In the case of Julie Mires, family history caught up to her.
At the time she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in June of 2014, Mires had already watched two aunts and her sister Penny struggle with the disease. Their history was why she had undergone annual mammograms since her early 20s.
But, “When my doctor made an appointment for me to come in I told myself that that was what it was going to be,” she said.
Now 58, Mires has been named Honorary Chair of the 2019 Fulton County Relay for Life event scheduled June 7-8 at the county fairgrounds. After suffering several setbacks since her original diagnosis, she has accepted her continued fight with cancer and has found peace within the positive areas of her life.
“No matter what I was going through there were still good things happening,” she said.
A Wauseon resident until moving to Napoleon a year ago, Mires’ cancer was found deep in her chest wall. It was identified as triple-negative, a particularly aggressive form, but the options to treat it were numerous.
Based on her family history, she chose to have a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. She underwent the 12-hour procedure that August at The Toledo Hospital. The surgeons used her stomach muscles for the reconstruction to avoid implanting foreign objects.
Mires was released four days later, but her journey was far from over. Not all of the cancer was caught, and just over a week later she was back in surgery for another three hours. Her post-operative condition led to an infection and to blood clots in her arms and legs. She was given two shots daily for three months to resolve the clots, then was placed on blood thinners.
“This is the part when I truly understood what it meant to put things into God’s hands,” Mires said. “I realized I couldn’t do this without His help.”
Single at the time, she began a period of soul-searching. “You started thinking, ‘Am I going to live? Did I treat people right? Did I live my life through faith?’” she said. “I don’t think I really got the answers until I told people, because of the overwhelming response that I got. It was people telling me how I affected their lives in a good way. I felt that the support was there.”
A port was inserted in Mires’ chest to dispense 16 rounds of chemotherapy between September 2015 and February 2016. During that time she battled another infection, and was told another sister, Sue, had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. Even so, Mires began recording a daily gratitude list and a similar weekly expression on Facebook to maintain a positive attitude.
By March of 2016 she was given a clean bill of health. But two years later, just after getting remarried and having foot surgery, Mires developed breathing problems. Tests run in October revealed the cancer was back, and had metastasized to her left lung.
She began both chemotherapy and immunotherapy that December. The following February, pain in her ribs and back led to a CAT scan. The results indicated the cancer had aggressively progressed to Mires’ liver, bones, and lymph nodes, and blood clots were in her left lung.
“That one hit me hard, because at that point you’re asking, ‘How much time do I have?’” she said.
Her doctor sent Mires to Cleveland Clinic. She was told the clinic would apply two chemotherapy drugs not yet tried, but “if those didn’t work I had no other options.”
She continues to receive the drugs, and has been told she’ll be on them the remainder of her life. “This is my new lifestyle. Cancer has a mind of its own,” she said.
She’s also been told cancer patients can live another 10 to 15 years with the treatment, but Mires knows the doctors are simply buying her time as they try to stop the disease from progressing.
Her husband Jeff, whom she married only two months before her second diagnosis, has been a great support system, she said. “He goes to every appointment, every treatment, with me. You have someone right there with you every day.”
Mires said she’s at peace with her prognosis, and always tries to look for the positive in everything about her ordeal. Her situation has also allowed her to discuss death with her sons from a previous marriage, Josh and Jacob Prather.
“If you truly believe what you were taught in your faith all these years, they have to understand I’m going to a better place,” she said.
And her life with cancer has taught Mires, who relied on an independent streak, to let go.
“I’ve always taken care of everything. I had to learn that I didn’t have to be strong for everybody else. I had to take care of myself,” she said.
Mires was nominated for Relay for Life’s honorary chair position by Jane Patterson, captain of the Fulton County Health Center Relay team. Sharon Morr, the county’s Relay co-chair, said Mires’ grit, determination, and fighting spirit against her cancer is admirable.
“Beating it once, coming back, trying to beat it again, and not giving up is celebrated at Relay,” she said.
A 35-year employee of Sauder Woodworking in Archbold, Mires continues to work, and offered advice to others sharing her illness. “They have to look for the positive in their life. They have to reach out to people,” she said.
A bright spot did emerge in April, after Mires was given a CAT scan to examine an infection. Her cancer has decreased, a condition she attributes to prayer. Another scan is scheduled for June.
Citing the hit Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying,” Mires said she has other plans.
“I choose to live like I’m living,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.