I was diagnosed in January of 2013 with nasopharyngeal carcinoma stage III. At 18 years old I was only half-way through my senior year at George Ranch High School. I was doing competitive cheerleading at APEX and was cheer captain at my school and had so many plans for my last year in HS. So this was about to be a drastic change for me.
From that day on I had everyone’s support.
One day I noticed a small ball in my neck didn’t think anything of it until it started to grow and hurt. I was brought to the hospital and they though it was just a cyst and did surgery and drained it. But about 6 months later it came back–I went to my ENT and he admitted me to the hospital. After many scans he realized I had cancer. When i was diagnosed I only told the people closest to me. But word got out FAST! By the end of the night so many people had came to visit me at the hospital. At first I really wanted to keep it a private thing but I am so glad i didn’t because from that day on I had EVERYONE’S support. They sold t-shirts and even opened up a website for me where people could read all about me and donate to the cause if they would like. My reaction when I was diagnosed was very calm as I was in shock and didn’t know what to say. The first question I asked my doctor is if I would live. He seemed to stutter a bit at that question. At the time they really didn’t know what type of cancer I had so he didn’t really answer all he said was that they didn’t know much yet.
By that time so many people had found out. Except my boyfriend. Me and his mom, Mrs. Chris, whom I am very close to, planned to tell him at the hospital the day I was diagnosed. His mom ended up breaking the news to him because I couldn’t get the words out. We shared some tears and from then on he hasn’t left my side and has been one of my biggest motivators.
The first question I asked my doctor is if I would live.
The only thing I wanted was to get back to cheerleading, since it relieves so much of my stress. I was in a rush to live as normally as I could for the next 2 weeks before I began treatment. I got to compete in 2 more competitions. Then the treatment began…
One 8 hour day of chemo every 3 weeks for 9 weeks(3 rounds) and then 7 weeks of radiation (proton) everyday of the week with chemo once a week during this time every Monday. I always looked forward to getting my treatment because I knew it was one step closer to being cancer free! I had wonderful moms driving me to radiation everyday so my mom could continue to work. I had the greatest team of doctors who were so reassuring, they helped me feel like I could make it through no matter how hard it got. They told me about all the side effects, but I really underestimated the radiation. During chemo iNdidn’t feel any different then my normal self besides the fact that I would get supper tired the first 2-3 day right after. But the real struggle started when I began radiation. I was fine the first couple of weeks then BAM! Next thing you know I’m in and out of the emergency room not able to eat because my throat felt like it was on fire, like someone had poured super hot sauce into my mouth. I lost about the 30lbs. Went all the way down to about 85. My original weight is about 120lbs. BUT I wasn’t alone. People from all over, and especially my High School, played such a huge role. As I became sicker and more and more scared to take radiation, I was determined to get through it because of all the people rooting for me. My mom never left my side! I wouldn’t be here without her.
But I really underestimated the radiation.
Eventually I stopped going to school and was homeschooled. Sometimes I would go if I felt well enough. It was my senior year and I loved my school so much, to not be able to be there everyday cheering and showing school spirit was very hard for me. Prom time came around. I wasn’t attending school at this time because I had so many doctor’s appointments and wasn’t feeling all that great when I found out through some students that I was nominated for Prom Queen.
So many people helped me in the process to get ready for that night. I refused to miss it and everything that came along with it. When the day came, the only thing I had the strength to do was my own makeup. My boyfriend’s sisters helped me get dressed and had someone to do my hair. I wore a wig because by this time I had no hair, which, to be honest, I didn’t mind. Although I didn’t like the bald look, it was one less thing I had to deal with on a regular basis. The night of prom Mrs. Chris took me under her wing–it was just a night of vomiting and fake eyelashes falling off. I told my boyfriend I would just stay with his mom and show up at the dance later when it was time to announce Prom Queen and King. He offered to stay with me but I didn’t want to take the memories of such a big night away from him.
