Julia's Warriors

Rosemary Bolognese is the captain of Julia’s Warriors, a team of friends and family who have come together to support Rosemary’s niece, Julia Lisena.  “Julia is our rock, and she is in our thoughts and prayers each day.  Creating Julia’s Warriors is just one way we are showing her how much we care and how she has her own team of warriors fighting alongside her.”

Julia—or ‘JuJu’ as they often call her—was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just three years old.  Right from the beginning, her family witnessed just how strong she was and how determined not to miss out on the life of a normal young girl who loves to play with her siblings and friends, dance and take photos.  She spent considerable time in hospitals, but in 2012, the family was happy to celebrate her five-year-cancer-free milestone when she was 11 years old.

About eight months later, Julia and her family noticed something wrong with her vision.  A biopsy confirmed that she had chordoma—an extremely rare tumor (literally one case in a million people) that occurs in the bones of the skull and spine.  Doctors treating Julia said this second diagnosis of a completely different—and rare—type of cancer was the equivalent of being struck by lightning twice.

Treating chordoma has involved two brain surgeries for Julia followed by proton beam radiation which is not available in Canada, so the family had to travel to Boston for eight weeks.  This was a huge emotional strain for this tight knit family.  No one wanted to be this far from Julia or her parents at a time when family support is so important. Fortunately, Julia’s last MRI shows that everything is stable, and she is looking and feeling great.

Julia’s family knows the importance of research to discover and develop more effective treatments and to really understand how the disease begins and behaves.  All the members of Julia’s Warriors have a lot of confidence in the work being done at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. “We believe the team at Princess Margaret is making excellent progress in developing better treatments for cancer patients, but they need our help especially to ensure that there are also effective treatment options for rare cancers like chordoma.  We want to be part of the solution.”

Like so many people who aren’t in the business of raising money, the members of team Julia’s Warriors were a little daunted by the prospect of raising $10,000 to participate in Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer.  But they consider themselves true Canadians who LOVE hockey, and they had all the motivation they needed as they thought of what an incredible fighter Julia has been.

The team even amazed themselves by raising $21,425.  “We’re really proud and extremely grateful to all of our supporters.  Because cancer has struck so close to home, each member of the team dug down deep individually and appealed to their entire network of friends and colleagues for support.”

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