Julie Randall was having a good life, with a loving husband and teenage daughters, happy in her job and had just celebrated her 50th birthday with extended family and friends. Then she was diagnosed with stage four metastatic advanced melanoma, with tumours in her brain, liver, lungs, pancreas and lymph nodes. She was not a stranger to cancer. Her mother had died of lung cancer and one of her sisters had survived two bouts of breast cancer.
As someone who was ‘brought up to be and tough and not take shit from anyone’, or anything it seems, she promised her daughters that, against all odds, she was going to fight it.
She had surgery on her brain, then chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but this was where the treatment options in Australia ran out, giving her months to live when they were finished. She started researching trials being conducted overseas and found one in the United States. Despite many knockbacks she persisted and was finally accepted into this programme.
She details with candour, humour, frustration and tears this journey that turned her world, and that of her close-knit family, upside down. The medical profession were at times caring and supportive, others brutal and insensitive. She got through it with the help of an amazing husband, the never-ending desire to fulfil her promise to her daughters, her caring father and siblings, and friends who went beyond the call of duty.
Like a dog with a bone, she would not let go, gathering ‘as many tools as I could to keep my body functioning in the most efficient way possible’. Despite knowing that the outcome must be positive, as she has lived to tell the tale, I was still captivated and was cheering her along the way.
She decided that she would write about her experience and said ‘If I could just help one person find a better treatment, or not take life for granted and drop the fear and do the things they are putting off for another day, then this whole debacle would at least have some meaning’.
For anyone who has been touched by cancer, either personally or by someone they care about, so much of Julie Randall’s story will ring true. For the lucky ones who haven’t, reading this and knowing what can happen may prepare them for if they are, which is so common these days.