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  • Writer's pictureJulia Heck

Where it all began...

I’m going to document my day to day experiences of everything that has happened to me and will continue to happen for a while. I think this is the best way to keep everyone in the loop and get all my thoughts out because there’s definitely a lot going on in my head right now. Sometimes it’s too much to repeat over and over.

I’m also posting this because if this can help ONE other person then it will have done ANYTHING I could’ve ever wanted. Cheers all xoxo

11/23/18-Convo with Dad and Kim About Testing

My family came to visit for Thanksgiving and we had an AMAZING time. Lots of family and friends gathered at my house in Jacksonville. We had a great visit and I will forever cherish that family get together as it was the last time the Heck Family was all together! Kim, Dad and I went for a walk when everyone was visiting. It was a beautiful day and Dad said, “Julia, we want to talk to you about getting genetic testing done.” Maybe some of you have heard about the BRCA 1 Genetic Mutation. It’s a gene mutation that makes you more susceptible to breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I knew that it was in my genes, but there was only a 50% chance I would have it. Dad got tested before he passed and tested positive for carrying the mutation.

At some point in September of 2019

I went and got blood drawn to get my genetic testing done. They only had to take two viles and it really wasn’t bad. I was looking forward to hearing back because I was sure I would be fine!

9/10/19-Call Regarding the Test

I was on a client site and I got a phone call from my GYN. I had missed the call, but the voicemail text said something like “…regarding your test” so I called as soon as I could. When I spoke with the nurse, she said they couldn’t perform my test and have it covered under insurance until I went through genetic testing counseling (wtf) as a 90 minute phone call. I thought, "hmm that’s odd because I want to get this done, but I guess I’ll be sure to have this phone call at some point soon so I can go start over." **rolls eyes**

9/19/19- Call About Genetic Testing

I had a conversation with Rhonda from InformDNA and she was very sweet and continued to broaden my knowledge for the whole duration of our 90 minute conversation while she informed me of so many statistics and future effects this could have on my life. Talk about a lot of questions... (obviously if you’re reading this you know I have no problem asking questions when I’m confused)! If you test positive, it doesn’t make you immediately have breast cancer, but it does make it more likely to get it. She said before I should do anything else (like give the go ahead to have the test done), I should look into long term disability and life insurance, if I so choose, because it will increase the cost of these if the test does happen to come back positive. That was a lot to think about, so I just hung up the phone and continued to go about life like I always have.

About 9/25/19-Self Breast Exam

I have always thought, “self-breast exams are so weird, it’s like you’re feeling yourself up!”. But sometimes I just bit the bullet and gave a little squeeze. This was one of those days. I was in a hotel in Charles Town, WV on business and felt something weird. I felt this weird bump, it felt kind of like a golf ball. It was HARD and a little sensitive. But… It can’t be anything serious. I decided I would get it all checked out next time I went to the doctor because I knew I was going around the end of October.

10/31/19-First Thoughts

I went to the OBGYN for an annual check-up and I told him that I was concerned about a lump that I found in my left breast. He told me, “we definitely want to get this checked out to be cautious. I’m going to schedule you for a mammogram.” I thought, “good, we will get answers and know that I’m good to go!” Don’t worry… I still continued with my Halloween festivities and all of my parties and gatherings with friends! PARTAY

11/7/19-Mammo Day

I went in for my appointment at 8 am. I thought, “great I won’t miss any work! I’ll definitely be done by 9.” I was a little nervous, but not for the results, more just about how bad it would hurt… Some of you women (probably reading this… MOM), make mammograms sound like you’re going to leave with pancakes! Liars… It doesn’t hurt, it’s just weird as hell. When I got in the waiting room, I was the youngest one in there by about 25 years. But again… I was going to be fine! J

8:15am-They called my name and I strutted over in my cute dress they gave me (it’s a hospital wrap gown). Tina told me that we were going to do an ultrasound because “we don’t like doing mammograms to women under 30 unless we have to”. Okay! That was fine she scoped me out and sent me back to the waiting room.

9:30am-The next woman Deena (4’10”-This will be important later) called me back to get a mammogram. She said “some of the questions weren’t answered by the ultrasound, so we’re going to do a mammogram” Alrighty then, I wasn’t going to complain, but I was surely getting a little more concerned. She put me in this CUTE hula skirt (I actually liked it), which was like a heavy weighted skirt to protect your ovaries (I’m assuming) from the imaging and radiation. We had fun joking around and she was super nice too! We even talked about the amazing Fall Season that Western NY has to offer. I kind of just talked to her like nothing was wrong! She sent be back to the waiting room, but said “don’t leave, we want to have the radiologist look at this and verify that you’re good to be sent back!”

