Tuesday, August 7 is a special day for Julia Williams. Not only does that date mark five years since the surgery which removed a recurrence of her breast cancer, but it also represents five years of life—special occasions, memories, and conversations that Julia might not have experienced without her care team at Smilow Cancer Hospital.
In 1998, Julia was first diagnosed with breast cancer and had a single mastectomy followed by five years of outpatient treatment. Nearly ten years later, in 2012, Julia was experiencing severe neck pain that just would not go away – even after a year of physical therapy, and had worsened to the point where she could barely walk without the assistance of a walker. She returned to her original doctor who determined her cancer had returned, but this time to her spine, and had eaten away the C3 vertebra and was pinching her spinal cord.
She immediately underwent surgery to remove the tumor, repair her spine, and had two rods inserted from her skull down to her C5 and C6 vertebrae. After 14 radiation treatments post-surgery, Julia has been on chemotherapy pills ever since with very minor side effects. In fact, she has been doing so well that she recently ascended to the top of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington with her daughter, Amy.
“Every day is a gift; I am living with cancer,” exclaims Julia. “I am not a victim. I have a fantastic team at Smilow led by ‘Dr. D’ [Oncologist Dr. Michael DiGiovanna], and have all the confidence in the world that I am receiving the best care possible.”
Twice retired, Julia devotes one day a week to visiting patients in the infusion center at Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Trumbull, chatting with patients there for treatment, sharing her story, and inspiring them to keep living. And what Julia says, she means—in November, she is headed to New Zealand with her husband, Art, and daughter, Amanda, for a three-week tour of the country, where she expects to fulfill her love of hiking and do what she does best – living life.