|For many people, running is a way to lose weight. Others find it improves the health of their heart, and gives them energy. But for Julie, running might just have saved her life.
Born and raised on a dairy farm in a small community in north Georgia, Julie went to the University of Georgia and got a degree in environmental science. After graduating, she began a career in environmental protection, helping companies stay within the parameters of environmental laws–a job that kept her busy and traveling regularly.
And then one day, Julie felt the call of the road. “I just decided to start running,” she recalls. “I had just quit smoking, and I’d gone through a crappy break-up, and I just felt like I needed to do something good. Running seemed like the right thing.” And before long, she was hooked. “I went from 5K training to half marathon training to marathon training,” says Julie. “I just fell in love with running. I found it addicting, and I was always out doing it.”
A few years after she had become a runner, Julie was showering off after her daily run when she found a golf ball-sized lump in her breast. A lump that turned out to be Stage 3 cancer. Because she was only 32, was stage 3 and had no family history with breast cancer, Julie fell into a high risk category and after undergoing a mastectomy, she began 16 rounds of chemotherapy, including eight weeks of Adriamycin, or the ‘red devil’ as it is called. When her chemo was complete, she then began 30 treatments of radiation.
Yet throughout it all, Julie was still hitting the pavement. Two days after her surgery?
| She walked a 5k. And things didn’t change once the chemo started, either. “They pump you full of steroids in the first hour of chemo so that you can be juiced up enough to handle the crap they’re throwing at you, so I’d be riding this steroid high when I got done and would get my mom to go on three-mile walks with me when we got home,” laughs Julie. “She kept asking me to slow down and said I was making her tired!” And the week after her final chemo treatment, Julie was in Jacksonville, Florida with her best friend walking a breast cancer half marathon.
And that was only when she wasn’t feeling her best. During radiation, once she began to start feeling better, Julie enrolled in boot camp. “I’d always wanted to do boot camp, but with my work schedule, I was never in town enough to do it,” she says. “But since I wasn’t traveling while I was on radiation, it was the perfect time to do it. My oncologist literally didn’t know what to say when I asked her if I could.” Looking back, Julie realizes that a lot of her motivation came from the sense of loss the cancer gave her–the loss of running a marathon. “I was training for my first marathon when I got the diagnosis, and I felt like that was ripped away from me, and I was really angry,” she admits. “So I was doing everything I could to make up for that loss.”
Today, when Julie isn’t working or planning her wedding, she’s still running. “After all my treatment, I can’t just bang out five miles without blinking like I could before,” she says, “But I’m working back up to that marathon.” That’s what you call running after your dreams.
■ Emily L. Foley