Photography by Yew Photography
Meet Julie. She is Beauty Revived.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Julie understands what it is to walk a journey with mountaintops and valleys. In January 2015, she was at the top of her world, exchanging vows with her husband, David, who promised to stand beside her in sickness and in health. Julie’s son, Max, and David’s son, Jacob also shared in the vows that day, and two families became one with much joy. Ten months later, at the age of 33, she was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening cancer– Leiomyosarcoma- that turned her family’s world upside-down.
“Nothing can prepare you to hear your doctor say you have a malignant tumor inside your body,” said Julie. “My doctor was in tears, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel in that moment. I was in shock.”
Julie underwent major surgery in March 2016 to remove the tumor, which was growing between a large vein from her heart as well as her right kidney. She recently had a second surgery in January 2017 to remove part of her liver. Through it all, she says it is her family and community that have given her strength.
“My family, friends, and neighbours have lifted me above the trials. They’ve carried me through it. With each test, doctor’s appointment, radiation treatment, surgery and hospital stay – these people have surrounded me with love and hope at every turn.”
She admits it hasn’t been easy to be a mother and a patient simultaneously. Ten-year-old Jacob and Max, eight, keep her busy with soccer games, fundraisers, and guitar concerts. She volunteers weekly in Max’s grade three class and has been a vital part of a team who sponsored a Syrian refugee family in 2016. As a photographer, writer and active member of her community with a full calendar, Julie struggled with the concept of slowing down during recovery.
“Your normal life doesn’t stop. Your kids still need to get out the door to school, your dog still needs to be fed, mail still needs to be opened and bills paid.” Overall, though, she says that choosing to live with gratitude and positivity has helped her with the balancing act. “You have a choice. You can give up hope the moment you hear a difficult diagnosis and let the negativity drag you down, or you can choose life. I choose life, every day. I set daily intentions to stay positive and hopeful. I’m dreaming of holding my grandchildren one day.”
Julie has found writing to be a therapeutic outlet during her health journey, and is currently working on her first book. Her hope is that her writing can inspire and motivate others who are going through similar struggles. Max has similar aspirations, and has written his own book to share with other children whose parents have a health diagnosis. “Max has always had a big heart for helping others,” says Julie. “After my diagnosis he had a lot of anxiety, and as a family we went through a program to learn some skills to help overcome that anxiety. Through writing this book he’s hoping to share some support and ideas with other kids who are dealing with the same thing.” To follow their journey, visit papercastle.ca.