I welled up as I read the post below by Tami Mikkelson over at her blog describing what it was like to meet Julia recently at the cancer center. Not only is Tami a fine writer, but I think she knows Julia amazingly well. I trust you’ll find this tribute to my wife (and Team Julia’s founder) greatly encouraging. Thank you, Tami, for blessing us with your prose!
I met another amazing woman at the cancer center. The nurses really wanted us to meet and attempted to connect us without giving away patient information. We are similar age, similar family size, shared faith, similar cancers, and very similar sassy, “What? You mean I am bald?” kinda attitudes. We missed each other a few times, but on one of my appointments I thought I would go back and see if she was around or at least find out when she would be in. Of course the nurses couldn’t tell me if she would be in on Monday when I would, but they suggested I look for a younger patient, usually with long brown hair, and an attitude. I left the center and was in my car ready to pull out when I see two people from the center running around the parking lot. I paused for a moment and sure enough they came running up to me. “She’s here! Julia is here!” We were going to get to meet after all.
I parked my car and followed the nurse in. They weren’t sure where she was, but they knew she had recently come in. We searched all of the chemo nooks, but came up empty handed. I felt like I had seen someone in the lab area that kinda matched her description so we rushed back that direction hoping not to miss her. Low and behold, there she was… waiting for a shot.
I introduced myself and we began to chat. An hour and a half later… I realized we did have a lot in common, but it was more than that. I felt encouraged and inspired after talking with her. I want to be like her when I grow up… NO, I want to be like her now. I sat talking to this young woman who has been in chemo for 4 years. No, that is not a typo. Four years of toxic drugs being pumped into her body. She has grown and lost her hair multiple times. She has had to have a pace maker put in and she can’t have radiation because it will fry her bones and that’s not good. And she was smiling and joyful. She wasn’t fearful or angry. She isn’t dying from cancer, she is living with it, her words. And when I say living with it, I mean just that. Her chemo infusions are a part of her routine, but they don’t dictate her attitude. They may affect how much she can do, but don’t prevent her from living her life.
I was so excited to visit with her and had no idea how much it would affect me. I feel stronger having met her. She fights for herself and for her family. She oozes life from her very being. You aren’t even tempted to feel sorry for her because she isn’t feeling sorry for herself. She also fights for women around her in need of help. Her family has put together a team. “Team Julia.” And they fight and fund raise to help other women going through breast cancer. It is an expensive undertaking to say the least and her family and extended family race, run, bike, triathlon, and Ragner to raise awareness of the disease and to financially help others in our community who are struggling to afford life with breast cancer.
Add Julia and her family to your prayers. I know from experience that there are days… The mental game is a tough one and even the strongest of warriors need support and encouragement.