By Shannon Whitney
Julie Riley, known to her followers as @MissJules, has over 180 followers on Twitter. She tweets, sometimes with photos, about concerts she attends, radio station DJs, going out for dinner and other everyday things.
She also tweets about having her wig washed, spending time in the hospital recovering from surgery and chemo treatments. Julie has cancer, but she is not afraid to share her journey, including the struggles and victories.
Her friends offer her support and encouragement along the way.
Last August, Julie found an unusual lump during her self-breast exam. She went in for her first mammogram at the age of 39. Right away the tech told her she needed an ultrasound. Julie was nervous.
Dr. Laura Sievert said it could be a malignancy, and they needed a biopsy right away. It was Friday and Julie was told she’d get a call on Monday to learn if it was cancer.
In the meantime, Julie, a music lover was heading to St. Louis for the Def Leppard and Poison concert.
“I decided to still go on to St. Louis for the concert. It was a good distraction. Saturday night I had a great time and sure enough on Monday she called me and told me it was invasive, ductal, carcinoma,” recalls Julie.
A week later Julie met with a surgeon, Dr. Kimberly Suppes. A week after that, Julie had a lumpectomy, a sentinel lymph node biopsy and auxiliary lymph node dissection. Only the sentinel node tested positive for cancer.
“It was done that fast. Boone was amazing with how fast they moved with it. Normally you would have to wait a couple of weeks for the biopsy,” said Julie.
A Family Affair
Although Julie is from Moberly, she is not new to Boone Hospital’s cancer care. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42. She’s 20 years out now, and supporting her daughter’s battle.
“She’s been my cheerleader every step of the way,” said Julie of her mom. “She knows what it feels like.”
Her father had myelodysplastic syndrome and was treated at Boone, too. Julie’s oncologist is the same oncologist who treated her father and her mother: Dr. Mark Vellek.
“I’m used to being in hospitals. It’s sad to say, but when you have a family with as much cancer as mine has had, you get used to it,” said Julie.
Sharing Her Struggle
This winter, Julie’s followers may have seen tweets like this:
She’s not afraid to tweet about her wig, which is mistaken for real hair all the time. A few times last fall she tweeted compliments to the Boone Hospital staff.
Julie explained that she uses Facebook to keep up with all of her close friends. Since Twitter has a larger audience, she uses it a little bit differently.
“With Twitter, obviously a lot of people can see what you’re putting out there, not just your friends. I just think it’s nice to let people know if they’re doing a good job.”
All through her own cancer battle, she encourages prevention through screenings.
“What I felt was not the cancer. Good thing I felt something because the actual cancer was the size of a pea. It was not what I felt. It pays to do your exams. I’m glad I felt something because it could have progressed further,” told Julie.
This story is featured in the Spring 2013 edition of myBoone Health magazine. Click here for a free subscription.