For Leitchfield native Julie Richardson, the most difficult part of fighting breast cancer was not the toll it took on her physically and mentally, but the strain it placed on her loved ones.
“Giving up was never an option,” said Richardson, who knew she had to fight through her affliction for her children, grandchildren, husband, mother, friends, and all of her other loved ones.
Richardson learned she had breast cancer in August of 2013, three days before her wedding, but, she said, her diagnosis didn’t feel real until she took a tour of the Brown Cancer Center, located in Louisville, KY.
Richardson had, for some time, dealt with fibrocystic breast disease, and initially thought she had another cyst.
“You never think it’s going to happen to you,” said Richardson, who was caught off guard by her diagnosis because she wasn’t sick at the time and initially felt disbelief and denial.
She later learned she had stage three advanced breast cancer, and began chemotherapy at the Brown Cancer Center.
Each radiation treatment lasted six hours, but after three treatments, it was determined that Richardson’s cancer didn’t respond to the chemotherapy, so she underwent a mastectomy, during which surgeons removed eight of her 19 lymph nodes.
“The recovery was pretty rough,” she said.
Surgeons tried reconstruction right away with an expander, but it became infected and had to be removed, Richardson said.
She underwent her remaining chemotherapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, and had her last day of radiation treatment there on July 29, 2014.
Richardson’s cancer is currently in remission, but she returns to Houston for periodic testing and check-ups.
Despite having two years of her life stolen, Richardson said, she wouldn’t change a thing if she could.
“It redefined me,” she said.
Richardson said her priorities in life were shifted as a result of her experience, and she learned that life isn’t about one’s hair, outward appearance, or job.
“It’s about the life that you have and what you do with it—who you spend it with,” said Richardson, who now lists her priorities in descending order as God, family, and career.
To those still struggling with cancer, Richardson said,” Stay strong for your family and friends. They’re the ones suffering more than we are…I had a few rough days, and I saw how it affected my friends and family.”
“It’s an ugly monster, but you’ve got to stand up to it,” she said.