Small Steps to Giant Leaps: Dana-Farber Runner’s Victory Lap Against Cancer 

Julie (middle) smiles after a race with her two sons, Matty (left) and Nicky (right). 

When Julie was diagnosed with cancer at age 35, she felt like she had been punched in the gut. As a mom of two young children and a full-time teacher, Julie knew that her recovery would feel like a marathon. Now, nine years later, Julie is here, cancer-free, and living every day to the fullest. As the end of National Cancer Survivors Month approaches, Julie’s story is an example of hope, gratitude, and giving back. This August, Julie will be running the Falmouth Road Race on behalf of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and dedicating her miles to supporting others who are facing cancer. “Many small steps can add up to giant leaps,” she says. 

Julie’s cancer journey began when she went to her doctor for what she thought would be a routine check-up. “I went to my OB/GYN because my husband and I were considering a third child,” she recalls. “I wanted to be sure I was in the best health possible.” Julie had noticed a few changes in her body, like heavy menstrual cycles and irregular bleeding, but she thought it might be natural changes in her body due to age or her previous pregnancies. Further tests proved these early symptoms to be signs of something much more serious: Julie had cervical cancer. For Julie, receiving her cancer diagnosis was a total shock: “I felt the blood rush from my face and had to sit down. It was a surreal feeling, as if I was watching a movie screen and it wasn’t really happening to me.” 

Julie recalls feeling overwhelmed, speechless, and emotional during her first visit to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Although the initial appointments were nerve-wracking, she found the volunteers in the waiting room to be kind and gentle, offering plenty of magazines for her to choose from. She remembers browsing the travel and food magazines to distract herself and help her think ahead to all the things she would do after treatment when she was feeling better. In June of 2015, Julie had preliminary surgery to determine the scope of the disease. The day she got the call that the biopsy showed more invasive cancer requiring further surgery is one she’ll never forget. “I felt as though I’d been punched in the face and gut all at once,” she shares.  

Just a few months later, Julie went in for a radical hysterectomy to remove her cancer. This surgery would help her care team determine if further treatment protocols would be necessary. When Julie woke from surgery, she knew there was more waiting ahead, as the results wouldn’t be in for a week or so. “What I did know is that I looked eight months pregnant, I was sore, and I was tired,” Julie shares. Though the long post-op days were difficult, the exceptional care that she received from everyone at Dana-Farber—especially Neil Horowitz, MD, and Kia Prescott, PA—made all the difference. Amidst the unknowns, it helped Julie to know she could rely on her care team to provide the highest level of support.  

When Julie returned home, she was balancing feelings of intense pain and intense hope that the surgery had been successful. “One week later, that hope became a reality when I was told that the cancer had not spread,” she recalls. When she found out that all margins in her follow-up PET scan were clear, Julie felt as though she had won the life lottery. “If it wasn’t for Dana-Farber I wouldn’t be here, cancer-free, to experience the most beautiful and joyful life I live now with my family,” she says. Since her diagnosis and treatment, Julie has changed her entire outlook on life and transformed how she lives for the better. “Each day is truly a gift and I am grateful for all of it,” she shares.  

On August 18, 2024, Julie will join hundreds of other members of Dana-Farber’s team for the 7-mile ASICS Falmouth Road Race along the Cape Cod shoreline. Julie is running and raising funds alongside her husband’s family on Team Power to support Dana-Farber’s lifesaving mission. “We have all been affected by cancer personally and want to contribute however we can to help others,” she explains. As a survivor herself, Julie’s decision to give back and dedicate her miles to the fight against cancer is just one way she shows her gratitude for her second lease on life.  

For anyone who is thinking about running with Dana-Farber’s team, Julie’s message is clear: “Just do it.” She wants others to remember that signing up is the hardest part. “Show up, give it your best, and be grateful that you are here, and you can run,” she says. “I registered to run the Falmouth Road Race with Dana-Farber this season because I am forever grateful for the amazing, thoughtful, and thorough care I received. I hope my run can ultimately help others diagnosed with cancer.” 

Support patients and cancer survivors like Julie by making a donation to support Dana-Farber’s 2024 Falmouth Road Race team today. Your donation will support The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.