I was in a rush to live as normally as I could.
The teachers let me come into the place where the dance was and stay in a room all by myself with Mrs. Chris. Only my closest friend could come see me. Finally, I came out waiting for the King and Queen to be announced. Clutching the side of one of my sweet friends, scared to fall over, I was announced the first Prom Queen ever at GR, as my class was the first graduating class. To this day, I unfortunately don’t remember what the dance looked like but I was so glad I went even if it was only for 20 minutes. My prom group also went to a beach house that my mom chaperoned, so I didn’t have to miss out on that either. Me and my mom had our own room and I didn’t leave the bed, not one time. But it was awesome to hear everyone laughing and having loads of fun. Mrs. Chris came one day to help out and made me potato soup which was one of my favorites from her at the time, since I was only on a liquid diet. I won’t forget all the screaming and laughs and just pure fun I heard from everyone that weekend.
Shortly after, graduation approached. Luckily, I have amazing teachers and the best principle in the world and was still able to graduate with my class. But a couple days before the ceremony, everything went downhill and I ended up in the ER for almost a week.
This was the moment I needed Him most.
I had a feeding tube put in. I was at a point where I became scared, unsure if I would make it but by this time I was almost done with treatment. I turned to God. I knew he’d been by my side the whole time but this was the moment I needed Him most. Although I’m an optimistic person, there was no hiding the fear in my eyes during this time. But, finally it came–May 31st, 2013. My last day of radiation and all my treatment. I went to that radiation table on a mission, ready to overcome any fear and ready to take on my future as the new person I have grown to be through my struggle.
My mom and my boyfriend’s whole family were there waiting for me to finish strong and POUND that radiating bell! And that’s exactly what I did. A few times, actually.
Everyone stood up and screamed for me.
Right after I went straight back to the emergency room to be loaded up with congratulations and lots of pain medicine. But all I could think about now was getting home for graduation, the next day on June 1st. My doctors let me leave because they knew how important it was to me. The next morning, feeling terrible as ever, was the graduation ceremony. I couldn’t really walk so my wonderful cheer coach, Mrs. Thomas, rolled me across the stage in a wheelchair when my name was called. Everyone stood up and screamed for me. It remains one of the most memorable days of my life. I will never forget that feeling I got that day. Once again, the people at GR are amazing and were some of my biggest supporters. Mrs. Thomas rolled me right out of the building to my family. I left before everyone and their families would come out because I didn’t want people to really see how bad I was actually feeling.
My boyfriend stayed with me almost every night that he could, just to kept me company so I didn’t feel alone.
After accomplishing 2 huge goals in only 2 days the only thing left to do was to simply keep fighting and stay strong. With the help of many, that’s exactly what I did. Some of my side effects got even worse but as the weeks passed, slowly but surely the days got better. My boyfriend stayed with me almost every night that he could, just to kept me company so I didn’t feel alone. Everything was changing. I started getting my appetite back, my dry mouth eased up and all the thick mucus and other crazy radiation/chemo side effects began to fade. In August, I got my MRI scans and couple weeks later on September 11th, 2013 I went into REMISSION! The happiest day of my life and I am so grateful and will be forever.
My birthday is November 17th, approaching quickly. I was feeling very good when November came around that I was able to get the feeding tube pulled. And when I say pulled, I mean YANKED! What a crazy experience. I turned 19 and my biggest job was gain weight and get back to a normal teenage life. I wasn’t able to start college yet, because I was still quite sick when the time came but I was determined to enjoy my extra long break. I have been taking it day by day, staying super positive. I get scans every three months to make sure everything is still going well. I’ve been in remission for almost a whole year since I now. Although I have to wear hearing aids and have new things I have to add to my daily routine because of my cancer, I am happy. I am who I am, because of this.
“Fall in love with your life, your purpose and your struggle. Be thankful for EVERY moment and know that all is as it should be.” #joyforjulia