My name is Marc Julien

As a 47 year-old Canadian man, I have endured, persevered and experienced the highs and lows of life. Nothing has awoken, terrified and impacted me more than my last 12 months of life.

A year ago one could have described my Type-A personality as self-absorbed, disconnected, driven, relentless, consumed and workaholic. I was under the influence of “more, bigger and better”.

On May 10th, 2018, I became a dad for the first time. The birth of Ella Rose Julien was a proud and impactful moment for my wife, Cortney and I. It has been a lifelong dream to have a house full of kids and this was the first step to achieving that vision.

June 5th, just three weeks after Ella took her first breath, I feared I was closer than anticipated to taking my last. A mass had been slowly growing in my neck over the last 5 months and a biopsy revealed it was a metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. I had stage 4 cancer in my left lymphoid and my left tonsil.

No gradual decent from the high of becoming a dad. I was in an emotional free-fall. My thoughts were immediately consumed with dying and of leaving my family and friends behind. What will happen to my wife, my daughter, my business. I created lists of videos I would shoot for each of Ella’s milestones. Her first steps, first day of school, tips on how to ride a bike, first love, heartbreak and marriage. And I repeatedly imagined Ella and Cortney watching the videos and hearing me say “I wish I could be there, I love you”. News that you have cancer can only be met with utter devastation.

The next four weeks were a blur as we assembled a team of doctors and we began to learn about cancer and its physical, emotional and psychological impacts. My goal was to prepare for the worst. I was a big boy so I wanted the truth of what lay ahead.

I left the meeting with Dr. Williams feeling confident in his abilities to heal me and terrified at what lay ahead. Cortney and I cried a lot that night and in the morning we made the choice to confront this situation head on. Death was not an option. We would hand over control to the doctor’s to cure me and never give in to the disease.

Over the next 10 weeks, everything Dr. Williams told me came true. There are no words to express the level of pain and discomfort. The most difficult part was watching Cortney feel helpless as I descended into the darkness of the treatment. Ella was my joy and Cortney was my rock. They are what got me through the long and dark tunnel of treatment.

Cheating death in a car crash is permanent. You survive, you heal and you never worry about the crash again. Cancer is never really gone. It feels like it is always hiding just around the corner. Today, tomorrow or three years from now, we may find out that it has come back. That’s the reality of life as a cancer survivor.

There is enormous beauty and peace in accepting that fact. It has forced me to take stock today. Have a look at my life today and ask myself is this really where I want to be today? Through that thought process, I have come to realize just how spectacular my life is.

Cancer has made me selfish for everything money can’t buy. Memories, time, laughs, tears, looks, moments, Cortney’s southern accent and the way she looks at me with her gorgeous eyes, Ella’s soft grip on my finger while she drinks a bottle, Facetiming with my mom and giving my brothers a hug hello to mention a few. Such simple and enormously powerful moments that only now I can see and feel.

Prior to being sick, forget about “smelling the roses”, I flew past so fast I never even saw them. Remission or not, Cancer is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have gained a love for the present. I take power from the punches life delivers and I always search for the silver lining. My life is still under the influence of “more, bigger and better”. More love, bigger goals and leave the world a better place.

My first “bigger” goal is committing to compete in the 2021 “Race Across America” (RAAM). A 3069 mile bicycle relay race from the shores of California to the waters of Annapolis, Maryland in just over 5 days. I have found 7 other cancer warriors who want to inspire others to believe there is life after treatment. 8 people who want to prove that this disease has only fueled their fire to achieve more in life for themselves and for others.

Our goal is to win the race and to raise $500,000 for cancer research. Two massive undertakings that we will achieve.

My radiologist, Dr. Williams, gave it to me straight

“7 weeks of radiation treatments. Each one is about 20 minutes in length”

Seven weeks doesn’t seem that long until you are at week 4.

“Your face and neck will be placed in a form fitted plastic mask, that will then be bolted to a table to ensure you cannot move during the procedure”

Claustrophobic is an understatement.

“The vomiting and lack of energy from the 7 hour chemo sessions are going to be the best part of the treatment”.
“You will lose some or all your hair”.

Unfortunately for Cortney the loss cannot be localized to my back.

“Every day the pain will get worse and will become more sustained. You have never experienced pain like this. A sore throat times 1000”.

The level of pain was unbearable at times and worse was the psychological impact that the pain had on my mind. It slowly wears you down to the point where you don’t want to do it anymore. It is self-inflicted torture of the body and brain.

“As we progress through the 10 weeks you will no longer use your mouth to eat. A feeding tube will be necessary. We will provide a special beige liquid that you will insert through the tube”.

You only get to taste the liquid when you throw up and/or belch which is every time you inject it. It tastes like running your tongue over a dirty chalkboard. Watching my calorie deficient body slowly deteriorate was surreal.

“Your saliva will become so thick that you will be unable to clear your throat. It is common for people to experience uncontrollable fits of choking”.

Nothing can prepare you for this stage of treatment. Your mouth is bone dry and your saliva is as thick as molasses. Your throat is on fire and every time you try to clear it you start to choke which in turn makes your stomach spasm clinching your feeding tube and then snapping it loose. This cycle repeats itself over and over, day and night for four weeks.

“On top of that it is likely you will get a UTI, diarrhea, extreme heartburn, ringing in the ears, lose your ability to taste, your salivary glands will stop working, white tongue as well as infections like “thrush” may appear”.

Thrush is a whole other level of pain. Imagine taking a blowtorch to the roof of your mouth and your saliva is gasoline. Every time you swallow your mouth becomes an inferno.