One of five St. Baldrick's Foundation 2011 Ambassador Kids
For a teenager, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage, but this accomplishment was denied to 16-year-old Julia.
Just one driver’s education class, a driving test and ten days shy of getting her license, Julia had sudden and unexplained knee pain that led her to the emergency room. They followed up with the orthopedist and visited the hospital for pain management. “I was worried about juvenile arthritis and was thinking scary things,” said Julia’s mother, Beth, “but cancer never crossed my mind.”
On Valentine’s Day, Beth was told that Julia had cancer and was officially diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) the following day. “We had just entered a new and scary world,” said Beth. And Julia, upon hearing the news, grew wide eyed and exclaimed, “That’s serious!”
The seriousness of the diagnosis went beyond the physical treatment and side effects that came with it. Julia’s life was changed. She spent seven months in the hospital during a time in her life when she would have been playing her guitar, going to concerts, attending high school sporting events, volunteering at the local aquarium and getting her driver’s license.
During one of her rare releases from the hospital, arrangements were made for Julia to take her driving test. Still feeling sick from treatment, she sat behind the wheel next to an instructor who had to be cleared of any illness prior to getting into the car with her. She nervously steered the vehicle, having not been behind the wheel during her months of treatment, and accidentally crossed a double yellow line while making a turn. She failed the test.
Julia is now in remission, but her journey isn’t over. Her college choices are limited to those in close proximity to a children’s hospital, her visits to the clinic for blood work will continue forever, and because of the time spent in the hospital, Julia’s driving permit has expired. Her rite of passage – the excitement of getting her driver’s license - will be further postponed; yet another consequence of childhood cancer.
Julia's story, as written by her family:
A smart, beautiful, active teenager who was days away from getting her drivers' license - thinking about college and concerts. Julia loves music - mostly small bands - her room is decorated with posters, drumsticks, ticket stubs and photos. She has been athletic since she was very young - baseball, basketball, volleyball, and swimming. Julia has traveled to Costa Rica on a school trip and plans on more travel. Her dream vacations: swimming with sharks, Spain, and Hawaii. She is hard working, tenacious, and strong. Julia has a great sense of humor and has maintained a great attitude.