In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 29, 2018

Young Cancer Patient Writes Her Way to Wilderness Canoe Trip of a Lifetime

By In the Loop

Sixteen-year-old brain cancer survivor Julia Ruelle recently won an essay contest that’s landed her a five-day, fully outfitted canoe and camping trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this coming summer.Julia Ruelle recently won an essay contest that landed her a five-day, fully outfitted canoe and camping trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this coming summer.

Last November, when Julia Ruelle began experiencing exhaustion, headaches and nausea, she initially chalked it up to migraines. But when the 16-year-old Minnetonka High School sophomore's symptoms worsened, she knew it was time to see her doctor.

On the day of her appointment, Julia vomited in the waiting room. When nurses came to Julia's aid, her body temperature and heart rate were so low that she was rushed by ambulance to a local emergency room. There, an MRI exam revealed a mass in her brain. Biopsy results would indicate that Julia had germinoma, a rare but highly treatable brain tumor.

And as the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, Julia's road to recovery would begin at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. She was placed on a chemotherapy and radiation treatment plan that will wrap up in May. Afterward, the paper reports, "no restrictions" will be placed on Julia by her care team. That means for the first time since her diagnosis, Julia will be able to get back to doing what she loves most: living life in the great outdoors. "This enables me to be perfectly ready for a summer trip to the greatest place on Earth," she tells reporter Gail Rosenblum.

Julia's "greatest place on Earth" isn't Disneyland, the big city, or a predictable tourist destination, but rather the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Julia tells Rosenblum the Boundary Waters has held a special place in her heart since her father first took her there when she was a young child. "In this world, you always have your phone, you're always texting and not quite living in the moment," she says. "In the Boundary Waters, it's just you and the canoe and the water, and you feel really in touch with yourself and everything around you."

When Julia returns this summer, she can bring three friends, thanks to an essay contest she won, sponsored by the founder of Ely Outfitting Co. Julia, the Star Tribune reports, "beat out about 70 other Minnesota high schoolers for the five-day, fully outfitted canoe and camping adventure."

Julia says writing her winning essay was the first time she's opened up about her medical issues and how they've helped grow her love and appreciation for the outdoors. "I felt very vulnerable talking about it," she says. "I hadn't really had a chance to view the whole process of diagnosis, getting chemo — it helped me see the scope of it all."

Being outside, even for short periods, during her treatment at Mayo Clinic helped her deal with it all. "Getting outside even when I felt unable to do most other things has been a type of therapy for me," she writes in her essay. "Breathing fresh air and feeling the cold on my face refreshed me and made me feel better, at least for a little while, every time."

As did the phone call she received "between doctors' appointments" last month to let her know she'd won. "I was in an elevator and I saw that the call was from Ely," Julia tells Rosenblum. "It was super exciting!"

You can read the rest of Rosenblum's story about Julia here. Then portage on over and leave a comment below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.



Tags: Brain Cancer, germinoma, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Patient Stories

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