Video Transcript

Julia Gardner:

When you have such a good life, you can kinda feel that like, something is coming, and so I've always had that feeling, like my life has been too good.

I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 21, which is a little bit rare to get it older. Right before I got diagnosed, I was getting married, and so I had my perfect wedding at the Cincinnati Music Hall, exactly what I wanted. It was perfect.

And then, I was about ready to start grad school for pharmacy. And then all the sudden I started feeling a little weird, so then I went to the emergency room on a Friday and got diagnosed on a Saturday, went to Cincinnati Children's on a Sunday to start treatment.

We cried and did a little bit of grieving for a few days, but then, me and my husband are pretty much like, grab ourselves up by the bootstraps kind of people, and we said, like, "No more crying in my room." We have faith and we know that like God will get us through this, and even if he doesn't, like we're still in the right place. This is where he wants us to be.

And a lot of people will say like, "How many cycles?" Or, "How many rounds of chemo?" But that's not really, leukemia is not really like that. I probably had one drug 50 times. I am a pharmacy student, so drugs are not that scary to me.

I had all the rare, serious side effects, not the expected ones. I did not have very much nausea or vomiting. I actually gained weight instead of lost weight, which is not what you would think about for cancer patients.

I knew that I was going to be losing my hair, which that is devastating especially as a woman, and I had very long curly hair that I did not want to lose. And I actually lost it twice, which was tough.

My first month of treatment, I got a lot of care packages. We have a large family-friends circle, and a lot of them had really nice pairs of pajamas in them. And so I was always in different pairs of pajamas every day. And so I'd go down to like get an MRI, and people were like, "Oh, you look so cute in your pajamas," always giving me compliments. It gave me a little sense of normal while I was there.

So, we thought, OK, "Julia's Jammies" works so well, let's roll with it. So we reached out on Facebook to our friends and family and said, "Would you guys be willing to donate new with tags pajamas? And we will package them up and send them to Cincinnati Children's." It was something the first year for me to do. Even if I was tired, I wanted to do something. I think we're up to 19 different hospitals that we're in, and we'd given, I think about 4,500 pair of pajamas to different kids. So, it's been really cool.

And now, I actually want to do hematology / oncology in pediatrics for pharmacy, so it led me down a road that that's what I want to do with my career, which I did not know what I wanted to do for my career beforehand, so that's been really cool, too.

I mean, you always have to find the hope in your life to keep moving forward and have something exciting that you're looking forward to, too. I remember when I started, I had one niece. And now that I've finished, I have four nieces and nephews plus three step-nieces and -nephews, so our family has grown a whole lot. Somebody was pregnant the entire time I've been going through this. Right now is the first time nobody's been pregnant, I think!