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Julie, diagnosed 2012

Julie was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer when she was 43. At the time, she had a four-year-old and was the sole income earner in her family.

After a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Julie took hormone therapy and has been in remission since then. Determined to share her own breast cancer journey with others, she started her own blog, Boob in a Box. She has been nominated for several blogging awards as a result.

Dear Julie

Happy 61st birthday! What an amazing milestone, especially considering what you’ve been through.

Do you remember in 2012, when you had just turned 43, and you were told you had breast cancer? How it was Stage 3C, with a huge eight cm tumour and had spread to your lymph nodes? How you had a radical mastectomy and axilla removal, eight sessions of dose-dense chemotherapy, 25 sessions of radiation and five years of aromatase inhibiting drugs to try and save your life, so that you could continue to be a mother to your four-year-old son, wife to your husband, carer to your parents, sibling to your brother and friend to your circle?

Do you remember the creeping dread leading up to every test, every examination, every scan after your treatment? You knew there was no cure for breast cancer, so every test meant the possibility that you would be told the cancer was back. The tests started out monthly, then three-monthly, then half-yearly, then yearly and with each milestone ‘no evidence of disease’ result you started to breathe a little easier, think about the future, feel a bit more hopeful. Of course, you never felt completely at ease, or planned long-term, or hoped too much, because there was no cure. The cancer could come back at any time, and every twinge, ache, lump or bump immediately had you mentally spiraling in terror back to the day and the moment when you first heard those words, ‘You have breast cancer’.

And then it happened. They found a way to stop deaths from breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation reached its goal to eradicate breast cancer by 2030. Nobody dies from breast cancer anymore! I know you’ll find it hard to imagine that world, but it’s real. We did it.

Julie with her family

Every researcher who committed their professional life to the cause, every organisation, and individual or donated money, every fundraiser who hosted an event, every ambassador, like you, who spoke about the awful impact of breast cancer on individuals, and families and communities. Together, we did it. Deaths from breast cancer are now a thing of the past.

This world, where people like you get breast cancer, get treated, and go on to live a long and full life free of the dread of recurrence, is an amazing one. Four-year-old boys don’t have their mothers taken from them by breast cancer, and those mothers don’t cry in the shower until the water runs cold imagining their baby without his mother. Those boys don’t grow into teenagers who worry every time their mum has a headache because they know exactly what that might mean. Instead, four-year-old boys stay innocent and grow up with healthy mothers who don’t have to put on a brave face. Husbands don’t have to make plans for how they’ll cope without their life partner, how they’ll raise their children alone, how they’ll help them to make memories with their mother in the time they have left. These people won’t have their lives broken apart by breast cancer.

Julie, 2030 is an amazing time to be alive. For your boy who’s now 22 years old and has his mum by his side as he launches himself into the world, for your husband as he plans his retirement with his wife. And for you, the worry is gone, the fear is gone, and your life is affirmed.

Happy birthday to me.

Love Julie