Julia’s favorite inspirational quote - "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."
Julia was the very paragon of a virtuous, modern person, as her grandfather professed. She was motivated to be a teacher by family and her teachers from elementary school through high school and college. Julia was always a quiet leader, who lead by example. Others often remarked that she was an old soul. She always did what she knew was right. Julia loved life, family and friends!
The summer after her sophomore year of high school Julia was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma. Life for Julia and all of us, would never be the same. Her doctors said the protocol was to hit the cancer, “Fast and hard.” She had almost a year of harsh chemotherapy designed for adults. Serious complications included mouth sores, fevers, and neuropathic pain. Among the more serious complications was ARDS, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (double pneumonia, a complete white out on the x-ray). The doctors put her in a medically induced coma. ARDS almost took her life but she made a miraculous recovery. She had to learn to walk, talk, swallow liquids and eat solid foods again. She battled cancer and its complications all while she maintained her status as an honor student, completing her junior year at home and in the hospital. Julia’s character empowered her to remain strong, positive and compassionate to other pediatric cancer patients during her battles against cancer.
An early indication of her concern for others was evident by her participation with her high school and community. She was an NHS member and played flute in the band. Along with the inspiration of her teachers, coaches and Operation Snowball, Youth Commission and soccer, Julia strengthened her character and developed a desire to care for others. Julia was an academic and music tutor to children in the community as well as in college; she worked with children in Snowflake and Snowball where she advanced to a leadership position. She was a soccer player for years and later she was a soccer referee for the park district. While in high school she had her first experience in a St. Baldrick’s shave event with her oncologist.
Upon graduation, now free from cancer, she attended Bradley University in Peoria where she formed the first ever college chapter of CureSearch, an international group of doctors trying to cure pediatric cancers. She spoke in public to raise awareness of pediatric cancer, both at Relay for Life and in her interview for a popular television talk show in Peoria. She attended another St. Baldrick’s event at Bradley where her friend shaved her head in honor of Julia. She was in the service sorority Episol Sigma Alpha (ESA). Julia volunteered at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Peoria. She was freshman student of the year and well on her way to becoming the third grade teacher that she always wanted to be.
During winter break of her sophomore year Julia was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, AML, which was a result of the necessary and harsh treatments she underwent while battling Ewing’s Sarcoma. Julia called her brother, Michael, shed a few tears and said, “OK, let’s do this!” Soon after we found her downloaded positive quotes from Pinterest. Julia and her mom made a collage of these quotes, which traveled to and from the hospital. After more chemotherapy, dialysis due to kidney failure and three stem cell transplants, Julia’s body could take no more and the doctors told us to go home and make memories. Even Julia, with her positive and never give up attitude, could not beat The Beast. She died on November 14, 2013, four and a half years after her initial diagnosis, at the age of 20.
While preparing to spend her two weeks at home she decided to donate her savings to pediatric cancer research through the Cure It Foundation, an organization formed by her oncologist, Dr. Jason Canner, to fight kids’ cancer. Even facing death, Julia thought of kids and she did not want one more child to fight cancer like she did.
As Julia’s Legacy of Hope, we raised over $100,000 for kids with cancer, all in Julia’s honor. We helped to fund the Every Child initiative with the Cure It foundation. We join St. Baldrick’s to better meet our mission and Julia’s wish, which is to fund childhood cancer research. Our funds will support research in sarcomas, secondary cancers, and blood cancers, focusing on but not limited to the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) population. This population is severely underfunded, and desperately needs less toxic and more effective, curative protocols.
Donations given to Julia's Legacy of Hope have funded two years of Lynn Lee M.D.'s St. Baldrick's Scholar grant, a year of Ramon Sun Ph.D.'s Scholar grant, Nakeesh Dharia M.D. Ph.D.'s St. Baldrick's Fellow Grant, Anao Zhang Ph.D.'s Supportive Care Research Grant. Drs. Sun and Dharia are focused on researching treatments for Ewing sarcoma. Dr. Zhang is researching depression in adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients. Dr. Lee is researching treatments for patients who develop leukemia after receiving chemotherapy for unrelated cancer.
The St. Baldrick's Foundation is guided by a Scientific Advisory Committee, comprised of leading experts in the childhood cancer community, to ensure that every dollar makes the greatest impact for kids with cancer.
These people make us smile - they’re the doers and money-raisers on behalf of Julia's Legacy of Hope. They’re shaving their heads, hosting events, starting fundraisers and more to make childhood cancer research possible.
Start your own St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event to raise money on behalf of our Hero Fund! You’ll be paired with a staff member who will walk you through every step of the process, and you’ll have fun knowing you’re doing a great thing for kids with cancer.
Register to shave your head and raise money for our Hero Fund at any St. Baldrick’s event happening around the world! Not finding an event near you? Register as a virtual shavee and shave your head anytime, anywhere.