October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’m thrilled to share with you the story of one of the most amazing, courageous and sassy women I have the honour to know.
Julie Foster is, as she says in her own words, a survivor. But Julie is much more than this. She is a caring, fun-loving woman who loves helping people. Julie leads by example and loves to nurture others.
I first met Julie in 2015 when she invited me to her Strawberry Tea Party fundraising event for breast cancer. She raised £1250 in the space of an afternoon. The venue was overflowing and the energy amazing.
It was evident that Julie radiated so much positive energy and love for others that they were attracted and wanted to reciprocate. I wanted in! So signed up to her regular networking and personal development group.
Julie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer when she was 59 years old. She enjoyed a successful corporate career as well as running her own coaching business. Julie had everything to look forward to. She was due to retire from her corporate role, excited about spending more time on her business and quality time with her husband….. Sometimes though, life has some unexpected twists and turns. Julie’s belief system and positive mindset have played an enormous part in helping her to deal with a very difficult time in her life.
In Julie’s Words…
Julie, please introduce yourself to our readers…
First and foremost I’m a woman, Daughter, Wife/Widow/Mother/Grandmother and a survivor. My mission in life is to enable success in anything.
Was Your Diagnosis Part Of A Routine Mammogram?
Yes it was part of a routine mammogram. However, due to previous occurrences of cysts in my breasts I attended annually. Thank heavens I did or this would not have been picked up so early and dealt with so well.
What Did You Go Through When You Were Diagnosed?
A sense of disbelief. A letter arrived to tell me that because of an unclear mammogram result I should attend a clinic in Luton. I still believed that nothing was wrong and the re test was normal in the circumstances.
I went through the process with my husband Kevin supporting me. My mindset training over many years enabling me to keep my options open. I knew not to create fear in the uncertainty, as this affects your cellular composition.
We were called back to see the consultant Mrs Brazier, (no joke, that’s her name!). I saw a picture of my breast on the computer screen. She looked at me with an expression that told me bad news is about to come.
True enough it was not good. The x-ray clearly showed some ‘salt and pepper’ markings just behind the nipple.
These markings can be calcium deposits. They can also indicate cells that are changing or are in a cancerous state. Mrs Brazier asked me to prepare for a biopsy to test the tissue so we can be sure what we are dealing with. I thought this would be in a week’s time or some time in the future. NO. She says we will do this right now.
At this point my mind is racing. My husband’s hands are sweating, while he puts on a brave face for my sake. I’m starting to feel like this is not really happening to me.
While being positioned on the doctors couch she and the nurse assisting are trying to settle my nerves by telling me that it will hurt. In fact Mrs Brazier tells me it’s the most sensitive place to have a biopsy etc etc. So I get all assertive and speak up.
Meditation And My Believes Were Vital
“Please stop talking to me as I am going to meditate my way through this procedure” I secretly wanted to tell them to stop frightening me and putting negative thoughts in my head. This is how I rock and roll!
I then calm myself through practiced breathing and take myself into a place where I focus on a star, a star filled with only light and love. Silently asking my Angels and Guides to give me the pain relief I need to go through the procedure. Focusing on breathing and being relaxed and pain free. I feel some tugging and sensations around my breast but no pain.
Bandages go on and I resume my seat with the consultant and my Husband. Her opening line to me. “How do you do that?” I need you in my waiting room to teach all my patients to do that. Smiling I acknowledged the help I had just received. I explain I have been practising focused meditation for years so not sure what I can do in the waiting room.
While I believe that I could produce a meditation for people to practice listening to, the challenge would be to get it to them early enough in the fast track treatment that followed.
The Longest Week Of My Life
I am told to expect a phone call the following Wednesday afternoon after the team have studied the biopsy and xrays. This would be the longest week of my life.
The uncertainty is the thing that drives you mad. I just wanted to know so I could plan what to do about it. Any way the call came, and the result was that I had a DCIS. Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, which means I have cancer cells grade 3 inside a duct behind the nipple. I am told that it is contained but basically could blow at any time, cells would then be loose and free to spread around the breast tissue. In the duct tube they were contained and safe for now.
More waiting, with what feels like a time bomb in my body. The news was shocking and I felt like I wanted to escape, couldn’t breathe in the house, needed to get out in the fresh air. Kevin asked me what I needed/wanted so I asked him to drive us to our favourite spot The Three Lakes at Westmill Farm. We had spent many happy hours there and I loved the feeling of space. It was a beautiful day at the beginning of May, nature just budding into it’s glory. We walked and talked for hours. Deciding on how and what to tell the family.
