"What a wonderful God we have- He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials." 2 Cor. 1:3-4
Julie Bayless was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2008 after a routine mammogram when she was 42. She had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. Her faith and trust in God were an integral part of her journey.
“I felt God's presence in the amazing peace that I had. It was overwhelming when I was first told that I had breast cancer. The unknown was very scary and the waiting was very hard. There were instances where I could see God working. I knew that He had a plan and that His timing is always perfect.”
Julie recalls one moment that stands out in her memory about halfway through chemotherapy treatments.
“The side effects got progressively worse and my taste buds were affected where nothing tasted good. I took a bite of a Krispy Kreme donut and it tasted bitter. That was a sad moment. Thankfully, all of the side effects went away! (except for my hair coming back) The side effects made it difficult, but, as the saying goes, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!'"
Julie loves to exercise, but during chemo she found herself getting winded. Even then, she continued her exercises. What an inspiration!
“I walk around my neighborhood and continued to do so when I was going through treatment. There were days when I was very weak and didn't go far. One street has a very slight incline that I had never even noticed before. One day I was walking and had to stop because I was out of breath going up that tiny incline. To this day, I remember when I get to that spot and am thankful to be healthy and able to exercise.”
Music has always has been important to Julie, but when she was waiting for results, trying to grasp her diagnosis, and going through treatments, listening to positive Christian music was food for her soul. She says it filled her with God's love, peace and promises. Throughout Julie’s treatment, her faith was what carried her through.
“I have so many favorite Bible verses. ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength’ Philippians 4:13 is one of them and one that I held onto during my treatment. A sweet friend of mine made a cute scripture journal that I put Bible verses in after I was diagnosed. I filled it with scripture that encouraged me and read it regularly.
…I knew before my treatment, during and continue to believe now that God is in control. I knew that whatever I went through, He was with me and would get me through it. That didn't make it easier, but I had a peace knowing that I wasn't alone. My friends and family were supportive and I knew that they were praying for me also.”
Julie and her friends and family even decided to have a head shaving party to make the transition into a fun event.
“I didn't wear a wig when I lost my hair because a wig didn't seem right for me. I wore hats and scarves and had quite a collection. As I neared the end of treatment my hair was coming in a little, but not much. I finally realized that my hair was not coming back. I had a little bit of wispy hair that I referred to as baby monkey hair. I decided to look into wigs and found one that made me cry because it made me look normal and not like a cancer patient. I have been wearing wigs ever since. They look so natural and have even fooled hairdressers.”
She does wish that her hair had come back, but she is very thankful for her health. Since her hair didn’t grow back after chemo, she decided to give wigs a shot.
“When I was early in my treatment, I went to a Look Good Feel Better class and they had wigs. I tried one on, but it didn't feel right. I also tried one on that my mom had and remember laughing hysterically about how I looked. I decided to just wear hats and scarves and had quite a collection. They were fun accessories."
She kept a few of her hats and scarves, but donated the rest.
“One of my favorite hats is a pink camo knit cap that I sleep in at night when it's cold. My daughter, Brittany, wore it when she did the Komen 3 Day walk. Another favorite is a grey ball cap that has a heart and ‘brave heart’ written on it.
…About a year and a half after I was diagnosed, I realized that my hair wasn't going to come back. I went to a local wig store to try some wigs because I didn't want to look like a cancer patient anymore. I tried one on and started to cry because it looked so much like what my hair used to look like. I looked "normal" again! I have been wearing a wig since then. I miss having hair, but wigs are so easy. When my girls are having a bad hair day I say, ‘Get a wig!’.”
Julie talks about life after chemo, some things haven’t changed and some have…
“Exercise is still important to me. I also love music and play the flute, piano, guitar and sing. I play and sing in worship at my church. I love to cook, go to thrift shops, garden, play games and be with my family and friends. I am a homemaker. I was a stay-at-home mom when our 4 kids were growing up and now, I enjoy volunteering, camping, traveling, and being available for my family and friends."
Now Julie volunteers in the resource room at the cancer center where she was treated.
“I enjoy meeting the people that come in the room and being a smiling face, an encouragement to them wherever they are on their journey, listening to them and answering questions. I also go a support group at the center for ladies who have had breast cancer. I started going a few years after I was diagnosed, not because I felt that I needed support, but because I wanted to encourage others that were just beginning the journey or in the middle of it. It means a lot to ladies in the middle of treatment to hear that someone a few years down the road and doing well.”
The joy that Julie gets from encouraging other women truly speaks to her character and kind spirit. She wants women that have cancer to remember to take it one day at a time.
“Through it all my hope has been in God. I know that He has a plan and will always be with me no matter what happens.”