"I questioned 'Why me?' I don't smoke... I was young,...

"I questioned 'Why me?' I don't smoke... I was young, I was 45... I breastfed my kids... I eat healthy and I'm active." — Julie Bickar Nappi

If you had asked Julie Bickar Nappi what major disease she might contract during her lifetime, she probably would have said cancer. “My mom had breast cancer and my father had colon cancer,” said the mother of two.

In 2018, Julie felt a hard, pea-sized lump in her right breast. Even though a screening mammogram and sonogram performed three months prior got the “all clear,” Julie, then 45, knew she needed to get checked “right away.” After a suspicious finding on a sonogram, doctors recommended a biopsy, which revealed a stage II mixed invasive ductal and lobular carcinoma, cancer that has broken through the walls of the milk duct and spread to nearby breast tissue.

Initially, doctors thought the management consultant could forego chemotherapy. But after finding the cancer had spread to a lymph node, Julie needed three months of chemotherapy treatment.

“It felt like a kick in the stomach,” recalled Julie, now 49, who also had to undergo 20 sessions of radiation. “I lost all my hair, my eyes were [excessively] tearing...it was no walk in the park,” she said.

While she was unsure how her children, then ages 11 and 9, would react to the news of her diagnosis, they wound up being an important source of strength. “They were both so helpful and [they] matured during that period.” Julie says.

Julie has been cancer-free for three years and now lends a helping hand to others with the disease. She participates in “Aspirin for Breast Cancer,” a clinical trial to determine if aspirin helps lower the risk of cancer recurrence and also staffs the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support program.

“While this story is on the surface about me, it’s really not about me,” she said. “It’s about the 1 in 8 women, plus some men, who are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. It’s about raising awareness that it’s no longer a death knell or something really embarrassing to have to hide.”

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