raise over $12K in a very short period of time. Thank you for that. Every little bit helps. Here are some other ways you can support me:

YOGA BENEFIT CLASSES!!!!!
In addition to the hugs, notes, eye contact, snuggles, walks, meals, coffee, and shared experiences, here are some amazing classes you can take as another way of showing up! All classes listed here are donation based, all are welcome and no one will be turned away based on payment.

Lotus Yoga
Saturday September 30th 6-8pm
All levels slow flow honoring Fall Equinox
Asana, meditation and intention setting led by ME!
accompanied by live music
www.lotusyoga.biz

Lotus Yoga
Saturday October 7th 1-2pm
Lift me Up! A family yoga benefit with Kara-Lee Ruotolo and Amy King Rider
Kids love yoga too! Bring your family to this class.
www.lotusyoga.biz

Yoga on Beacon
Sunday October 8th 1-2pm
Lift me Up! A family yoga benefit with Kara-Lee Ruotolo and Amy King Rider
Kids love yoga too! Bring your family to this class.
www.yogaonbeacon.com

Ritual House of Yoga
Saturday October 14th 6-8pm
Vinyasa, Yin Yoga, Sound Healing
Featuring Troy Lucero, Liz Doyle and Daniella White
www.ritualhouseseattle.com

You can follow me on:
CaringBridge https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mycancerstory
GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/2ddm6z-julies-medical-fund

Your continuing support is vital. I now have a new understanding of perseverance, a kind of strength I need for myself. The thoughts, the hugs, the texts, coming to my classes and supporting Alma pop up sales. Again, I thank you for all of the things each of you are doing to help me and ask that you continue with me on my cancer journey.
Love, Jules





+ Read More
My Cancer Story:

In the first week of May, 2017 I got the phone call no woman wants: "Your radiology report shows questionable tissue in your left breast. We need you to come back in for an ultrasound guided biopsy." It was a follow-up from Virginia Mason Hospital regarding a routine mammogram.

From that moment, my world was forever changed as I began my relationship with breast cancer.

This news brought fear and uncertainty in the midst of an already uncertain time; my husband and I are in separation after 16 years of marriage. 2017 began with our separation on January 1st. Through the early parts of this year, I had already been grappling with the foundation of home and marriage becoming unstable. I chose to leave. I chose to walk away from so many familiar sources of comfort, the soothing routine of my daily life. And now I’m facing cancer- alone. I’ve been forced to befriend solitude in a time when I most need support. I’ve been forced to test my resolve to be on my own during one of the most painful moments of my life. This is where my journey begins.

I have begun to realize that this is a time to put away my pride and independence and ask my friends and family for help. All of this is physically and mentally draining but, in certain ways, has been and will continue to be be fulfilling as I reach out to friends, family and other women survivors for strength and emotional support.

The time is now to widen my scope to share my story.

So many people are lovingly asking me, “How can I help?”

Here are the ways:

If you think of me from time to time, give me a call or send me a text reminding me that it’s okay to feel all feelings. If you see me just give me a hug and tell me you love me. Ask me for a walk or to share a meal. Ask me how you can support me rather than telling me what a badass warrior I am, cause honestly that doesn’t really soothe me. And even a warrior feels broken, depleted and lonely sometimes.

If you are inclined to donate to my medical costs and have the means to help, your contribution would give me relief from the constant stress of covering all the expenses of this disease. After care, treatments and talk therapy will be crucial to my emotional and physical healing for the near and distant future.

All of these things are crucial to my healing process, and I can’t do this alone. As I continue to write, share, and connect with you - I know that more needs will arise and I will name them. I will continue to ask for what I need. It’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned along this journey.

I thank you in advance for any support you can give.

With love and gratitude, Jules
+ Read More
Read a Previous Update
A CaringBridge campaign

$18,519 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 247 people in 7 months
Your share could be bringing in donations. Sign in to track your impact.
   Connect
We will never post without your permission.
In the future, we'll let you know if your sharing brings in any donations.
We weren't able to connect your Facebook account. Please try again later.
SC
$100
Scott Caldwell
2 months ago
$100
Jacob Mihalak
3 months ago
ED
$40
Ernie Davis
3 months ago
NL
$100
nora liu
4 months ago
$25
Anonymous
4 months ago
KM
$50
Katie McGraw
4 months ago
SR
$60
Shane Robinson
4 months ago
SC
$100
Sarah Cavassa
4 months ago
AA
$35
Ashish Arora
4 months ago
$40
Julia Hibarger
4 months ago
or
Or, use your email…
Use My Email Address
By continuing, you agree with the GoFundMe
terms and privacy policy
There's an issue with this Campaign Organizer's account. Our team has contacted them with the solution! Please ask them to sign in to GoFundMe and check their account. Return to Campaign

Are you ready for the next step?
Even a $5 donation can help!
Donate Now Not now
Connect on Facebook to keep track of how many donations your share brings.
We will never post on Facebook without your permission.