By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Julie Newby can recite the date she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the dates of each of her three surgeries and of when she learned she wouldn’t need chemotherapy.
“I don’t usually remember dates,” said Newby, 48, who works as a registered nurse in cardiac rehab at North Mississippi Medical Center. “I probably will always remember those dates.”
Newby, who feels “great” today, received her bad news in a Friday morning, 8 a.m. doctor’s phone call last Oct. 5. She was fearful after noticing a lump that felt like an almond a couple of weeks earlier.
“I had a feeling it was cancer, but to hear her say it, it was like someone punched me in the stomach,” Newby said.
To that point, she had told only Steve, her husband of 24 years. The hardest part was telling her daughters – Alaina, 18, and Brianna, 14.
“It was like the world stopped,” Alaina said. “It was like it was just us and the world was far away.”
Newby had a bilateral mastectomy on Oct. 19 and learned two months later chemotherapy wouldn’t be necessary. She still had to undergo two reconstructive surgeries during the spring. Yet through it all, she wasn’t scared.
“That is God’s grace,” said Newby, a member of First Baptist Church in Tupelo. “He gave me such peace. That is the only way I can explain it. I had some sad times, but I was never scared.”
Perhaps, she said, that was the purpose of what she lived through. She remembers the hard times, like when she was so weak during the first seven days after her mastectomy that she couldn’t stand by herself for two minutes. She wasn’t even able to wash or dry her hair during that week.
“I learned a lot about God,” she said. “I’ll never again doubt God loves me. So many times I felt God’s presence. During the day, when I was healing, I could feel his presence.”
She also credits her mother – who came to every doctor’s appointment – her husband and her daughters, who were her biggest cheerleaders. Her Sunday school class and others filled her freezer with food; friends sent her cards nearly every day. She leaned upon other cancer survivors.
More support came last weekend when a group of friends who graduated from Tupelo High with her in 1983 participated in the Race for the Cure in her honor.
“We want to celebrate Julie winning her battle against breast cancer because she has been such an inspiration to all of us,” said Deborah Pugh, who grew up with Newby.
Newby advises others who face breast cancer to educate themselves about the disease and also to accept such aid.
“I had always been independent, but I had to let people help me,” she said. “It also was important to keep a positive attitude.”
When the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis came earlier this month, its significance weighed on her mind.
“I thought about how I felt this time last year, and how I feel now,” she said. “It was a hard year, but I have a lot of blessings this year.”
When she woke up that morning, she found a note from each of her daughters on her kitchen table.
“She is very strong and that has taught me a lot,” Alaina said. “I hope I can be like that for my kids. Her strength has helped keep us going.”