Julia Fulmer was just 13 when she discovered a strange lump on the back of her head while at a friend's house. While subsequent blood work came back normal, a CT scan gave doctors cause for concern. "I get in there and they're, like, 'you have cancer,'" Julia tells the Mayo Clinic News Network. "And I'm like, I knew it. Yes. I called it."
Although she's now able to talk lightheartedly about being diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, at the time, the diagnosis was tough to take. "It was a sad time," Julia says, but also "one of those 'Is-this-really-happening?' kind of moments. You don't really have time to process that you actually have cancer."
For two years, doctors near her home in South Carolina kept Julia on an aggressive chemotherapy program designed to clear the cancer from her body. And while Julia is now cancer-free, the steroids she took alongside the chemo caused avascular necrosis in her hip that, over time, ate away her bone tissue. So much, in fact, that Julia would need two hip replacements. She headed north to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus for the surgeries.
Julia and her family arrived in Rochester in style, with the help of Star Treatments, an organization founded by musician Matt DiRito. The organization provides "VIP transportation" to and from their medical appointments for pediatric patients. "I remember how cool it made me feel the first time we got on a tour bus, or got to show up to places in a fancy ride," DiRito, who travels in a tour bus of his own as bass player for rock band Pop Evil, tells the News Network. "Just thinking back on … being that age, like, how excited that would make me."
For Julia, the star treatment meant flying her and her family to Rochester in first class seats. "At first, when we went there, I was, like, 'Hey, this is kind of nice. I could get used to this,'" Julia says. "And then on the way home, I was, like, 'Oh, my goodness. This actually helps so much. This isn't just for glamour. This is amazing.'"
Julia's hip surgeon at Mayo Clinic, Daniel Berry, M.D., tells the News Network that experiences like this can greatly influence a patient's prognosis. "I think the most important factor for how patients do after surgery has to do with their outlook on life and their attitude," Dr. Berry says. "If people go into it with a positive attitude, most of the time they're going to do really, really well."
And thanks to the A-list star treatment and her care team at Mayo Clinic, Julia says it's been easy to stay positive. "Everything here is, like, so orchestrated to make the best experience," she says. "Everything moved so efficiently and quickly, and it's like, 'Whoa, why aren't they doing this everywhere else?' It's been great." (We think she's saying Mayo rocks.)
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