Breast cancer survivor encourages women to be proactive about health
By Anne Marie Tiernon, WTHR anchor and Healthbeat reporter - bio | email
In all things, Hollis likes to keep it simple.
Daughter Heather says the ordeal has brought her family closer together.
GEIST, Ind. -
About five percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States are in women under the age of forty.
Julie Hollis, a single mother and business owner in Geist, is one of them. "I work in weddings and I do wedding flowers," Hollis said.
In all things, Hollis likes to keep it simple. Her shop is in a basement off of her garage. She will commit to making the flowers for just one wedding a day. Her business is steady and grows by word of mouth.
Hollis says she felt productive, at peace and positive when she got the news last year that she had breast cancer, and it was spreading.
"When someone looks at you and says you are incredibly ill, but you feel the best you have your entire life, it is shocking, until you look at all the films and the scans and say, 'oh my gosh, that is inside of me?'" Hollis said.
She was 38 when she found the lump through a self exam.
"It was the first time that I had noticed it and they think that it was probably almost ten years old. It's stage 3 C cancer in the breast and lymph nodes and in my muscles and in my vascular system and other than that, they said distant metastasis unknown," she said.
Her treatments included included surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and now hormone therapy.
"When you first get diagnosed, it's so horrifying knowing that your life may come to an end so early and so soon and in such a painful way," Hollis said.
To take her mind off cancer, Hollis worked hard to keep her business going. She would put on a wig for bridal consults and accepted the help of family and friends.
"My whole driveway and garage and shop would just be full of people processing flowers helping me put stuff together. I found it actually brought me strength and just having all the people around just energized me," Hollis said.
Together they worked 25 weddings. It was a lesson in life for her children.
"I say the upside is just seeing how family comes together when it's tough," said her daughter Heather.
Hollis' son Justin is 13. She is a single mother.
"I think my most important role is to be an example to my kids and to show them love," Hollis said.
They share a strong faith. "His will is always the best, even if we don't understand it at the time," Heather said.
Hollis didn't smoke, or have a family history and so now she works to spread the message to other young women. She wants women to be aware of changes in their body, and know their family history and risk factors because earlier detection improves outcomes.
"I'm trying to do everything I can to stay healthy and keep fighting," Hollis said.
She has looked ahead. She says her daughter's wedding is likely more than a decade away and Hollis is counting on making that bridal bouquet.