Forward DeMay really didnít want to talk about the cervical cancer
that she was fighting with all her might. But, says her mother, June
Forward of Oconomowoc, she wanted her friends to know how she was
doing, so she blogged about what itís like to face down fear and
personal friends, but others battling cancer, their families and
caregivers read the blog. They came to know Julie as a determined
36-year-old mother who aimed a full arsenal of emotions at the disease
ó from anger to humor, frustration to inspiration, outrage to peace.
It took more
than a year after Julie died for her mother to assemble the blogs into
"Cell War Notebooks," a book that Forward chose to
self-publish "because I didnít want anybody to edit those
words." So Julieís blogs appear in the book just as she wrote
although the book chronicles a monumental struggle, her daughterís
words are often "uplifting and full of hope."
From March 5,
2009: "There is a small part of me that is screaming and yelling
and saying canít someone just rip this stuff out of me and chuck it
in the garbage? Canít I just throw up and have it come out? But I
have to keep going. I have to drink my vegetables and eat my vitamins.
I have to watch Scott and Thandi finish the sauna. I have to help Luka
learn to jump rope. So here I go."
Julie majored in
creative writing in college, Forward says, and she was also a
freelance photographer. Julieís photographs illustrate the book just
as they were used in her blogs, like the picture of her getting a buzz
cut the day her hair started falling out in clumps from the
From Jan. 25,
2009: "With cancer, it always comes down to the hair. I wonít
miss it so much as I will miss my life with hair. Being bald is the
cancer signal and from here on out, I wonít be so incognito with my
damn ugly mutating cells. People will see my pretty scarf and know
that I am sick.
know if I am wearing a cute blonde pixie cut wig, I guess though.
Anyone got one of those?"
Julie writes as
if she is having a conversation with a close friend. Forward says
people who did not know her personally have told her, "I feel
like I have just befriended the most amazing woman."
As the posts
move across seven months, an intimate portrait of Julie emerges ó
her struggles with the treatmentsí side effects; her fierce love of
her husband, family and friends who pull out all the stops to support
her battle; and her insistence on living on her own terms.
From July 28,
2009, the last post: "Itís time to teach my daughter the beauty
and strength in surrender; itís time to show her the absolute
courage it takes to fight with all the power you have and then realize
the Pain is not going to stop until you give it the word."
dream was to be a published author," Forward says. "So I
said to her, before she passed away, ĎJulie, I want to get this
published for you.í I couldnít do anything else, I couldnít take
her pain away, but I could get it published for her. I would give
anything if it wasnít about this."
"Cell War Notebooks" will be put into a fund for Julieís
Last year, 12,200 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed,
according to the National Cancer Institute. The sooner the
cancer is detected, the better the outlook for the patient, says
Dr. Janet Rader, professor and chairman of the Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical of Wisconsin. "Itís
very curable early, but once itís advanced, itís very
difficult to treat."
should have cervical cancer screenings and pap smears starting
at age 21, Rader says, and every two to three years thereafter.
The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, designed to prevent the
type of genital warts that can develop into cervical cancer, is
recommended for both boys and girls, Rader says. Genital warts
can be transmitted through intimate contact. "You need to
be vaccinated against the virus at a young age because your
immune system just responds better," Rader explains.
- by Nan Bialek