‘I am the face of life after cancer’

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:24 am on Friday, October 14, 2011

Courtesy Photo

Early 2004 looked to be a great year for Rockford resident Julie Elyea and her family.
“I cruised along through February, March, April and May,” she said. “Everything was going as I had planned. Then came June 23.”
Elyea discovered a lump on her own like many women before her, although she found hers entirely by accident — “I had an itch, itched and found a lump,” she said.
She had undergone mammograms in the past, starting at age 40, but had not had one in five years.
On that fateful day in June 2004, Elyea learned she was both Estrogen-Receptor (ER) positive and HER2 positive. HER2 refers to the possession of a breast cancer-prone gene and is typically the most aggressive type of breast cancer.
With her diagnosis, Elyea decided she did not need to know everything about her disease.
“I decided early on that too much information just wasn’t good for me. So I asked my doctors to give me only the info I needed to get through that day,” she said. “I also made the decision that the Internet was not my friend with regards to my cancer. It provided far too much scary information that may or may not have applied to me and I wasn’t capable of filtering any of it.”
Although Elyea knew her breast cancer diagnosis meant her life would change, she also knew she would get through the difficulty of the treatments and the ups and downs of everyday life with the help of her faith.
“The fear of the unknown was my biggest enemy,” Elyea said. “God helped me everyday to realize it was only unknown to me, not to Him.”
Elyea now views her diagnosis and subsequent cancer-free years as an opportunity to connect with and provide support for other women. She affectionately refers to the women she has befriended as her “sisters.”
“I have a lot of sisters out there,” she said. “Some I have met and some I haven’t met.”
The most important message Elyea wants women to hear when they receive a breast cancer diagnosis is one of hope.
“What I have learned is that we all speak the same language, but our journeys are different,” she said. “I don’t think people need to hear about cancer. They need to hear that they still have joy during cancer and that there is life after cancer. To hear the ugliness of the cancer journey is not what they need to hear. I love to tell people when I meet them that I am the face of life after cancer, and it is a good life and can be filled with great joy.”

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