“I feel more alive than ever”

How Julie Visner stays positive in the face of multiple myeloma

By Deborah Pike Olsen

For Julie Visner, every day, every conversation and every relationship matters. Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2009, she is grateful for the treatments that have helped her reach her 56th birthday. “I have survived now for six years,” says the LA-based college counselor.

It’s been an eye-opening journey for Julie, who was relatively young when she was diagnosed. “I was completely blindsided,” she recalls. “I thought the doctors had made a mistake. Discovering that I had an incurable, terminal cancer was a surreal, out-of-body experience.” After the shock wore off, Julie was determined to remain upbeat—“glass half full, not half empty.” “My master’s degree in psychology and counseling gave me the coping skills I need,” she says, as did her work helping rescue animals.

Julie continued to work during her treatment with high-dose steroids and oral chemotherapy. In July 2010, she had a stem cell transplant and achieved full remission. “I was very fortunate,” she recalls. “It was a new start, new life, new body.”

But in the spring of 2013, the cancer returned, and Julie resumed her treatment regimen of steroids and oral chemotherapy. Recently, the cancer started to become resistant to the medication, and her doctor told her a new proteasome inhibitor, a type of targeted therapy, could help. Given by infusion, it prevents the growth and spread of cancer cells—and it seems to be working. “I just got great news,” she says. “My myeloma numbers (such as IgA and M-protein) are coming down.”

In the meantime, Julie treasures the time she spends with friends and family members. “Ironically, cancer makes you feel more alive,” she says. “It makes you love more and love more deeply.”

Read Julie's tips here

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