I had a week to wait to see the Consultant surgery who would perform the operation needed to extract the cancerous cells.
How Did You Deal With Telling Your Family That You Had Breast Cancer?
To be honest I don’t remember, and Kevin isn’t here to ask. It’s all a blur of lost days and surreal times. Walking around in disbelief and shock while trying to function on the outside I was very much in my own head, my own thoughts.
I do remember that my 3 children and my Mum treated me differently, possibly they didn’t and I was interpreting their behavior in a strange way. They had a look of pity, of fear in their eyes and on their faces as you do when you hear the word cancer it strikes fear of death I guess.
My family organised a Barbecue for my Son’s Birthday. I was angry with them as I felt the reason for organising was because they feared there might not be many more with me attending.
I don’t do pity and weakness very well. My belief system is very much based on thoughts become things, so I didn’t want to fuel any negative thoughts.
Can You Tell Us About Your Treatment Process?
Physically I had to loose my left nipple because the carcinoma was too close to it to save. My Surgeon Miss Deol (wonderful woman) tried her best to save it but couldn’t. After all this is about saving my life not my nipple.
I remember her asking me how attached I was to it, lol. I replied I had had it for 59 years and quite liked it. She did offer me a tattoo, stick on or reconstruction but it was too early to think about that.
Day surgery took care of things and I was soon home with my glued together scar and a pack or three of pain relief. I needed it later that night.
A straight-line scar was all that remained of the offending cancer and for the first time in weeks I felt safe, glad that the time bomb was no more.
After further analysis of the cells and xrays etc I was told that I would not need Chemotherapy, but I would be given radiotherapy.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Personal Conflict Of Beliefs
I had been happy to have the time bomb removed but I was not happy about the radiotherapy. It conflicted with my spiritual beliefs about healing of cells. There I was believing that through thoughts I would heal my body and assist it to do so with rest, goof food and spiritual healing. Being asked to allow radio waves to bombard my perfectly healthy cells, burn tissue away just in case a random cancer cell had escaped and was running around trying to find a home in my breast was totally against my principles.
I was in real turmoil over agreeing to the treatment. So, over the next few weeks I meditated on this, consulted my spiritual Mentor and others. I read lots of material on the treatment and looked at the benefits v the potential damage to my body.
In the end I decided to go ahead with the treatment and blend the sciences, so I could receive the best of both worlds. I will always remember the look of relief on the faces of my family when I told them I would go ahead.
It was difficult to go into the chamber every day for 6 weeks and allow them to bombard my body with burning rays.
How Did Breast Cancer Affect Your Mental And Emotional Health?
I do believe that my mental health was pretty good because of all the years of mind training I have done, because I have deep faith and a wonderful family who allowed me to express my feelings, who asked me what I wanted and listened to me.
Emotionally I was up and down and definitely in turmoil over the decision I mentioned before.
I am a natural researcher so I went researching for information on the breast cancer I had and what the treatments would do. In the end I had books on this and that arriving from every day. It had to stop. There’s such a thing as information overload!
In the end I chose to relax and surrender to whatever was to come.
Did You Get Enough Support From The Medical Profession?
The surgical team, including the breast care nurses were fabulous and supported me while I was in clinic and if I telephoned they were very patient and reassuring.
I developed an abscess which created secondary problems for me and they supported me through this very well.
As A Mother, Wife And Daughter What Was Your Biggest Challenge?
Being conscious that my family all needed different things and that I could not always provide what they needed.
My lovely Mum just wanted to put me on the couch and feed me chicken soup! She wanted to treat me like I was really ill and needed her to do everything for me. Not easy for me to receive. However, after discussing this with her I allowed her to put me on the couch and look after me for one whole afternoon. Then I jumped up and got on with life. I think it helped her.
Did You Have A Support Network Outside The Medical Profession And Your Family?
I am blessed to have a wonderful network of clients in my business and friends who understand me. My clients collected together items that they knew I would like and delivered me ‘A Box of Love’ I will always remember opening all the little packages and crying at every one because the thought behind the gift was so very meaningful. They held parties, kept me cheerful and positive as well as allowed me to cry on their shoulders and share my thoughts.
Did You Join A Support Network For Cancer Patients And Survivors?
