From Stage 4 Throat Cancer to Cycling Across America, with Marc Julien
On this episode of WE Have Cancer, stage 4 throat cancer survivor Marc Julien shares with Lee the brutal truth of his experience with radiation therapy on his road to remission, and his newfound passion today for spreading awareness and fundraising for pediatric cancer research. He proudly says cancer is the best thing to ever happen to him, remission or not, because it’s given him the perspective, patience, and appreciation for life’s most priceless and precious moments.
Marc Julien became a first-time father just three weeks before his stage 4 throat cancer diagnosis. His wife Cortney became a rockstar caretaker in more ways than one as Marc underwent 7 weeks of intense and “excruciating” radiation therapy to treat the metastatic squamous cell carcinoma in his left lymphoid and tonsil. Now in remission, he’s been training the last two and a half years as a cyclist to compete in the Race Across America with a team of 19 others who have also been impacted by cancer in their own way. Marc and his team have a fundraising goal of $500,000 for pediatric cancer research.
Table of Contents:
Diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer, 3 Weeks After Becoming a Father
A cancerous lump was found in Marc’s neck that had been growing for a few months, right before his daughter was born. She was born May 10th, and by June 5th Marc was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his left lymph node and left tonsil.
How Did Mark's Wife React to his Diagnosis?
Right after the baby was born, Marc got a biopsy. It was a week’s wait for the results to come in. Marc says he and his wife shared feelings of disappointment and fear for the future, and all the uncertainty that lay ahead.
Was it Hard to Be "In the Moment" with His Newborn Daughter?
Marc says he "kind of blocked out" those early days, but that his wife and daughter came to support him at every single radiation therapy session. Everyone involved in his treatment also looked forward to seeing newborn Ella there to support her dad.
Stage 4 Throat Cancer to Remission: What Did it Take?
When Marc met his first doctor in Miami, he was told he would go through two weeks of treatment and get back to his life. Marc didn’t want anything to be sugar coated, so he sought out a second opinion, just in case. He knew he needed to fire that first doctor from Miami when the second doctor told him the harsh reality that Marc was actually in for; it was not going to be a two week scenario. It was 7 weeks of extremely intense radiation therapy.
“Treatment was excruciating.”
Marc shares the harsh reality of weeks and weeks of radiation therapy for his throat cancer, and how the pain and side effects magnified week after week. The chemotherapy after the radiation was still tough, but Marc says the radiation was the hardest part of his treatment by far.
How Did Having Cancer "Change" Him?
Marc shares, “The person I was before I was diagnosed isn’t someone I recognize anymore.” He says he’s much more patient now, and he’s more present and appreciative with his loved ones. He believes he’s a better father, husband, and friend now than he was prior to his diagnosis.
Battling Cancer as a Small Business Owner
Before his cancer, Marc was heavily involved with a lot of the decision making processes in his construction business. He had to figure out how to delegate and allocate a lot of the main processes, so he handed over a lot of duties to his team before undergoing treatment. He hasn’t taken any of those duties back. He says it's allowed him to step into a completely new role in his company, in the best way possible.
Marc's New Passion & Nonprofit
During his time in treatment, Marc found out there’s only 10 cancer drugs that have been created for children, and only 3% of the government’s cancer research funds go to funding pediatric cancer research. Marc soon connected with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and has been advocating alongside them, and he wanted to start doing even more once he entered remission.
Race Across America: Awareness for Pediatric Cancer Research
As soon as Marc went into remission, he decided he wanted to do the Race Across America to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research. He got a team of 20 people together that have each been touched by cancer in some way. RAAM is considered the world’s toughest bicycle race, from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD, totaling 3,069 miles. Marc now has a team of 8 cyclists and 12 crew members prepared to ride in July, 2021.
Training to Cycle Across America as a Cancer Survivor
Marc says he’s the least experienced cyclist on the team. He’s been training for two and a half years for the race, and by the time this episode airs, he’ll have arrived in Annapolis. He trains and rides at least four days a week, up to 4 or 5 hours per ride, and also spends two days per week in the gym lifting weights.
Working Out Complicated Race Logistics
The long-distance crew of 20 won’t have ever met in person prior to arriving in California a few days before the race begins. Marc credits his crew chief and assistant crew chief to leading the charge and managing all the details and race logistics.
Cancer Can Happen to Anyone
Marc’s fundraising money for the race is $500K. He wants to make people aware of pediatric cancer and the lack of funding for research. Marc reminds listeners that the reality of cancer is not something you can plan for or ever foresee in your own life, or the life of your loved ones. No one ever thinks cancer will affect them, until it does.
Links mentioned in the show:
Support Marc's Cycling & Fundraising Journey: raam21.com