Born on July 25, 2006, weighing 6 pounds 8 ounces, Julia was an instant joy to her entire family, including her two older brothers Christopher and Lucas who happily assumed their new roles as protectors of their baby sister. It was impossible to hold the pint-size Julia in your arms without falling in love.
Watching Julia grow into a toddler was equally delightful. Julia loved frogs, which is how she became known by the nickname “The Froggy Princess.” It all started with a frog stuffed animal/blanket that she never let out of her sight. She was always comforted by her “Froggy,” which kept her company every time she slept.
With Froggy in tow, Julia became increasingly feisty, fearless and full of personality. She was a daring climber, who wasn’t afraid to take risks. She had the ability to silence you with a look if you said or did something she didn’t particularly agree with. Once, she even gave her big brother Lucas a black eye, despite being a tiny toddler!
In October 2008, when Julia was diagnosed with leukemia at the tender age of two—a devastating blow to all who loved her—it was that same strength and feistiness that instantly filled everyone with hope. Julia had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, ALL for short, and the doctors were optimistic about her prognosis, since the cure rate for ALL is around 80%.
Although Julia would be engaged in the battle of her life, it was one we thought she would undoubtedly win. In fact, we could foresee the day when Julia would suffer an inevitable broken heart as a teenager. We’d sit her down and tell her that she beat cancer and that this was proof positive she could survive anything.
Sure enough, Julia was in remission by the end of November. This was the greatest possible Christmas gift and we were further convinced that Julia would beat leukemia.
Shock and devastation aren’t words that are powerful enough to describe how we felt four months later when Julia’s cancer came back. It was difficult to comprehend—especially since it is atypical for a child to relapse during treatment. The doctors, both at McMaster Children’s Hospital and those they were in contact with throughout North America, were baffled. At the time, they prescribed aggressive chemotherapy and gave Julia a 50/50 chance of getting into remission. There was still hope and it was something everyone clung to desperately.
Unfortunately, the odds were cruel and they seemed to work against Julia. Clinical studies of possibly beneficial new treatments that she originally qualified for wound up slipping out of grasp. Her case continued to confound doctors. Despite any setbacks, one thing was certain: Julia’s vibrant personality lived on.
Nowhere was this more obvious than on Julia’s Wish Trip, granted by the Children’s Wish Foundation in early July 2009. Julia, her parents and her brothers flew down to Orlando to visit Disney World for the trip of a lifetime. Julia’s extended family—aunts, uncles and cousins—also joined them for a portion of the trip.
Julia had a fantastic time, showing great enthusiasm on rides and with Disney characters, especially Goofy, whom she showered with hugs and declarations of love! As well, Julia received a star at the Give Kids the World monument in the House of Miracles, where her name will forever remain engraved.
A couple of weeks after returning home, Julia celebrated her third birthday at home. It was a big bash, complete with an enormous bouncy castle that made her squeal and giggle in delight. Julia also had an endearing charm and sense of humour throughout her illness. She relished any and every opportunity to inform her daddy that he smelled and she loved to tease one of the nurses on her floor, calling him a “goof.” While cancer raged in her tiny body, Julia’s wonderful zest for life flowed freely.
Less than a month later, however, Julia’s illness took a turn for the worst and doctors delivered news that no parent should ever have to hear—this beautiful, one-of-a-kind little girl didn’t have much time left. Julia battled so hard to stay with her family. For 11 months, she fought like a true warrior. Yet, she never once complained about pain.
Julia was truly an angel and on September 12, 2009, she earned her wings, surrounded by her parents and brothers. She made sure they were all present before she left this world. Now she continues to look out for her family from above, including her new baby sister Charlee.
Julia is always with us—and so too is her legacy. She taught us how to be brave. She taught us how to show strength through adversity and how to smile through our tears. But most of all, she taught us how to make the most of every moment.