By Kathleen Swift • Photo by Savanah Mandeville
In August 2019, Julie Luton celebrated her 10-year anniversary cancer free as a breast cancer survivor. Hers was a successful journey, and along the way, she learned about the healing power of faith, love and support.
“In July 2009, I found a lump in my left breast,” recalled Julie. “I contacted my OB/GYN, and he got the ball rolling. Within one week, I had a second mammogram, sonogram, biopsy, and on July 10, 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After quite a bit of research, many more tests and talking to other ladies with breast cancer, I chose to have a lumpectomy with radiation and chemotherapy. I had my surgery on August 10, 2009, and was diagnosed with stage 2 ER/PR positive invasive ductal carcinoma. I also had a sentinel node biopsy, which came back negative. I started four rounds of chemotherapy in September and 35 rounds of radiation in November.
“In March 2010, I had a total hysterectomy and started treatment with Arimidex for five years because my cancer was estrogen fed. This drug decreases the amount of estrogen made in the body and helps slow or reverse the growth of breast cancers. Many people told me that fighting cancer can be a year-long process. I couldn’t believe a year of my life was going to be spent fighting this stupid cancer. But it was a year-long battle.
“My husband was so positive and so supportive during this process. Scott was able to take notes at my doctor’s visits, and that helped me understand what was going on when I was too scared to listen and to make decisions. He gave me facts so that I could move forward.”
Julie also reached out to other women who had had breast cancer.
“This was before Hope 4 You and other support groups were available in Joplin. I couldn’t find any support group in this area. My dad started making calls and was very persistent, and he discovered the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks in Springfield. I was able to go to my first Hope 4 You support group after I had finished my chemo, and it was great to find others to talk to.”
When thinking about her journey with breast cancer, Julie had some advice for others.
First, seek advice from other women who have had breast cancer. “Talk to as many people as you can when you are diagnosed. Survivors want to talk to others. Get their perspective but decide on a plan for yourself. Then step forward. Don’t second guess your decision, just step forward.”
Secondly, Julie believes it is important to have a support group in place. “When you are going through chemo, surgery and radiation, there are days when you will feel alone even though you are not alone. I had family and friends who were wonderful support. My husband and kids, my parents and my sister and brother were there with me every step of the way. My friends never let me go more than one day without texting or calling. It’s important to have family and friends to be there for you.”
Julie also allowed herself have a down day. “If a day was horrible, I allowed myself one day to be sad and stay at home. But the next day, I would go out. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. Even my kids’ friends got used to seeing me bald at home. My two boys shaved their heads, and my daughter held my hand when I had to shave my hair. On those bad days, I had to pull it together by the time my kids came home from school. I had to say to myself, ‘I’m going to beat this cancer.’”
As Julie celebrates being cancer free for 10 years, she still has a can-do attitude. She doesn’t attend support groups often, but she still tries to be there for fund raisers.
“I’ve passed the torch to others who are fighting breast cancer,” said Julie. “I have to keep moving forward, but I am still willing to help. People can call me and talk; we all have to help each other.”