Julia Jaramillo felt many things when she was told she had breast cancer, but more than anything, she felt alone. Jaramillo went alone to an appointment with her hematologist/oncologist, Dr. Kenneth Johnson, following a series of tests that had been ordered for a suspicious lump in her left breast. She didn't realize the heavy weight of the information she would receive or the emotions she would experience.
"I froze when he told me I had cancer," Jaramillo recalled. "I walked out of his office, got in my car and couldn't do anything but sit there and cry."
Just 39 years old when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, Jaramillo was a newly single mother of two young sons and the owner of a housekeeping business that was struggling in the poor economy. While dealing with just one of these situations would be a worst-case scenario for many people, Jaramillo quickly realized she had no choice but to face all of them at once.
"It felt like too much to handle, but I knew I had to be strong," Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo began treatment at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, which included surgery to remove her tumor and chemotherapy. She also began attending the hospital's breast cancer support group, where she found the strength that carried her through the hardest times of her ordeal with the disease.
On the day her cancer was declared in remission, Jaramillo had never been happier, but she knew her work with the disease wasn't over. With her work hours cut in half, Jaramillo decided to become a volunteer patient navigator in Sharp Chula Vista's Radiation Therapy Department. Always wearing the same big smile she wore throughout treatment and with her hair beginning to grow back, Jaramillo, now 41, visits the hospital twice a week to help breast cancer patients fill out paperwork and answer their questions. Jaramillo is careful to respect patients' privacy, but happy to share her experience with the disease and offer advice if asked.
"There have been many times when I've sat with patients and seen their mood change simply because I told them what I went through," Jaramillo said. "They see that I'm happy and healthy now and that gives them hope."
Find a San Diego Oncologist
To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego oncologist specializing in breast cancer or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.