10:15am-Deena called me back and said, “the radiologist would like to have a quick chat”. My thoughts: ALRIGHT (I don’t have time for this shit). The radiologist, Dr. Patel told me that the combination of the ultrasound and the mammogram have concerned her, so she wants to be on the safe side and do a biopsy. Thoughts: "I’ve had family and friends who have had biopsies done before and they’re fine, so I’m sure I’ll be fine! Back to the waiting room I go…"

Now I was REAL concerned, overthinking everything and had a minor breakdown about how much has changed since 11/22/18 and the conversation with Dad and Kim.

11:00am-I went in the back in the biopsy room, they took all my vitals and got me ready. I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel, but they said it was similar to dental work. The would numb the area with an IV of novicane (or whatever it's called?)—Numbing stuff. Idk. But she was right. You numb it so much, you don’t feel anything. They use a took to take little samples of the concerning areas. She said she would do two biopsies…?! One of the lump I found and one of a lymph node under my armpit, again, “just to be safe.” The first one was definitely worse pain wise. It wasn’t unbearable, but not comfortable. They would take the samples and send them over to pathology to get them checked out. NOW the questions were intense from me because everyone was giving me that “were concerned” look/tone. I had asked a bunch of nonsense questions and then I asked some like “when will I know anything?”, “who will call?”, “am I going to be okay?”, “should I have my family come down now?”. She answered all these questions, but nothing was definitive. We would have to wait.

11:30 am- I went in to have another mammogram for them to get new pictures. Deena was there again in full force. It’s really almost comical how they “man handle” you because they need to get you adjusted perfectly for the imaging. She took a few more images and told me that I would be good to go once she “wrapped me up”. They made me a sports bra out of ace bandages and it was perfect for an ABC party—take notes college kids. She’s 4’10, I’m 5’10 and she was walking circles around me to get this perfect. I couldn’t help but say “Deena, I’m really not sure if we make the perfect height duo for this job or the worst.” She was DYING laughing. That’s when I knew I made it ;)

12:00pm-FINALLY WENT HOME! Talked to my Kim and my mom and a few friends. They all assured me I would be fine and this could come back as SO many other things, which was definitely true. Back to work finally to take my mind off it because there was nothing I could do at this point and everything is out of my control.

Weekend of 11/8/19

I had SUCH a great weekend and really took my mind off of everything and basically convinced myself that I was totally fine and Dr. Patel was just being super proactive! It was a great “ignorance is bliss” type of weekend and I had a bunch of fun drinking beer and cocktails all around Jacksonville!

11/11/19-The News

Remember how 11/11 is supposed to be a lucky day… well.. the doctor called me back and it wasn’t my lucky day. She said, “Julia, the biopsies came back and it’s exactly what I thought. Both biopsies tested positive for breast cancer. They call it “invasive ductal breast cancer”. I asked, “What are my next steps?” Dr Patel said, “well we can’t do much until we get a team of doctors assembled so they can figure out a care plan. You can expect to be getting a ton of phone calls over the next two days. I advise you keep a notebook for notes on all of this because you’ll get a lot of information thrown at you” Me, “thanks for letting me know, have a nice day”.

My thoughts: “HOLY FUCK MAN. They just told me I had CANCER, I have known people who have had cancer and I’ve never really thought that could ever possibly happen to me at 25. I’m totally healthy. I go to the gym, I eat pretty healthy. Sure I drink, but that can’t have an effect on this. What the hell did I do wrong?!”

As the day progressed, I spent a lot of time on the phone with family and friends and just filling them in on what’s going on. Everyone keeps saying how strong I am and how I will kick cancers ass.. which I know I will, but this experience will definitely test my “go get ‘em” and my “always positive” attitude.

I haven’t heard much about next steps yet, but my family and I have decided it is best for me to go back to Rochester, NY to have treatment done so the family will always be around. I will be able to rely on them for rides to my appointments and to always be around during recovery. I’m very glad that I’ll have them around.

