Help a local child in need by following Julia’s Journey
Albert H. Fulcher Wed June 25, 2014 08:54pm
Let’s talk about Julia Garmo. On Aug. 3, she turns 7 years old. Her joys in life include school, reading, swimming, soccer and playing with her friends. She has four siblings and lives with her family in El Cajon, but, things are rough for Julia and the Garmo family since November 2013. Diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, Julia has a cancer that affects nearly 650 children a year in the U.S. Every 16 hours, a child with neuroblastoma dies.
Treatment for this lasts more than a year and involves surgeries, chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, radiation, cis-retinoic acid and immunotherapy. That is so much for a young soul to bear. Enduring this unimaginable scenario is not new to the Garmos as they went through this horrific ordeal nine years earlier with their son Isaac.
Needing a tremendous amount of support, in February, I had a short conversation with her mother Anita, attempting to set up time to speak with them, meet Julia and make people aware of what is happening with one of our own here. But Julia has been in and out of the hospital because of treatments, making it impossible to meet. So I have followed Julia’s journey since. It is a story of a family, that, through trials and setbacks, fights with everything they have to keep their daughter alive. It is only sure will and their faith in God that keeps this family going. But this story has no ending yet. And as I read the words of her mother, as a parent, my heart breaks.
Due to Julia’s treatment, the unthinkable happened. During a time of extreme difficulty, the Garmo family had to split up. With her two oldest siblings, her mother is taking Julia to New York for immunotherapy. Her other two siblings are spending the summer with their grandmother while dad stays at home. Having your support system split up at such a crucial point in therapy has to be devastating.
I know cancer very well. It hit my life through family and friends in many worse case scenarios and I understand the pain and fear of watching someone so close to your heart go through this. I sat terrified through the first chemotherapy, wondering if the first drops of coming from the IV would be a cure or a killer. It makes every day precious, but it is painful and terrifying. If it had not been for the support system that I had, I am not sure if either of us would have made it through.
A couple of dear friends of mine understood though and took action. Going through cancer is draining on a person, but the financial burdens it brings add more weight to an unbearable load. And it is not just the medical expenses. It is driving 60 miles a day for chemo and radiation treatment. It is spending countless money on things you never thought you would need. I suddenly began getting cards in the mail with money, gas certificates and every week a friend would drop off a car full of items ranging from toilet paper to organic food that she gathered from friends and strangers who saw the chance to help someone in need. These gifts even included books, coffee cards and things for me to do as I sat through hours of chemo and radiation treatments. This was not just a precious gift. It was life saving.
Julia and her family need the assistance of anyone in East County who can help. From individual donations to businesses willing to hold fundraisers to help the Garmo family make it through the still difficult and uncertain times ahead. Her mother is documenting every moment of this journey and when I look at the pictures of Julia, whether it be with her beautiful brown hair or no hair at all, her smile is undeniably the same vivacious, spirited child who refuses to give in to cancer. To read Julia’s Journey and make donations, visit www.juliasjourney.org and follow her on www.facebook.com/juliagarmosjourney. I have faith in the people of East County to help make a difference in Julia’s life.