Hi, I am Julie! At the young age of 60, I’ve lived a lot of life! I grew up in Cleveland as the second of four siblings, with a sister and two brothers. Growing up I was always a creative soul. I loved photography and being artistic and also had a passion for horses. My Dad would also take us skiing when I was younger, which eventually inspired me to attend the University of Colorado. During my time there, I fell even more in love with all things outdoors. I loved spending time horseback riding, doing lots of yoga, skiing, and mountain climbing. I graduated from CU with a degree in Ceramics and American Studies and then got my first job out of college in Vail, CO, where I taught skiing for about four years. After that, I went to Art school in Denver, after which I ended up in advertising sales for Boulder Magazine and Brock Media.
It was this job that led me to meet my husband. He owned a bike shop, and I went in and sold him an ad for Boulder Magazine. We got married and eventually moved to Golden, CO, where he opened a new bike shop in Lakewood and we began our family.
It was in 2005 when I had my first medical scare. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My daughters were 6 and 3 years old at the time. It was a crazy and very unexpected time for me and my family. I had surgery to have the tumor removed, which was traumatic and scary, especially with two little girls at home, but all went well. After recovery, I thought I dodged a bullet and wouldn’t see doctors for a very long time, but that wasn’t the case.
It was 2008 at this point. I’ll never forget the moment. I got out of the shower, was drying myself off, and felt a marble in my upper left breast. I think at that very moment, I knew I had breast cancer. Years and years prior, when I was six months pregnant with our oldest daughter Sadie, my dearest friend Jodi passed away from breast cancer. I remember thinking, there is no way I could ever handle having breast cancer. It was horrific, and those memories stayed with me, so I was very, very, very scared. After finding the lump I headed to my doctor for a mammogram.
I remember being in yoga class, just waiting for a call from the doctor. It was so scary, and I remember feeling almost paralyzed. The hardest part was waiting; just the unknown was terrifying. I was on the back steps in the basement of a friend’s house when I got the news. My biopsies were positive for Multifocal Breast Cancer. It was devastating. As the days went on, I became overwhelmed with the complex information, terminology, decisions to make, and my schedule of new appointments that came with my diagnosis. That’s when I knew I needed to create an organizational system to control my chaos. Once I realized that and got a grip, it was all about living, beating it, and putting it behind me.
I shared the news with my friends and family and It was interesting how much time I spent educating others on my diagnosis, which I guess, in hindsight, was therapeutic for me and also helped me to better understand my diagnosis and treatment options. I wasn’t one to hide anything that was going on. Everything was all out in the open. I talked to my kids a lot about it even though they were both very young, but I felt it was super important that it was an open-ended conversation and there was nothing to hide. There was nothing that was off-limits in terms of topics to talk about.
One day, something inside me just took over, and I got very focused, organized, and determined to beat the damn thing. I got myself a planner and organized everything, all my details, etc. It was so beneficial that I ended up sharing it with my sister and my mom, who were taking care of me, as well as my nurses and my doctors. It was incredibly impactful in helping my mental state. I’d never felt so competent. I felt in control, empowered, informed, educated, and capable of making difficult decisions. And that’s when I started thinking I really needed to create this for people moving forward.
In the infusion rooms during chemo, I began putting together my first cancer planner. I had so much time on my hands since I’d be there for hours at a time receiving treatment and I started designing the planner. And it just really took off from there. It was intuitive, and the artist in me took over; I just started designing that thing and never looked back. I sourced everything from China, which had a huge learning curve and was challenging, but somehow I made it happen. It was hugely frustrating and an enormous amount of work, entirely out of my comfort zone, but I was determined and passionate about getting this tool out to others. It became my mission.
Today, I’m still working for Boulder Magazine while also doing yoga, riding horses, skiing, mountain biking, and doing all the things I love to do. Most importantly, I am still very focused and passionate about re-designing and reworking the planner to be as user-friendly and supportive to future cancer patients as possible. I have created four versions of the Breast Cancer Playbook, each better than the rest. I spend a lot of time thinking about other supportive products that would be helpful and what changes I need to make as things change in cancer treatment.
The more I work with friends who are facing cancer treatment, the more insight I get into the changes that are going on and the ways I can change the planner to make it suit more people’s needs. I’m working hard to try and figure out a digital option, even though I feel paper-based is more therapeutic. The act of writing, drawing, and looking at the words as you write them, as an artist, is important to me. I feel a powerful connection and a healing benefit in touch.
Over the years, it’s been hard to see many of my friends facing the same diagnosis I once did. All I want to do is help them, and I feel like the fact that I’ve been through it and I’ve been a caregiver to so many gives me a real insight into what patients need as they’re going through this process.
I will always believe that with tools comes confidence and the ability to be more optimistic about beating their cancer prognosis. I will be on this mission of serving cancer patients for the rest of my life.