“About six years………”
The doctor kept speaking but the words evaporated into thin air as Julie quickly did mental math to figure out what ages her children would be when she died. Flashes of all the events she would miss flitted across her mind. Julie had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
In December of 2018 her journey began, all of this because she had severe back pain and was extremely tired. Once it became difficult to walk she went in for an MRI and was told she needed to go to the emergency room because a tumor had broken her spine and she could potentially be paralyzed. After the surgery it took the doctors an additional 24 hours to diagnose her. multiple myeloma is rare in young patients, no one suspected a young mother of two could possibly have it. Most people who develop myeloma are 50 years or older. Yet, there she was.
After the surgery, Julie needed to learn to walk again. Doing daily routine tasks that helped improve her balance, strengthen her muscles and build her confidence, she slowly learned to walk again. Her family and friends supported her through every missed and made step of the way. A vision board and journaling helped her stay hopeful. She spent 2019 fighting and worrying. She started treatment on Christmas Eve; a previously joyous occasion was instead filled with anxiety. Five months later, in May of 2019, she would receive a stem cell transplant. While they were her own stem cells, she was too scared to learn about the process and she spent months anxious about what her journey would entail.
Julie wanted to share her story because there are people who do not fit into the normal categories of cancer patients. Those you don't expect to get certain cancers, but still do. These people feel alone in their journey, and face certain struggles that others do not. Due to her age, Julie needs to take a pregnancy test every month in order to refill her daily maintenance medicine and has even faced multiple false positive pregnancy tests which have resulted in her having to stop treatment.
Doctors believe this phenomenon is caused by multiple myeloma cells, but there are few cases with this reaction because so few people the same age as Julie have been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Julie once met another woman, similar to her in age that had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and for a moment she didn't feel so alone. The two bonded and shared stories of their struggles, and found a level of understanding and connection. Everyone deserves understanding. And everyone deserves to be understood.
Currently, Julie is in recovery and wants everyone to know that every journey is different. A statistic is simply that, a number. She hopes that by sharing her story, more people will find a place in the cancer community, and connections can be created.
Written by LLS Story Volunteer, Naomi Boxman