I met my husband, Chad, when I was 19 years old. Chad is one of three boys, and I’ve known his brothers just as long as I’ve known him. Which means I’ve known Julie just as long.
When I met Chad, his older brother, Clint was dating a girl named Julie. This radiant, elegant, vibrant girl named Julie.
Over those first few years, we all kind of grew up around one another. Holidays (and man, that chick could cook), late nights, float trips, karaoke, just being young, and dumb, and in love with our respective Buchanan brothers.
When Chad and I got married in 2007, Clint and Julie were on a break. I missed my friend, but my gut told me that this wasn’t a permanent thing. The night of our wedding, Clint drove us home, and I remember him saying, “I really miss Julie. She would have wanted to be here.” By the time we got back from our honeymoon, they were back together.
Six months into our marriage, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. That’s a story for another time, but it’s part of this story. Because shortly after my diagnosis, Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer. A bond that I would never care to share with anyone. A bond that two brothers, while growing up, never thought they would share either. How could they? When you’re playing Dukes of Hazard in the backyard or fighting over the Nintendo controller, you never once think you’ll be helping the woman you love pick out a wig to cover her chemo-baldened head.
But here we were. Two girls comparing stories of PICCs, ports, nausea, wigs, and weird side effects. And two guys trying to maintain some sense of normalcy.
And then I got better. (Again, a story for another time.) It’s a weird sensation when you feel the most relief you’ve ever felt in your whole life, but you simultaneously feel an immense dread, because someone you love so dearly is still in the thick of it.
But then Julie got better too! And I think I was happier in those moments than I was in my own.
The next couple of years…Clint and Julie got engaged, we had a too much fun bachelorette party in OKC, they got married in Mexico, we celebrated so much.
We walked in the Tulsa Susan G. Known Race for the Cure, and Julie talked about how she couldn’t wait to run it the following year. We both loved running, and we committed to running a Half Marathon together one day.
But the celebration didn’t last. Julie’s cancer came back. Strong. And before I could breathe, she was gone. Those moments in the hospital are vivid and blurry all at once. We lost our sweet Julie on February 9, 2012.
Two days after Julie passed away. Chad and I flew to Austin, and I ran the Austin Marathon. At the time, it was the Livestrong Marathon, so the meaning was more powerful than ever. Julie told me so many times during my training that she was proud of me, and every time, I told her, “Can’t wait to do it together!” She ran every step of that race with me.
Survivor guilt is a real thing. Every time I hear of someone losing their own battle, my instant feeling is guilt. I love my life, and God has reminded me many times over the years that He has big purpose for it, but my heart has a hard time digesting the loss of another.
Every year, this day is filled with thoughts and feelings of why her and not me. I miss my friend, my sister, so much that I can’t get through this without many tear-wiping breaks. My throat is burning as I type, fighting back the urge to fall apart.
I didn’t want this year to be so hard. Julie remains the most positive person I’ve ever known. She didn’t just carry me through that Marathon seven years ago, she’s run with me almost every step since. I talk to her when it’s hard, when it’s beautiful, when I just want to talk.
So today, we ran that race we always promised. Seems fitting that we ran the Sweetheart Run, because cliche as it may seem, she did have such a sweet heart. It was cold and icy, but she ran with me the whole way, pushing me to be positive and to enjoy the moment.
Thank you, Julie. I love you so much, and I miss you every day.
PS–You crushed it!