On Aug. 4th, 2015 at 2 pm, Julie Oliver, Wellspring’s Nutrition Services Coordinator, asked everyone to hold her hand during our staff meeting.
“This is when it happened,” she said as tears came to her eyes.
The previous year at that very moment, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Getting ready for her mother’s memorial service in July, 2014, she found a lump in her breast.
Her doctor told her that the cancer would not be fatal and that a mastectomy and radiation would eradicate it from her body. Ultimately, she had to go through chemotherapy.
“I wasn’t scared of anything other than chemotherapy,” she said.
What was the worst part of chemotherapy?
“No matter how hard you try to prepare yourself for losing your hair, I think, especially as a woman, you are not prepared,” she said. “You watch yourself get uglier and uglier – you can’t sugar-coat it. Every time, I looked in the mirror, I looked different. I was watching myself deteriorate and lose my femininity. First goes your hair and then on the second drug, you lose your eyebrows and eyelashes. There is a period at the end when you look in the mirror and you just see a cancer victim and every time, it is shocking”
She was on medical leave for about a year, but Wellspring was constantly by her side during her breast cancer journey.
“The vast and overwhelming support came from Wellspring,” she said.
Volunteer Mary Case organized a coordinated meal system with other volunteers so that Julie could feed her family while she was recovering from chemo. She dropped casseroles off at Julie’s home.
“I got a lot of pasta dishes,” she said. “I got broccoli beef, I got enchiladas on Spanish rice from one of the guests. You, know casserole things. Even though, I was often unable to eat them myself due to the nausea, it was nice to know that there was an easy meal for my family..”
“Just opening the fridge and seeing it there was so awesome, incredible and special,” she said.
“But, the most amazing and profound gift was an afghan from the guests,” she said. “Missy, Wellspring’s Art of Being Coordinator, organized it. When Mary brought it over, it was 70 squares and each one was made by a different woman. That gesture was overwhelming and it only happened because I work at Wellspring – such a show of caring and love.”
“Giving is a really big part of who I am,” she said. “I’m a nurturer and I want to make sure that everybody is eating and that they are eating healthy food that tastes good and that they feel loved from the food. I put a lot of love in my food. During this time, I had to take on a different role, I had to accept the help and it was a major epiphany and turning point for me. I think for most people, the knee-jerk reaction is to say, ‘no, I don’t need it,’ but what you are doing is denying the other person the opportunity to feel useful.”