You don’t often hear someone say she is thankful for being diagnosed with breast cancer. But when it comes to the story of Julie Pabian, an assistant bank manager from Omaha, Nebraska, it actually makes sense. Six years ago at the age of 35, while folding laundry on her son’s bed, Julie received a call from her doctor that changed her life. She had breast cancer in her right breast. It was not fixable by radiation or chemotherapy, so the solution was a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.
During this time in Julie’s life, she was overweight, inactive and, admittedly, doing “all the bad things.” Because she had been a smoker for more than 20 years, Julie’s doctor would not even operate on her until she quit. Eager to get the procedure over with, she reluctantly kicked the habit and amazingly hasn’t had a cigarette since.
Julie before she lost nearly 100 pounds.
However, once the initial procedure was over, Julie’s struggles had really just begun. Her lifestyle, fueled by fast food and drinking too much alcohol, had left her extremely unhealthy and unable to recover properly. She suffered from complications and has since undergone more than 15 surgeries spawning from infections, all of which she attributes to the fact that she had been in such poor condition her whole adult life.
Throughout the follow-up surgeries, Julie turned to emotional eating and drinking, and was in a state of depression. Yet one day, something inside her heart changed. She finally decided to take action.
“I realized the surgeons were doing their jobs, but whatever I was doing in my life was not working,” she says. “I made a conscious decision not to the be the fat, unhealthy girl any more. I wanted to live a long life and spend it with my family.”
Around that time, Julie’s mom told her about MyFitnessPal. Julie put the app on her phone, not touching it at first and thinking she didn’t have enough time to commit to daily tracking. One day on a whim, she opened it and decided to log her food. What she saw was alarming. The reality of what she was consuming was right in front of her, and she didn’t like it. A lightbulb went off, and Julie began tracking her food religiously, never missing a meal.
“It was addicting,” says Julie. “My coworkers would laugh as I picked up a carrot and ask me if I was going to track that bite—and I would.”
In addition to tracking her food, cutting down her portion sizes and eliminating fast food, Julie began to get moving. She started with walks three times a week around her neighborhood before work, going less than a mile. In just a few short weeks, she started to feel more alive and added on distance. Then she added in yoga, which she says totally improved her state of mind.
Julie is outfitted in Under Armour’s UA Power In Pink® collection. As a result of the success of UA Power In Pink®, Under Armour was able to commit a gift of $10 million to create the Under Armour Breast Health Information Center.
Today, happy and cancer-free, Julie is active every day of the week, either by going to the gym, doing yoga at home or walking. She has also recently begun taking spin classes and step aerobics, which are things she could have never imagined doing before. And of course, she tracks it all.
“MyFitnessPal drives me to make better choices,” says Julie. “If I see my aunt has taken more steps than me or is under her calorie goal for the day, I’m going to try to beat her.”
Over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, Julie has worked incredibly hard to lose 95 pounds, and has kept it off. She has strengthened her marriage and relationship with her 15-year-old son. She has devoted her free time to volunteering at a local nonprofit to help those undergoing breast cancer treatments, and she has spread this message to anyone who will listen: “You have to take care of yourself, because your life depends on it.”
“Although a lot of negative things surround a breast cancer diagnosis, cancer can also bring out a lot of positive,” she says. “I have no idea what would have happened to me had I not gotten cancer and continued living the the way I was. Cancer saved my life.”
Julie’s top tips for losing weight and keeping it off:
- Make the decision to change your lifestyle. Nobody can do it for you.
- Don’t beat yourself up about bad days. Always know that tomorrow is a new day to be healthier and get back on the wagon.
- Try some friendly competition. Make the most of MyFitnessPal by connecting with your friends and coworkers on as many fitness-related apps as you can, and hold each other accountable.
- You don’t have to give up everything you always enjoyed in your life — just indulge in moderation. Portion control is key.