Julie Clark (you know, Baby Einstein Julie Clark!) recently worked with me on a giveaway of her new children’s book, “You Are the Best Medicine,” and then she kindly answered some questions for me about her breast cancer journey. What follows is what Julie has to say about being diagnosed with cancer — twice — and how important kids (hers and yours!) are in her life.
Tell us a little about your life at the time you were diagnosed?
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, at the age of 37. My life was stressful, but terrific. I had sold Baby Einstein to Disney and was financially lucky, and I was in the midst of filming a video for my new company, The Safe Side. I was raising my daughters, and I was happy and healthy. I ate well and worked out most days.
Can you share a bit about your diagnoses and treatments?
When I found the lump in my breast the first time, I was ‘lucky’ because the disease was stage 1. The tumor was under 1cm in size, and it had not visibly spread to my lymph nodes. Though a lumpectomy was recommended, I opted for a double mastectomy. I was devastated by the cancer, and wanted to assure that this would never happen to me again.
Unfortunately, it still did. In 2008 I found another small lump on my chest wall. When I learned that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and liver, I was in shock. I heard the words Stage 4 in relation to me, and I couldn’t believe it. I did chemo and Herceptin (another cancer treatment) for five months, and came out with no evidence of disease — the best news I could expect. Now it’s about maintenance. Trying to stay in this place. I had my ovaries out, because my cancer was estrogen positive. I take a medication called Femara to help shut down any additional estrogen from my body. I have osteoporosis in my spine and neck from early, forced menopause, but I’m here. And thankful to be so.
How old were your kids when you were first diagnosed, and how did they handle the cancer news?
They were six and nine the first time, and eleven and thirteen the second time. The first time they were young, and I was really optimistic that I’d caught it early and eradicated it. The second time was harder. They were older, and had a better understanding of what it could mean. They knew people died from cancer. And chemotherapy was worse to watch than surgery, because I really looked sick. That’s when I saw the need for a book like “You Are the Best Medicine.”
How did you deal with having a recurrence (mentally, physically and emotionally)?
Anxiety. Fear. Depression. Shock. I still feel these emotions, but I also feel hopeful. I feel grateful for the beautiful life that I have, and lucky to have my current health status.
What “aha” moment led you to write “You Are the Best Medicine”?
I’ve never seen myself as a very brave person. I don’t deal well with physical pain. But I knew that I would be brave and strong because I wanted to be around for my children, and I wanted them to know how much they were a part of my strength and hope. I wrote the book because I wanted to give other people with cancer a way to tell their children the same important message.
What do you hope is the end result of having written this book?
I hope it will help kids understand how much their love means. And I hope to raise $100,000 for the research team at UCLA, to help with their incredible work in finding a cure for all cancers.
Since you have accomplished so much, what do you hope will be your greatest legacy one day?
Julie Clark made children smile.