Julie Jackson: A Survivor Running For Those Who Can't

By all accounts, Julie Jackson was the picture of a young, healthy woman.

Julie spent her high school years in the pool as a competitive swimmer. When she began her architecture studies at Penn, she turned to running. “The pool wasn’t as convenient to get to,” Julie says. “I decided running would be a good replacement.”

Julie trained for and completed the 2011 Broad Street Run during her freshmen year of college. “Running is not something that has ever come easily to me, but I felt so strong crossing the finish line that day.”

Julie, like many Ivy League students, began to experience anxiety. She turned to yoga to manage her feelings. The success she experienced with yoga lead her to complete a Yoga Teacher Training at Hotbox Yoga West Philly. She’s now a teacher at Yoga Habit in Fairmount.

This coping mechanism would end up being much more important than Julie realized at the time.

About two years ago, Julie noticed a bump on the back of her thigh. She, like most otherwise healthy women, ignored it for a while. She continued teaching and practicing. “I unconsciously made adjustments to accommodate the growing lump, but didn’t really think much of it,” Julie says.

One day, Julie couldn’t reach her toes. “This is not a normal issue for a yogi.” It was then she sought out the advice of her primary care physician.

Still otherwise healthy and convinced it wasn’t a big deal, Julie was shocked when her doctor referred her to an orthopedic oncologist at Jefferson. “To be honest, I didn’t really know that type of medicine was a thing!” Julie says.

The diagnosis came back quickly: Julie had a soft tissue sarcoma. Her treatment plan was five weeks of radiation before having surgery to remove the tumor.

Since the surgery, her reports have come back the same: “No evidence of disease.”

Throughout her diagnosis and treatment, yoga was a constant source of comfort for Julie.

“In yoga, we emphasize being present and patient,” Julie says. “Those concepts are so important to someone going through cancer treatment. You can’t think about your past experiences and you can’t worry about what could be coming down the road.” Yoga allowed her to be cognizant and appreciative of where she was in her journey, but also gave her the focus to realize she was working toward the next step in the process.

Julie practiced when she was able throughout her treatment and would encourage others going through treatment to do the same, with the blessing of their physician.

Now that she is well into her recovery, Julie is rediscovering the challenges and joys of running. She will be joining Legacy of Hope for Philly Runs Free at the Love Run on March 29.

“Running was much more in my comfort zone than yoga, initially,” Julie says. “Since then, the relationship has flipped.” Julie completed the 2019 Broad Street Run but felt as though she struggled a bit to get to the finish line.

“I’m not going to feel the same as I did before my surgery, and that’s OK. Training requires some self-compassion,” Julie says. She is back in physical therapy and training hard to get her body prepared to cover the 13.1 miles.

Her motivation? First-hand knowledge of what the assistance of Legacy of Hope means to cancer patients and their families.

“Most people have physical reactions to periods of extreme stress, like a cancer diagnosis. Now imagine being immunocompromised, anxious about losing your life and worried about how you are going to feed your family. How is anyone supposed to heal under those conditions?” Julie says. “Legacy of Hope's support allows people to focus solely on their health by ensuring their most basic needs are met. And even more than that, it reminds people that there is hope and there are people who are rooting for them, and that can make all the difference.”

Catch Julie at Yoga Habit in Fairmount every Tuesday at 7:30PM and join her for Love Run 2020 by signing up for Philly Runs Free. Not a runner? Donate to the cause here!

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