Julie Everling has worked as an ICU nurse at Hennepin County Medical Center for over 30 years. She has never smoked. In 2009, Julie began coughing whenever she used the hand sanitizer at work. She wondered if the alcohol fumes were causing a sensitivity. During a physical exam, she mentioned her concern about the cough. She was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.
For four months, doctors and specialists continued to treat Julie for pneumonia. They used different drugs and even admitted her to the hospital. Nothing was working. A thoracic surgeon finally recommended removing the lower lobe of her left lung which led to the team finding a 15cm tumor. Julie’s stage IB lung cancer was confirmed by tissue analysis. Following this surprising diagnosis, she completed three months of chemotherapy and was told that she was cancer-free.
On Valentines Day, a year after her original diagnosis, Julie learned that the cancer had returned and both lungs showed tumors. It was now a stage 4 diagnosis. After several doctors told Julie that she only had one to two years to live, she was devastated, but determined to fight it. “There is always hope,” Julie says. Nine years after her first diagnosis, Julie admits that there have been many setbacks, but she continues to fight back with chemotherapy, clinical trials and immunotherapy. She is quick to point out that, “Research has allowed me to live this long, but it has a long way to go.”
Julie wants people to know that anyone can get lung cancer and that it’s not just a smoker’s disease.” As a healthcare provider, she would also like to see awareness grow around life-style choices, such as nutrition, as ways to potentially prevent and fight cancer.