After months of pain, blacking out, and feeling... different than I usually did, I fell on a trampoline and snapped my femur in half. I had lots of tests done, 2 biopsy, and the second one came back finally and I went to the Doctors and they told me I had a sarcoma. I was sitting in my wheelchair, staring at my mom. I couldn't understand any of the words going on in the conversation around me. I was blank, for a few minutes, then on the way home I broke down. My mom hadn't said a single word, which was unusual because she is usually so talkative. Then, it hit me, and everything came crashing down. I couldn't stop crying. I remember I was fighting with my then best friend and I said “She won't even care” and that thought followed me the whole 30 minute drive home. “No one will care.” Missing school was a big worry, but so was missing out on friends, and karate, and dance. I knew I'd lose my hair, and that was a big worry, as well. Another giant fear of mine, because they told me I would lose my leg, was “I will never be beautiful, no one will want me. I won't go to Prom, or Homecoming. I won't ever drive a car, have a boyfriend, have a first kiss, a first love. I will die not getting to live a full life” and those thoughts terrified me. My mom shed not a single tear in front of me, for me, the whole time I was sick. My grand mother held me while I was in my wheelchair sitting in her room, and my grand father, who just lost his mother earlier that year, stormed into the house yelling that there “was no God.” My little brothers didn't understand, they were scared, but they had no clue what was going on.
I was afraid of losing life, I thought that I would never be normal. And I never WAS normal after treatment. I was afraid no one my age would be interested in me, and for awhile, they weren't. It was hard making friends outside of the cancer ward, and that hurt too, because for a long while it seemed every other week I had a new funeral to go to. I changed the day I was diagnosed, and that was something that I couldn't wrap my mind around.
One of the most frustrating things was that no matter how hard I tried, no one saw me as Julia, everyone just saw me as “that girl who had cancer.” I didn't get to go all dressed up to prom, I had to wear Doc Martens under my dress because at the time I couldn’t wear heels. I was bald and had short hair through out most of middle school and high school. I was really angry a lot of the time, and was emotionally exhausted. Boy's made fun of me and showed no interest in me, and girls didn't want to be friends with the 'weird freaky scary goth chick.' holister doesn't really make clothing to go with bald head girls, so I just kind of felt more comfortable in black because it seemed easy.
Everyone looked at me differently, and I guess it's because I looked at myself differently. I couldn't just get over having cancer, it was a struggle for me. I lived life on fast forward trying very hard for awhile to achieve everything on my bucket list just to make sure in case it came back I wouldn't die with regrets.
When I was going through treatment the hospital that I was at, Texas Children's Hospital, did so much for me. The cancer floor has 32 rooms, so on each given day there are 32 patients, 32 families there with you going through the same thing. It was refreshing to not have to be alone, everyone knew everyone, and there was always someone to talk to regardless of the time of day. The nurses were amazing, I cried the last day I had chemo because I had grown so fond of the nurses on the floor... the laughter helped, and the way I was no longer stared at because of my wheelchair, scar, or baldness helped out a lot as well. The families became my family, and the friends I still have left here on earth I talk to on a pretty regular basis, and see multiple times a year.
When I was first diagnosed I met this girl, Alice H., and she was a few years older than I was. We did the typical girl best friend thing, where you spend your time talking to the other person. We had slumber parties, she even helped me go to the bathroom when I was on the bed pan... she held my hand through out my battle, and was there every step of the way. She was my light when things got so dark. She had this beautiful smile, and these bright eyes. Then one day in 2011, she passed away from Leukemia... it was a hard, horrible experience. I would always tell people “i don't know what I would do if I lost Alice,” and then I did. It was so hard, and so discouraging, I still miss her to this day. I still think about her, our pictures are all over my apartment, I talk to her sister often.
If I could tell every single person out there going through what I've been through, or similar experiences anything, it would be that they are beautiful. They are worth the fight. Some days it seems like everything is dark, so bleak, but at the end of the tunnel it is so beautiful. If someone would have told me that everything would get better, I would have laughed in their face, but it really does. The journey after cancer is a rough one, but it is such a beautiful one, and it makes every second worth it.
After I lost my ability to dance and do karate because of the surgeries I had to keep my leg, I hadn't been passionate about anything in years. School even lost it's importance to me (though I thankfully graduated on time with my class in 2012) When I stumbled across modeling it was like I suddenly felt beautiful, and suddenly had something that made me feel proud of myself again. I never thought I would be that beautiful girl in pictures people stop and look at it. It's amazing, I love it. The feeling of being in front of a camera, and being able to look at the pictures afterwards, to see my face, and to be in designer gowns, and clothing, its an amazing feeling. I love every second of this life, I never want it to stop.
Now that I'm a survivor everything's different. Some days everything's just fine, and others are really hard. Some days its like all I can think about about. The holidays are the hardest, I get really bad PTSD flashbacks where I remember more vividly than normal friends dying, funerals. I'm still a bit scared, whenever I have weird pains my head automatically goes to cancer. That's kind of annoying, but it's gotten better. For awhile, I was depressed, and not very confident, but through modeling my confidence has sky rocketed and everything's been a beautiful journey. I love who I am now, and it's a great feeling to be comfortable in my own skin.
If I can get to NYC Fashion week then I have the most amazing opportunity to be the face of the Danny Nguyen Couture line, and continue to raise awareness all year, over the world, all over the USA.