Sunday, October 17, 2010

What My Friend's Cancer is Teaching Me: Newly Updated, Julie's Pathology Report!

(Me and Julie, all dressed up for her radiation appointment. She's beautiful here, but when she's finished with steroids, her cheeks will be shrinking back to normal again. )

About two years ago, thanks to facebook, I was privileged to get back in touch with a dear friend from my youth, Julie Garvin Luce. It had been 30 years since we'd seen each other but the years faded into nothing as we slipped so easily back into friendship, only deeper and wiser from the joys and heartaches of the years that had passed. I had survived a painful divorce, Julie had survived debilitating chronic illnesses. But what we had in common was our dogged determination to find lessons in loss and to grab joy with both hands wherever it could be found, the way a drowning person grabs a life-preserver. That and our faith that God was never absent from us, even in the darkest days. We saw each other several more times and caught up with long phone calls as well.

Then, Julie went through another huge trial: a divorce after her longterm marriage. While she was still in the earliest days of recovery from that ordeal, I received a phone call saying, "Becky I wanted to call you and tell you I love you and all is well. But I am going into surgery for a brain tumor they just found today, and just in case I am unable to talk to you again, I want to thank you for your friendship and all it has meant to me."

Julie went through that surgery and to the absolute shock and surprise of the medical staff, came through it with flying colors. There were some rollercoastering times following this, however... a seizure that did affect her speech, ability walk, swallow,and read.The doctors could not get all of the tumor but as Julie explained it, it was the size of a lime and they got all but the "rind." With Julie's joyful outlook and unwavering faith and great medical, friend and family support, she learned to walk, talk and read and eat normally again in just two short months.

Julie just finished 7 weeks of chemo and radiation. I was privileged to fly to be with her in California a couple of weeks ago, and while we were eating a simple stew dinner she said, "I am the happiest I've ever been right now." And when I asked why, she smiled and said, "Because I don't have to try so hard, I can just live."

Before I left for Colorado, she crossed another huge milestone and drove herself to her treatments: the first time behind the wheel since she had surgery in July.

There seems to be a certain clarity that comes to those faced with their own mortality via a potentially terminal diagnosis. My daughter's pastor, Matt Chandler, was also diagnosed with a brain tumor this year and in a recent interview he said, "The reality is that I could die in the next couple of years or I could live another 20, and that’s exactly where everybody is. I just get to live on the cliff without all the fog. Most people live on the cliff with a bunch of fog, unaware that today could be their last."

Julie has her first appointment with the doctor to hear the results of the chemo and radiation on October 20. (And if you are the praying sort, I know she would appreciate prayers on that day.) I truly believe that the results will be startling and positive, simply because Julie's been amazing the doctors from day one. But no matter the results, Julie will choose joy and live every day of her life with gratitude, the same way she lived it before the cancer.

What if, without a serious diagnosis, we could learn from Matt and Julie and live with less fog, see more clearly what mattered? And what if, we stopped trying so hard and just decided to live? What would that look like in your life, and mine, today?

Happy Postscript Added to This Blog Post, October 21, 2010

Good News!!!! The tumor is gone! Today at UCLA Nuero-Oncology they had all three of my brainscans up next to each other on these special monitors. It was amazing to see the stages of my brain cancer recovery right on front of my own eyes!

Here's what it looked like:
Scan #1....(7/27/10) pre-operation MRI showing my huge, lime-sized tumor in my brain.
Scan #2....(7/29/10) post-op MRI shows empty cavity where tumor had been thick piece of tumor "rind" left.
Scan #3...(10/18/10) the post treatment MRI shows the cavity completely filled in except for a pea-sized indention surrounded by a tiny scar.

As a preventive measure, I start the maintenance "standard of care" tomorrow. Chemotherapy, in pill form, at home for 5 days then off for 22 days...then 5 days on 22 continue for one year. I'll have labs and scans throughout the year.

So please keep praying! I guess God is still in the business of miracles!!

Lotsa Love to all,

Also, as a result of Kristi's comment below, Julie has joined up with the Tribe to help cover her medical bills. Such a fun easy way to show some tangible love. Thank you, Kristi! Most of you know the statistics of a woman's income following a divorce... in Julie's case, not only did her income drop to nothing, but she was unable to work having to put every but of her flagging energy into Survival Mode to beat this tumor.

Hello friends & family,

So many of you have ask for ways to financially support me as my medical costs rise and I am unable to work. This week a friend shared with me a creative way to do just that through the Human Tribe Project. This organization was created to help cancer patients bridge the gap between insurance coverage and real costs. As in my case despite having insurance, many cancer patients incur large debts as they undergo treatment.

At the Human Tribe Project, they sell really cool, custom dog tag, jewelry that can be purchased for as little as $20. 100% of the money is given directly to pay a bill or cover a medical expensefor me. The Tribe Tags include three charms: a Human Tribe Project tag, a Tribe Print charm symbolizing the common thread that connects us all, and a personalized charm bearing my initial, "J". They can be worn as a sixteen inch or eighteen and a half inch necklace or carried on a two and a half inch key chain. Tags are sold in the Tribe Tag Store on my Human Tribe Page.

*Nickel Plated Steel Tribe Tags sell for $20, $15 of which is given directly to me as a tax-free gift.

*Sterling Silver Tribe Tags sell for $100, $75 of which is given directly to me as a tax-free gift.

If you'd like to purchase Julie's Tribe Tag go to You'll have to register as a member as you did here on my Caring Bridge site.



  1. Thank you Becky for once again sharing my journey...especially for coninuing to focus on the clairty and contentment that I've experienced these past two months. The joy of that gift alone makes me a bit giddy at times...hard to explain to people when your diagnosis is so serious. When you posted Matt's interview quote earlier this week I thought, "Exactly! I have got to find a way to share that on my website! So good of you to put it all together here in sharing format. :)

  2. Julie and Becky:
    I am inspired by your friendship and strength. My friend's daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor over Labor Day weekend and has already had it removed and started radiation/chemo. The way they share the journey with family and friends is through It is a free online website in which you create a "tribe". The additional perk is that tribe members can OPT to purchase an engraved (with your initials) tribe tag necklace in which $15/20 or $75/100 goes toward your medical expenses. Mia has already gained over 200 tribe members and $5000.
    I hope this information is useful. If you would like to see how it works, log on and join "Princess Mia" tribe.
    Prayers to you and your journey!!!

  3. I'm all for clearing the fog. I have tried to examine others when working with teenagers which has helped somewhat. Sometimes there is no substitute for pure experience and crying out to God.

    I do like your idea. What would it be like to have that fog cleared and living with the knowledge that today could be our last. Wow. I know if I kept thinking like that I would be less likely to be distracted by the world's agenda and worry. So why don't we? Hmmm

    Great words to make us think!

  4. Just reading these beautiful comments. First of all, Julie: You are my new hero, hands down, girlfriend. I love you!
    Kristi: I love that idea. Will definately pass on to Julie.
    Marnatha: I think you maybe right, we can learn from other's going through the valley, but there are some things, gifts, that we seem to only really receive when we are personally journeying through the darkness. Gifts, both of compassion for how much suffering hurts; but also gifts of faith, for the times when we know God is near and with us and that's all that really matters.

  5. Totally agree with your posting. When cancer stripped me down to what was important last year, I realized I was living the life I always wanted.

  6. Lynne, thank you for sharing this.. adding you to my prayers tonight.

    And Kristi: Julie was SOOOO grateful for this information and is now a part of the human tribe project, thanks to your sharing! I just bought my tribe tags!

    If anyone would like to purchase one for Julie you can find her at under Julie Garvin Luce