11/12/19-Day After Reality

I woke up this morning and was overwhelmed by emotions. I really couldn’t help but cry at 6:30am because I was hoping that this was all going to be a shitty dream but it wasn’t. I didn't want to leave JAX because my JAX people are my homies and would do anything to take care of me, but it’s a HUGE ask of them to take care of me though all of this.

I talked to my Mom this morning and we discussed what the radiologist assistant actually told her. Mom said that Leah told her that the lump is 4.9 centimeters in my breast and as much as I can look things up on google, I’m trying my damnest to stay away until a doctor gives me any more information.

I started a group chat with all of my girlfriends that I need to keep in the loop. It’s been absolutely AMAZING the love I’ve felt from these women!

I got home today and have had a lot of ups and downs. It was amazing seeing my family after a few weeks/months. We had an amazing time I got to see my mom’s new house and have dinner with my mom, Dave, Kim, Uncle Mike, Sam and Taylor. It is so nice knowing I’m able to talk about everything with my family and they’re here for me and will listen and provide answers while they know I’m scared.

Halfway through dinner, I asked Taylor (brother’s girlfriend) to see her new tattoo she got today and she showed me. It was super cute and I heard about the idea of it this past weekend. Then Sam said, “should I show her mine?” and he got a pink ribbon over his heart to show his support to me. I of course broke down and took that as, “I better kick this things ass”. I’m so lucky to have him in my life. J

I can NEVER express the love I have for this amazing support system that I have, and how much love I feel.

11/14/19-Genetic Testing Round 2

Today I had a GYN appointment. I got genetic testing done and discussed with the doctor a few things. She said that I will likely test positive for carrying this gene seeing as I got breast cancer at the age of 25. We will be waiting about 4 weeks to get any information back.


Today I got in for an MRI at Borg and IDE. This is a company my mom works for and they got me in so quickly and got it all taken care of and read. I feel so lucky that so many people have come together to help me. I still haven’t figured out the word to describe that feeling (SOS).

Walking into my MRI, I recognized some people in there from when I worked there as a student. They checked me in and got everything squared away. Chrissy took me back and put in my contrast IV. It was annoying, but I guess I’m going to have to get used to needles. I laid down on the table and she put me in the machine. I did NOT know how claustrophobic I was until today. I was face down so I couldn’t see the edges, but I could feel my elbows on the side so it wasn’t too big. YIKES.

The bad news was, she found more nodes that had cancer cells in them. This is all really scary. She recommended pre op chemo, double mastectomy and post op chemo, but my surgeon and oncologist will be the ones that make the final decision. It is starting to sound like that is what is going to happen though. She said she measured the original tumor smaller then the original radiologist so that made me smile (little victories)!

I finished up my work for the day when I got back and Maggie picked me up for girls weekend in Saratoga!

11/15/19 night – 11/17/19 midday-FUN!

I met up with Lauren, Maggie and Kelly (college gal pals) in Saratoga Springs. It was a great meeting point and we had the best time! 😊 took my mind off of a bunch and I think it helped them to know that I was still the same person. 😃 I literally have the most amazing support system ever. 😍

11/18/19-Work/The Move

I had a one-on-one with my boss, Rhonda. She is also AMAZING. She told me that I WILL NOT lose my job!! I’m so relieved because as much as it shouldn’t be, my job has been a serious stresser in being able to return to work after all of this. I know that I will have more information on Wednesday about my ability to work. To be quite honest, I don’t think this will totally knock me on my ass, so I am hopeful that I will still be able to work besides recovery from surgery. I’m grateful that I have a job that will allow me to do this. Or at least work some hours every day and have flex hours, so I can get my work done.

This is another one of those days where I feel incredibly blessed to be in the situation I’m in and not traveling for work at this time but still being able to work. Bet your ass that I will be traveling the second I’m able to! I’m losing VALUABLE time to acquire points…

I also had to have a conversation with my roommate about moving out, which made me feel horrible. I feel so sad that I have to move back to Rochester for the time being, but from a financial stand point it’s really the best bet. Elena was great and understood where I was coming from. I will be moving back to ROC for the foreseeable future and then making new life plans once this all gets taken care of! I will be in JAX this weekend and would love to see anyone, just make sure you bring boxes if you come over at all 😉 More appointments have been scheduled. I will provide another update on Friday with everything and will probably stick to weekly updates. I'm sorry I can't keep track of individualized texts/phone calls... it's a lot. I'll upload fun pictures and updates as needed! 😊  CHEERS xoxo

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