Julie’s first diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer came in 2017 at the age of 57. With no family history of breast cancer, a vegetarian of 30 years, always physically active, and always ultra-healthy, Julie says, “I was actually a little skeptical of the diagnosis. It took a long time to absorb that it was true.” An assistant professor at Portland State University, Julie worked throughout her treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation and a lumpectomy. “I didn’t know Pink Lemonade Project existed. I’d always done everything by myself,” she says.
Then came a second diagnosis — a new primary cancer in her opposite breast. This cancer was HER2+ and required additional radiation and another lumpectomy.
“The second time was completely different for me,” says Julie. With support in the workplace, she took paid family medical leave and was able to just focus on treatment. Friends brought food and helped out. “It really showed me that nobody should have to go through cancer without support. It’s what inspired me to be a part of Pink Lemonade Project.”
After her first treatment ended, as well as two years later, Julie connected with Pink Lemonade Project by attending two retreats. “You can just be in the same room together, and people get it. That’s why the retreats are so valuable.” At her second retreat, Julie says, she was able to be a positive support person to others, offering assurances that “there really is a path forward.”
Her personal path forward has included volunteering for Pink Lemonade Project, where she serves on the Programs Committee. Julie is also a dedicated woodworker.
“On the last day of radiation in 2017, after 8 months of treatment, I stopped at a maker space and decided I would become a woodworker. I had no interest in it before, but I needed something new,” says Julie, noting that woodworking helped her regain both physical and mental strength and find a wonderful community. “I went from having 80 appointments in 2017 to nothing. It’s a void — a good void — but a void nonetheless. You need something to help you move on. Woodworking has been one of the blessings of my breast cancer.”
Julie urges those impacted by breast cancer to “seek support outside of your family.” She found that support through Pink Lemonade Project — and it’s exactly why we’re here.