Cancer survivor a faithful participant in Relay for Life

Julie Anderson and her family took a trip to the mountains of Colorado this past summer. From left to right are son Zach, Julie, husband Lloyd, Laura (Dustin?s wife) and son Dustin. After her battle with breast cancer, Julie said they are all enjoying life.  Courtesy PhotoEight years ago, Julie Anderson of Hillsboro, was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, which is an invasive cancer that, in her case, spread to the lymph nodes.

She said she was diagnosed with cancer on Aug. 24, 2006, and at age 44, the news was shocking.

?I just went numb,? she said. ?I thought about my kids and whether I would be able to see them graduate and get married.?

Anderson said she first suspected having cancer when she found a lump on her breast, and went to her gynecologist.

?They had me do a mammogram and sonogram?both tests did not detect anything,? she said.

?(The gynecologist) sent me home and said I was fine.?

About eight months later, though, she said she went back to her gynecologist for a completely different issue.

?I mentioned the lump again, and they assured me it wasn?t cancer since it didn?t feel like cancer,? she said.

?It was, however, very large and (the doctor) suggested I see a surgeon about getting it removed.?

Anderson said she scheduled the appointment with a surgeon and he decided to do a core needle biopsy of the lump as a way to check it out first.

She then had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon to remove the lump, but was informed on that visit that she had cancer.

?Wow, what a blow! I went home, collapsed on my bed, cried and waited for my husband, Lloyd, to come home,? she said.

?My life completely changed with doctor appointments, surgeries and treatment plans.?

Treatment

After learning she had cancer, Anderson said she discovered the cancer had progressed resulting in lymph node surgery.

?I discovered my cancer was in Stage III, and I went through four months of chemotherapy (eight treatments) and 32 radiation treatments.?

Her prognosis without treatment was not good, she said.

?I knew if I wanted to survive this, I needed to fight and endure all the treatments.?

As for prevention, Anderson explained that she always did mammograms on a regular basis, and strongly encourages all women to do so.

?You are your own best advocate,? she said. ?If you sense something isn?t right, you need to get it checked out and make sure the doctor listens to you.?

In her situation, a mammogram did not detect her cancer, but a biopsy did.

?Don?t be afraid to ask questions and push your doctor to get answers,? she said.

?I almost waited too long.?

Ask for help

When it comes to asking for help, Anderson suggested that no one should be afraid to ask or accept it.

?It is truly needed when you are going through this rough time,? she said. ?My husband and I struggled with being on the receiving end instead of the giving end.?

Asking for help also means swallowing one?s pride.

When it comes to the support of family and friends, there is nothing better, she said.

?I had a ride to every chemo and radiation treatment and many meals were brought to our house,? she said. ?My father made it a priority to be with Lloyd and me for every surgery.

?It was awesome.?

Family

Along with her husband, Anderson said she also has two children.

?It was very hard to tell my kids,? she said. ?Dustin was 21 at the time and Zach was 10.?

In fact, Anderson said she had lost her mother to cancer one year earlier and the pain of that loss was still very close.

?Both of my boys were very close to their grandmother and hearing that their mom now had cancer was very scary.

?Telling my father was also difficult because he was still grieving from losing my mom.?

Now age 52, Anderson?s cancer has been in remission for seven years, and she has been attending the Relay for Life event since 2004, when her mother was diagnosed.

?I think I have only missed one year, and that was for my son?s wedding,? she said.

For many years, she said she was the captain of the ?Busy Bee? team, but stepped down from that role two years ago.

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