"I felt the best way that I could fight this was with confidence."
In the spring of 2006, Laura Julian could never have prepared for the journey she had ahead of her. As she listened to a phone call that followed up her routine mammogram, she quickly realized her life had just changed significantly. “When Dr. Hall called to discuss my screening results, I could never have guessed that something like this would affect me,” she says. “I didn’t know of any family history and I didn’t think I had ever noticed any symptoms indicating that something might be wrong.”
Although she could not have prepared beforehand, she made sure she would do whatever it took to fight this disease. “I didn’t want any emotional reactions to cloud my ability to understand the process of my treatment,” remembers Laura. “A million emotions can go through your head if you let them, and it’s hard not to do that. But I felt the best way that I could fight this was with confidence, so I took control and asked about what needed to be done first.”
The confidence Laura felt was inspired by the care she received from Dr. Hall and the entire team-based approach as she underwent a lumpectomy in that same spring season. “I was fortunate enough to have a clinical perspective myself as I endured the treatment process from start to finish,” says Laura. “I have worked in healthcare for a number of years, and I was working at the time of my diagnosis. I had resources in friends who also worked in healthcare, and together we all communicated in clinical terms about treatment. It reassured me to know the nature of the diagnosis, the progression of the disease itself, and the successful effects of the proven treatment plan.”
But it wasn’t until Laura was preparing for her surgery that she remembered she wasn’t the only one who would be affected by this. “My family didn’t know about my diagnosis or preliminary treatments until a few days before my lumpectomy,” she says. “I was able to be clinical up to that point, evaluating my situation from an objective medical perspective. I knew that as soon as my family was involved, I wouldn’t be able to keep my emotions bottled up anymore. I could be strong for myself, but I wasn’t sure I could be strong for them too.”
Luckily, she didn’t have to be. “Once I told my husband, he became the strong, unwavering support that I needed, taking care of all the daily activities while I recovered,” says Laura. “My three younger children were really too young to fully understand what I was going through at the time. But because I have such a close relationship with my mom, my oldest daughter, and my sister, they were the hardest to tell. Women are more emotional by nature, but our capacity for love and understanding goes beyond that when faced with battling something like breast cancer.”
The three women in Laura’s life can recall how they felt impacted by her experience. “I couldn’t believe she had gone through so much by herself already, before telling any of us,” says Lacey, Laura’s daughter. “As she continued to fight, through the surgery and treatments afterward, I wanted her to believe in how strong she was.” Laura’s mother Carolyn and sister Terrie felt the same way. “I believed with all my heart that she would make it through this to live a full life with her family,” says Carolyn. “As soon as we all knew, we wanted her to know she was not alone in her fight,” says Terrie. “We loved her and we would all go through this together.”
From that point on, her family was with her every step of the way. Laura came through surgery successfully, and underwent radiation for a short period afterward. It was in the summer of 2006 that she knew she was cancer-free, and at her five-year mark, she finally considered herself a survivor. “In the beginning, I was so focused on having a strong mentality and relying solely on myself to shoulder my burden,” comments Laura. “As soon as I involved my family, I had the total support system I didn’t think I needed. Now, I can’t imagine having gone through this experience without them.”