Hi, I’m Julie and I had leukemia.

Written by JKM on July 25th, 2009

I know you’re already aware of that, but I just figured I’d remind you.  OK, really, it’s because Laura made fun of me for sharing our story with strangers when we were in Cape Cod for Kristi and Dave’s wedding last weekend.  What?!  It’s an inspiring story, and I thought it would make others happy.  Laura, however, thinks the taxi driver didn’t need to hear about it…and those people who took our picture on the beach, they could have skipped the cancer stuff…tmi as far as Laura was concerned.  But I, on the other hand, was so happy to be on a mini-vacation at the beach with my gift of life that I assumed strangers would be happy for me too!  I think they were, by the way, but it kind of became our joke while we were up there.  “Hi, I’m Julie.  I had leukemia.”, although I didn’t really put it like that.

With the taxi driver, he asked what I did for a living, and when I said I wasn’t working, my darling sister chimed in “she’s a bum!” to which I responded “no, I’m not!  I had leukemia.”  Awkward, sure.  But also uplifting!  I mean, I’m alive, right?

With the couple on the beach, they were asking if there was any special reason for taking a picture of ourselves by a tandem bike in front of the ocean.  Laura said something about sending them to our parents, if I remember correctly, and I elaborated, drawing on the symbolism of a bicycle built for two…a seat for me and my bone marrow donor!  I know, I’m a dork, but I’m a grateful, happy dork.  This weekend was mostly about Kristi and Dave, but it had special meaning for Laura and me.  Last year at this time, I flew to Boston for the day to check out the hospital.  This year, I flew there to celebrate a wedding and enjoy a serenely beautiful part of the northeast.  So, after the treatment, going into remission, rebooting my immune system with Laura’s cells, how could I not see that tandem bicycle as something much more than a spontaneous adventure?

While we’re on the subject of the bike, let me tell you that tandem bikes are NOT as easy as they look.  It seems as though it should be effortless to ride along on a trail because you have four legs pedaling instead of two.  Here’s the reality:  the person in the back might as well be sleeping ’cause they don’t do that much.  The driver, however, must steer, pay attention to speeds, monitor obstacles, operate the brakes and do the bulk of the pedaling.  What the song “Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two)” doesn’t tell you is that when the second person climbs on, your balance is shot!  Then, if they move their handlebars, the driver’s seat moves back and forth as well!

Laura drove first, and I was surprised by her inability to gracefully maneuver the bike through a parking lot (i.e. I feared for my life).  We were giggling and trying to figure out just what we did wrong.  Finally, she got the hang of it and off we went.  We rode four miles on the Shining Sea Bike Path, from Falmouth to Woods Hole, past ocean views and beautiful homes.  We were the only tandem bike on the trail.  We stopped in Woods Hole to buy some souvenirs and walk around.  Then it was my turn.

Laura was not very confident in my ability.  Once, while practicing, Laura chastised me for crashing the bike.  I prefer to describe it as “laying the bike down”.  Hey, no one was hurt.  I would not give up, even though Laura was itching to get back in the front seat.  With some considerable skill and a lot of communication, we made our way back toward Falmouth.  She yelled if I changed gears without informing her, or if I decided to stop without much warning.  We paused for photos (and I told my story), and we made it back safely to the charming town of Falmouth.  Giddy with excitement about our new adventure, we chatted about what I would put on my blog, which pictures were best, what a gorgeous place it was and how we were looking forward to the wedding.

As you can judge from the photos, the weather was absolutely incredible!  Laura and I arrived quite early to the venue (not on purpose…we just didn’t know our way around town, so we gave the cab plenty of time to get us there).  It was on the grounds of an old mansion that was restored a few years ago.  We wandered around, doing a little photo shoot among the colorful flowers and trees, trying to act as though we got there early on purpose…you know, to tour the surroundings.  :)  When other guests arrived, we picked a good aisle seat, grabbed a glass of lemonade and settled in.

It was a beautiful wedding.  There were so many details that made it special, and the atmosphere was formal yet laid-back.  They make a beautiful couple, and it was obvious how excited they both were.  At one point in the ceremony, Kristi seemed to be distracted by something, moving around a bit before announcing that the ceremony had to be paused so her mom and matron of honor could help her get a bug out from under her dress!  :)  It was one of the highlights of the ceremony.  She was so happy and relaxed that she was laughing about a situation that might have made any other bride upset.  She laughed, we laughed, and the service went on.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a cocktail hour with delicious appetizers and some red wine.  Laura and I posed for another photo shoot, as you’ll see below.  The appetizers were spectacular, and Laura and I seemed to be in the perfect position as servers came by offering up various goodies.  Each time, we’d pretend like we had never tried it before, so they wouldn’t realize how much we had eaten.  “Oh!  That looks great!  I think I’ll try one.”, when really we already had two of them.  :)  I’m pretty sure they were on to us.  Oh well!

The other folks at our dinner table were awesome…it was very international.  Friends from Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Ecuador and Puerto Rico dined with us.  Another girl shared some stories of her time in the Peace Corps in Morocco.  Half of us were photography aficionados, and everyone had a wonderful sense of humor.  We talked and laughed from the moment we sat down.  Thank you, Kristi and Dave, for introducing us to so many wonderful people!!

