Welcome to CaringBridge. Julie Bruggenkamp of Snohomish, WA is an artist, a crafts maven, a wife, sister, mother, friend, special education para educator, a reformed chicken enthusiast, an alumna of Inglewood High School, a lover of dogs, campfires, evenings on the deck, good meals and festive holidays . All of these things are part of Julie's story. Now cancer is part of the story too. Julie Bruggenkamp is my mother. She is 63 years old. Julie lives in Snohomish, WA with her husband Jack. This site is a way to update you on what is happening with her health.
In August 2017, after being remarkably healthy, Julie learned she had lobular carcinoma in her left breast (stage and grade 2, reactive to estrogen). That cancer was also found in her lymph nodes. On September 5, 2017, Julie underwent a successful mastectomy of the left breast from which she is recovering.
In the interim between the diagnosis of breast cancer and the mastectomy, Julie also learned she has renal cancer in her right kidney (stage 2b). To be clear, the breast cancer did not metastasize to her kidney. Julie has breast cancer and renal cancer, two discreet cancers simultaneously.
It is rare that a woman has breast and renal cancer. Julie is fortunate on two counts regarding the renal cancer: one, it is unusual for this aggressive cancer to be identified at an early stage as it was in her case. Two, the renal cancer has not metastasized to the bladder or urethra. She is profoundly grateful for this as it increased her odds of survivability and the likelihood that she will continue to have typical bladder function. On October 11, her right kidney is being removed.
While looking forward to having all the cancer out of her body, Julie understands that the removal of the kidney is a more complex surgery than a mastectomy. The healing may be slower and more painful.
Julie will also commence chemo therapy and radiation. There are many aspects of her diagnosis, treatment and recovery unfolding. It’s hard to keep up with.
It is a humbling exercise to find words that introduce my mom to the world, to present her in a way that doesn’t embarrass her and to explain why I hope she can live a long, happy life. My mom became the sole wage earner in her household about a year and a half ago when her husband had a stroke that changed his skills and ability to work. Julie works for the Snohomish School District as a para educator and she is good at it. Though not always for Snohomish, she has worked with students with disabilities for more than 30 years. Julie particularly enjoys working with young people with autism or kids with complex medical needs. For many summers she worked for Camp Prov in Everett. She brings a particular credibility and understanding when engaging with parents of children with disabilities because one of her two daughters has a disability.
Julie likes simple things such as campfires, festive holidays with all the trimmings, and wine. She has a soft spot for stray critters, especially dogs. She did find room in her heart for a rough tomcat called Brewster, a true hunter.
Julie is uniquely talented at making something out of nothing, or close to it. She has an eye and can turn a dodgy apartment or dated interior into a cozy, inviting place. She makes a decent dinner out of ingredients on hand even when no one else sees the possibilities. Julie has always been an artist. She draws, paints, and is a maven with crafts such as paper-making and doll-making. She writes stories and songs for children. She is a master thrift store shopper. When I got my first job that required a professional wardrobe and didn’t have one, for $100 she hooked me up!
What’s missing here is Julie’s really goofy side. She doesn’t hesitate to do things that make her look silly. She danced around with those kids at Camp Prov until she was too sore to move. Julie took on a bunch of chickens, named each one and took pictures of them depicting their various personalities. In one image, a chicken dawned a string of pearls. Chicken meets Jackie Onassis, sans the iconic glasses? Go figure.
Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement, and kindness. Thank you for being part of Julie’s recovery.