JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Julia Petersen says her breast hurt. It felt 'hard,' and it was 'reddish.' Her doctor figured it must be mastitis, a breast infection.
It wasn't. It was stage-4 breast cancer.
But not just any cancer. It was IBC, inflammatory breast cancer. Very aggressive. Very rare. Only 1-5% of breast cancer cases are IBC.
That was two years ago. She was diagnosed at age 35. "I only heard the first sentence," she remembers. "You have stage 4 breast cancer and only two and a half years to live...I started crying."
She fought hard through the breast cancer treatments.
Then her journey became even more rugged.
She started seeing bugs. It looked to her as if the heads on her daughter's dolls were twisting -- all by themselves. She says, "It got so out of control I didn't leave the bedroom. I'd sleep for three months. I didn't want to be awake."
Turns out her breast cancer had spread to her brain. She was hallucinating.
Now she's had brain surgery and she's hoping the lesions have shrunk.
But she worries about her children. She worries about the fact that she's lost her job and her house. She worries that the bills are piling up. She worries one of her children needs braces and she can't afford it anymore.
Yet she beams when she's around her kids. She says they are the reason she fights and gets up every morning.
Her son, Charlie, says she's special. Why, he's asked? He says, "It's because she's my mom."
Friends have set up a page for Julia Petersen on GoFund Me. Here's the link, if you'd like to help.
Julia's story is part of our Live, Love, Learn series this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.