No. I didn’t want to spend my time around others who were suffering and hear their experiences. This may sound selfish and, in a way it was. I chose to be supported by others who would lift my spirits and make me laugh.
How Did Having Breast Cancer Make You Feel About Your Body?
If you mean my image, then it felt quite odd to look at a body that was no longer symmetrical. Everything about us is symmetrical, well it was for me. Therefore, looking at myself in the mirror felt very odd.
Looking down on myself was also strange as I was used to my curves and now I had a boob with a straight edge. I was assured this would soften and round over time and it has.
The abscess caused an unfortunate dip in the center of the scar which I think spoils the amazing job Miss Deol did of trying to retain a natural shape. I have been offered a fat implant, taking fat from my stomach to fill the gap. I may have this, not sure.
Generally, I was happy to be alive and worked on being proud of my new original shape and look. My Husband helped me very much to feel beautiful too.
My body is still changing three years on, so decisions about any reconstruction are on hold. I know I don’t want a stick on, can you imagine? The tattoo idea was appealing but I don’t want one.
What Impact Breast Cancer Had On Your Life?
Interesting question this as I am a person who lives, very much, in the present moment or in the future. Very little attention given to the past unless I am giving it focus for a purpose.
Three weeks after the end of my radiotherapy my husband passed away unexpectedly, so I didn’t really think much more about me. My health was very good and with lots of rest I was recovering well. Grief took over really.
I was reflecting on this question and realized I have probably just kept putting one foot in front of another and here we are. Not a bad thing in my book.
Has Breast Cancer Changed Your Relationship With Nutrition, Exercise and Self-Care?
Yes, all the research I did at the time resulted in my awareness of what sugar does to the body has meant that I try not to eat it too much. Whenever I can I choose good fresh produce and stay away from sweet cakes. I never did drink fizzy drinks (unless accompanied by Jack Daniels or Gin) so everything in moderation is my philosophy now.
I enjoy food and having the odd alcoholic drink. Sometimes a Danish pastry jumps into my trolley when I’m shopping! But I respect my body more now and treat it with kindness. Not obsession just kindness.
What Would Be Your Message For Women Regarding Screening And Self-Examination?
We are very fortunate to live in a part of the World where we can access medical services, undergo tests to prevent some diseases progressing. For me I consider screening potentially saved my life. Self-examination would not have helped me. I do practice this but my cancer was too deep to feel. No lump or anything external to find.
What Would Your Advice Be To Anyone Diagnosed With Breast Cancer?
Take one day at a time. Be kind to yourself, ask questions and have a voice, ask for what you want and persist. Do not allow fear to take over your life, but allow it to be your friend. Thank it for showing up, but ask it nicely to bugger off!
Be open to receiving the help that people offer, but let it be on your terms. Love yourself the hardest you ever have and be grateful.
My dance with cancer was brief, and my recovery has been wonderfully easy, I am cancer free three years on and sometimes I think I didn’t really go through much as I have friends who have gone through worse and are no longer with us. But, my experience was mine and I honour that now.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, one person is diagnosed every 10 minutes.
1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month around 5,000 people will be diagnosed.
Breast cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the past 40 years in the UK.
Almost 9 in 10 women survive breast cancer for five years or more.
Every year around 11,500 people die from breast cancer in the UK.
An estimated 691,000 are alive in the UK after a diagnosis of breast cancer. This is predicted to rise to 840,000 in 2020. For many the overwhelming emotional and physical effects of the disease can be long-lasting.
A Breast Cancer Care survey found 1 in 4 women (26%) found the end of treatment the hardest part of breast cancer and only 1 in 10 (10%) said they felt positive and ready to move on when they were discharged from hospital treatment. More than half (53%) struggled with anxiety at the end of treatment and nearly a third (31%) with depression.
If you want to find out more or get involved in supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year then take a look at Breast Cancer Care
Inspiring Women Blog Series
We all have a story to share. As Julie has shown, her story is an incredible one, of positive thinking and using her belief system to help her at a very difficult time in her life. Her philosophy that no matter what you dream of becoming it is possible, if you embrace life, if you smile instead of frown, if you laugh and play, if you break free from your conditioning and listen to your soul. Read more….
Your personal journey can be a real inspiration to others. It may give them courage to talk about their own experiences. Or it may help them to seek help or give comfort that they are not alone.
So if you have a story to share I’d love to help you. It doesn’t need to be in the form of recovery from an illness it can simply be your journey. Every woman I know is an inspiration. something that may gruelling physical or mental