Join Julie's Cancer Journey

Hello!  Welcome to Julie’s Go Fund Me page.  Julie is currently battling advanced liver cancer and will be starting a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on January 16.  Your prayers and support are so appreciated by our family. 

Julie would like to share with you a bit about her story:

February 2017: The Diagnosis

After feeling ill for several weeks and having several tests performed, I was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer. This diagnosis was a surprise to everyone, including my doctors, since most people with HCC have some sort of underlying liver disease such as hepatitis or cirrhosis. I, on the other hand, had a perfectly healthy and normal liver and no physical issues to speak of. The diagnosis was fairly rare and the doctors in KC don't see many healthy people like me with HCC. I have now had two doctors tell me that I am the healthiest person they have ever seen with HCC. So when I asked the doctor how I got this, he simply said “You just have some really bad luck!”

March 2017: Liver Resection Surgery and CANCER FREE!

On March 6, the liver surgeon removed a baseball-sized tumor and nearly 30% of my liver. After surgery, we received incredible news that the liver margins were clear, they could not see any other nodules within the liver or elsewhere, and that the lymph nodes were clear. This meant I was considered to be cancer free and needed no further treatment! We were thrilled with this news and were ready to move on to the next chapter of our lives!

September 2017: Exploratory Surgery and Bad News

Unfortunately, only a few months later, my first follow up CT scan showed some suspicious nodules.  In September 2017, exploratory surgery was performed and revealed that the cancer had returned on my liver and had also metastasized to the peritoneum (tissue that lines my abdominal cavity). The doctors were, once again, surprised by this outcome because not only was it highly unusual for a healthy person like me to get HCC, it was also highly unusual for it to recur and spread so quickly.

October 2017: Starting Oral Chemotherapy

In early October, I started taking an oral form of chemotherapy called Nexavar (sorafenib).  Although I experienced severe side effects and lost my hair, I was determined to “power through” with the hope that it was killing the cancer. My side effects were so bad, my oncologist said that he was surprised that I was willing to continue taking the pills. I would simply do ANYTHING to get rid of this cancer and am willing to do whatever it takes!

November 2017: Seeing More Opinions

During this time, Keith and I felt that we needed to get more experts’ opinions on my cancer. Although we trust my oncologist, he does not specialize in the liver or HCC. In fact, there are no doctors in the Midwest that specialize in liver cancer. After doing some research, we found out that MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX has two oncologist that specialize in liver cancer, and my oncologist literally told me, “You need to go to MD Anderson.” 

December 2017: Visit to MD Anderson, More Bad News and a New Opportunity

On December 28, we traveled to Houston to visit with liver oncology specialists at MD Anderson and receive the first follow up CT scans since starting Nexavar. Unfortunately, the CT scans showed that the Nexavar was not working and that the cancerous nodules/lesions had increased in size and quantity. After trying Nexavar, there are only limited treatment options for metastatic HCC, but the doctors presented us with the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial. It is a miracle that I was selected for the trial at all. MD Anderson only had one opening for the trial, and they selected me as their first choice out of all of their other HCC patients! We truly believe me being selected for the trial was God’s divine intervention and miraculous timing! In the clinical trial I will be receiving an immunotherapy infusion once every three weeks, and also will be taking an investigational medication that is given in pill form. The hope is that the two combined medications will have positive results.

Today: The Impact of Cancer and My DETERMINATION TO FIGHT IT!!!

I feel like cancer has robbed me of so many things over the last year….. my health, my fitness, my feeling of security, and at times, my joy. It has caused my family so much heartache, but that is why I am so determined to continue fighting!!! Although participating in the clinical trial is incredibly scary, it really seems like our best hope to fight this cancer….so we have decided to move forward with it!
The Costs of a Clinical Trial

Unfortunately, participation in the clinical trial requires weekly trips to Houston for the first eight weeks, and ongoing trips every three weeks after that for infusions. Clinical trial participants are not compensated, and in fact, some of the medical tests and procedure will not be covered by insurance. We have estimated that the travel costs alone for the first eight weeks will be over $14,000. This does not include any out-of-pocket medical expenses or any lost wages Keith will experience by traveling with me.

How You Can Help

Over the last several months, so many people have asked me how they could help out, and up until now, I have only asked for their prayers. However, participation in this clinical trial will be a financial burden for our family and any help we get would lessen that stress. Still, regardless of whether you can donate, we do ask for your prayers for strength and healing during this process. We put our trust and hope in GOD, and not doctors or medicine!

We are Thankful for All of You!

We appreciate everyone’s thoughts, prayers, and kind words. Your support and compassion mean more than you know, and it’s what keeps us encouraged to continue to battle this nasty disease!

All our love,

Keith and Julie

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Organizer and beneficiary

Kristi L. Garber Ditmer 
Kansas City, MO
Julie Garber 

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