“I’m over it all and I tell you, your life changes,” says Julie of her recovery and renewed love of life. “You just make yourself more positive about things. I actually wrote a list of things that if I got well – I was sitting in a park outside the hospital, I was sitting near some flowers, they were gardenias, because it was October. And I picked one and smelled it and thought ‘If I get to smell these flowers for the rest of my life, I’m going to be so lucky.’ It really made me realise how fragile life can be and how we have to really look at our lives differently, if we go through something like this.”
“We suffer so much when we are going through it, we want our lives to be normal again and sometimes you don’t get that chance,” she says acknowledging the over 2,600 women who lose the battle with breast cancer each year. “I go that chance to have a wonderful life and my life is the best life I could ever ask for. To me, I don’t care if I have a sore toe or whatever, as long as I’m on this earth, then I’m happy. It just makes you think of reality.”
Julie’s experience with a life threatening illness was certainly life changing, in the best way, but perhaps the real tragedy is that it takes a personal crisis of this magnitude to make people rethink what’s important.
“I made a list when I found out that I was well again, a list of what I wanted to do in this world. They weren’t things that I would say were expensive things. I just wanted to go out and walk Manly Dam – I’d never done that. Or go and do things that I’d thought about but never done them and thought, ‘One day I’ll do that?’ Just walking down Manly Beach at sunset. So I drop things now and I do these things because I don’t want to waste a minute of my life now,” says Julie of her renewed desire to embrace the simple things in life.
And while Julie has certainly had more than her share of pain and misery, her philosophical approach to life allows her to focus squarely on the important things, and with a new positivity. “It’s made me more aware of things in my life and it’s made me a much better person. I don’t get so stressed out, I gave up my job and I work from home and I work part-time with my husband and he works from home, so we’re here all the time for our children. Crystal is 19 now and Andrew is nearly 15 but life has changed a lot for us. We re-evaluate our life probably once a year and think how can we better it by doing things or getting rid of things. It just makes you a much better person and I think that my husband is a much better person for it too. He’s been through it as well, so it’s made him a better person too.”
Her experiences with cancer throughout her life have become the driving force behind Julie’s self-confessed crusade, to raise awareness about breast cancer and to help, in any way possible, find a cure. We cannot emphasis enough the importance of ongoing breast health checks. If you are unsure about the technique ask your doctor to demonstrate it – it takes a few minutes and could save your life, like it did Julie’s.
“Check regularly because that is the most important part and to seek advice straight away. If you find a lump, or an indent or whatever, you go straightaway and do something about it. Mine was detected so early because I was on the ball and I didn’t leave it. And that’s why I’m here.”
By Sally Schofield