Finally, the moment we had been waiting for…dancing!!!  Woohoooo!!!!  I love it when the bride and groom get out there and show their stuff, and Kristi and Dave surely did!  They danced almost the entire evening.  Seriously, that dance floor was rockin’!!!  Laura and I did our part, of course.  :)  Then came the hula hooping contest.  I hurried up to the DJ to make sure I grabbed an adult-sized hoop ’cause the child ones are way too hard.  I urged fellow hoopers to do the same.  The music began, and hips were a-swayin’.  I don’t know whether alcohol diminished their skills or if too many folks tried their luck at the child-sized hula hoops…perhaps all that practice paid off, but in any case, I won!  Can you believe it?  Yup, you read right…I WON!!  :)  Turns out that Laura didn’t wear the proper dress to hula hoop in.  I, on the other hand, took hula hooping into account when picking out my attire.  When the DJ announced that “the girl in the striped dress” won, I did a little curtsy…hahahaha, I really am a dork.  I couldn’t think of a better way to end the evening if I were writing a Lifetime movie.  :)  Girl gets cancer and adopts the hula hoop as her live-life-to-the-fullest symbol, sister donates bone marrow, girl recovers, sisters travel to Cape Cod to celebrate, girl wins hula hooping contest at wedding.  How perfect is that?

Oh, one more detail I want to share with you.  In lieu of favors, Kristi and Dave donated to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society along with another organization.  I was extremely touched (no, I’m not just assuming they did it because of my experience…she told me they did. :) ).  Kristi and Dave, Laura and I were honored to be there and celebrate your wedding day with you.  Your friends and family are wonderful.  Kristi, I was especially excited to meet your parents…I felt like I already knew them after all this time!  Laura and I were sad to leave the Cape, but I have a feeling we will relive this weekend’s wonderful moments for a long, long time.  As Patti Page sings,

“If you spend an evening, you’ll want to stay

Watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Bay

You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod”

~”Old Cape Cod”

One more highlight to our trip.  Now, I know that things don’t buy happiness, but sometimes that perfect piece of clothing comes pretty darn close.  You know what I’m talking about…we all have something that makes us smile simply to see it in our closet.  When I was little, they were red shiny shoes.  In high school, it was a t-shirt that I eventually had to patch to keep it decent.  I can’t remember what I loved in college…I’m pretty sure I still had that t-shirt though.  There have been several dresses in my lifetime, one pair of good dancin’ shoes (see photos below), a frilly and fun black sweater, my bright green jacket and now, a black jacket.  I saw it in the window when Laura and I walked by on Sunday, and then again on Monday.  Well, I tried it on and I felt beautiful immediately!  Laura wrapped a turqoise scarf around my neck, and I looked even better (if I do say so myself)!  I can’t wait for some good, cold weather!  Maybe I’ll turn the A/C up in the house just so I can wear it.  :)

Well, I do believe this may be the longest post ever, but I had so much to share with you!!  Before perusing the photos, I highly recommend opening up another window and going to this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rM2Xa4RUBCk.  Keep it playing as you experience our Cape Cod adventure through the photos!  What a wonderful weekend.  When you get to the bike photos, switch over to this one:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXiWvJhTwfU&feature=related.  Enjoy!!!

Lots of love,


6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jul

    It looks like the perfect weekend and the perfect wedding! You and Laura look beautiful, and your dresses suit both of you perfectly. :) I’m glad you were able to get up there and enjoy a beautiful summer break.

    Kristi, congratulations on your marriage!

  2. Jul
    Laura (AKA the donor)

    I already miss Cape Cod! :) I even miss (dare I say it!) riding the bicycle built for two with you! :) I had a BLAST! Love you!

  3. Jul

    I love all of the photos, it looked beautiful! What a great day for Kristi and Dave!

    I could NOT stop laughing at the photo of Laura after having her eyes closed! :P Where did she read that?!

  4. Jul

    awesome post Julie - I was looking forward to it and you did not disappoint! Glad you had so much fun. I loved the part about the tandem - Jason and I rented one for a weekend and had a very similar experience ;) Once when Jason took off from a stop sign and I did not have one of my feet on the pedal I let out a yelp - some folks walking by told us “don’t let that bike ruin a great relationship!” ha!

  5. Aug
    Dorothy Dowdy

    Hi Julie!
    Loved the Boston story. You and Laura are both beautiful! The girl in the striped dress was impossible to beat in the hula hoop contest. What a great summer this has been!

  6. Nov
    Arvydas Barzdukas

    I am your Dad’s patient, Julie. I’ve truly enjoyed reading your postings and pictures. I said to your Dad, what a good school UVa is. Our son also graduated from there and he, too, writes very well, just like you. First of October, have been diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare but aggressive skin cancer that can do bad things. On October 26 I had surgery at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital / Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, so now I am cooling my heels at home. Between pre-op and surgery we picked up our granddaughter who is a student at the Tabor Academy in Marion, MA, and also drove out to Falmouth for lunch. Neat place. The town’s marathon was there that morning. Don’t worry, you will find a job. With all the best.
    Arvydas Barzdukas

Spruce up your comments with
<a href="" title=""><abbr title=""><acronym title=""><b><blockquote cite=""><cite><code><del datetime=""><em><i><q cite=""><strike><strong>
New comments are moderated before being shown * = required field

Leave a Comment