Julie Filbeck

2021 Model Survivor

Julie Filbeck

My cancer journey started on a Saturday morning, a normal Saturday morning in which I randomly found a small pea size lump in my right arm pit. The following Friday I was told I had breast cancer and 6 days later I was told that the tumor covered ¾ of my right breast and all my right axilla lymph nodes were full of cancer as well.

It was 17 days between the time I found out I had cancer to the first time I sat in a chemo chair. Never have I been so thankful for a team to just look at me and say “we got you.” A lot of that time was a blur, so much emotion, so much disbelief, but through all of the tears I just remember saying to my husband “I’m not ok with my baby not knowing who her mama is.” My husband and I have 3 little ones, at the time of my diagnosis my oldest was 5 and my youngest was just 18 months.

After all the anger I decided that those 3 little babies were a really good reason to get up every day, even when the days sucked, and keep fighting! My husband carried me through this journey, he carried our home, he kept me grounded when I was scared, he made me laugh when I needed it, even crawled by my side to guide me, he fought the battle beside me. As a nurse I have always been the one to care for others, it was hard to be on the other side.

I love what I do and while difficult at first to be the one receiving care, this journey allowed me to see the gifts of so many people in my community. These are people that will forever be a part of my story, and I will be thankful to the Sarah Cannon team for picking me up at the most awful time in my life and carrying me and my family forward. I am grateful for each day I sat in that chair and they talked to me like a person, not like a person that had cancer. They listened to me talk about my kids, my husband, my brothers and my mom and dad.

They listened to whatever I needed to talk about to stay human through this journey. They showed me compassion and empathy; they made me more passionate as a nurse about the experience for all patients and families. You can never explain to people what the journey of cancer is like, and you can never explain to people how much the little things they do to support you along this journey mean.

Simple things like people sending cards (some even weekly ☺), sending messages, taking my kids to the pool for a fun day, helping with meals, spending the day with me while in my chemo chair, just calling to say “I am thinking of you.” That’s the stuff that gets you through this journey, that’s the stuff that hits you on a day that is awful and reminds you that you can, and you will get through this!

My battle with breast cancer continues even though I have made it through chemo, radiation and countless surgeries. As long as I am blessed with this life I will get up each day and fight, but I fight with a team. I fight with my family, my friends, with other survivors and with those that come to work each day at Sarah Cannon to help me win that fight. In my profession I live by the mantra of just give me chance. I guess you could say that is also how I showed up to battle cancer, just give me a chance and with all my might I will defeat you!