In Loving
Memory of Julie

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This is Julie’s story.

Diagnosis: I was 34 years old when they found the tumour in my breast. I did not want to take any chances because there had already been several cases of cancer in my family, so I went to see my doctor right away. So in September 2012, I had an MRI for my tumour and was told that I had stage 2 breast cancer…

Treatment: The doctors performed a partial mastectomy to remove the tumour. They also removed 2 lymph nodes to study them. At that time, nothing indicated that the cancer had spread. However, often when they remove the original tumour, the cancer proliferates. They think that is what happened in my case. After I had recovered from surgery, they had me undergo some tests for preventive chemotherapy. That was when they discovered that the cancer had spread into my lungs. It had spread through my blood…which is extremely rare. How lucky was I? In fact, I had stage 4 breast cancer from the start, but that wasn’t discovered right away.

At first, when I thought I had stage 2 cancer, I was reading about the various prognoses. I read about stage 4 and I thought “those poor people…” When I found out that I actually had stage 4, the reality struck me in the face. As a police officer, I have seen difficult things in my life. I have seen people of all ages die. Everyone has to face problems in their life…For me, it was stage 4 breast cancer.

I had to give my parents the news by phone, because they live in Rouyn-Noranda. For sure the news was difficult for my mother. Parents always try not to show any emotion to their children, but I am sure she cried after she hung up. My mother had breast cancer twice when she was 40 and had undergone a double mastectomy so she knew what stage 4 cancer was.

Living with mBC: It is surprising just how little is known about stage 4 breast cancer. Even when you know it is incurable, you still hope that there will be advances. Yes, there have been advances over time, but the stats are still not happy ones. The five-year prognosis is not very good. I am not a statistic, but I have to keep my feet on the ground and live with uncertainty every day. I am 38 years old, I have been living with this diagnosis for 4 years and now the cancer has spread into my bones and my brain. My goal today is to get to age 40, and then set a new goal.

Once I got my diagnosis, I stayed positive. I continued to play sports, I even participated twice in the World Police and Fire Games, where I won several medals in volleyball. I did everything I could possibly do. Since the cancer has spread into my bones and brain, I have had to adapt my activities. I sometimes go through difficult times, but I share them with my support people. I repeat my mantra: “There’s always someone who is worse off,” and that helps me stay positive.

In North America, we do not talk about death much; we are afraid of it. I think it is important to talk about it, because I will likely experience death before others in my life so I want to prepare myself and help my loved ones prepare themselves too. Going to the notary was the worst experience… but I had to do it. You have to downplay the situation. After all, I might die of something else, crossing the road for example, or my boyfriend might go before me. You never know. We are only afraid of the unknown.
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