ORA Colleagues Conquer Breast Cancer Together

In honor of the annual Quad Cities Race for the Cure event on June 9, 2018. ORA survivors find support and strength with each other.

Meet breast cancer survivor Julie Carlson, ORA Orthopedics

Name:  Julie Carlson; RN triage Moline

Age: 59

When and why did you start participating in Race for the Cure?
I had walked Race for the Cure before I was diagnosed, but faithfully started to participate after my cancer diagnosis. I have walked with coworkers, family and friends every year since 2004. It is a very emotional to feel the support given to survivors at the event.

Tell us about when and how you learned you had breast cancer?
I felt a suspicious lump for a time but life was busy so I put it off. It was seen on my mammogram, and I was sent to a surgeon for a biopsy. Two biopsies confirmed the cancer diagnosis in December 2003. Following more testing I was told I had stage 3 HER2 breast cancer in January 2004. HER2 is a more aggressive, non-hormone based type of breast cancer. Stage 3 meant it had spread to some lymph nodes.

How did your treatment and recovery progress?
In February I had a partial mastectomy. This was followed by radiation for several weeks and chemotherapy for more than a year. I would run over for my radiation treatments on my lunch break and had chemotherapy on Friday afternoons, so I had the weekend to recover.

What did you find that helped you cope?
My family, friends and ORA coworkers were great support and helped me get through it all. My oncologist had suggested to keep working and keep life as normal as possible.

I received a lot of helpful tips and support from other survivors and my oncology nurses. My coworkers at ORA were wonderful- they offered support, covered for me so I could have time off, called to check on me, and helped me get through my treatments.

What is your advice to women who have been diagnosed?
Don’t give up hope if you are diagnosed with breast cancer. There have been many advances in treatment. Stay strong, take care of yourself and lean on others to get through it!

What is your advice to women who do not have breast cancer?
Be sure to do your monthly breast self exams and get mammograms. Even with no family history of breast cancer (I have none) it is very important.  If something is found, the sooner the better for your prognosis.

How has your diagnosis and recovery changed your life?
I feel more appreciative of life and realize what is most important now. I am fortunate to have been given more time. I find that I am more particular of how, where and with whom I spend my time.