By Steve Blanchard - October 09, 2023
In her adult life, Julie Edelman has done a lot of living. She’s been an advertising executive, lifestyle expert, New York Times bestselling writer and mother. She is also known as The Accidental Housewife — a name she adopted years back when she said she was accidentally tasked through love, marriage and a baby carriage with taking care of her home, family and navigating life’s detours.
“My father had just passed away and I was going through a divorce,” Edelman said. “I felt alone, guilty and ill equipped to do it all. I also realized I was like millions of other women needing to navigate my responsibilities as best we could. So, I did. And found ‘good enough’ ways to live our journeys as ‘Accidental Housewives.’”
In December 2022, Edelman visited her sister-in-law in Tucson and was talking about her need to get a mammogram, an annual ritual she had not completed since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Coincidentally, four days later, she found a lump on her left side while doing a self-exam.
“I’d been through menopause and knew hormonal changes can happen,” she said. “I didn’t think breast cancer was a possibility, particularly since it didn’t run in my family. I was scared, and you can’t help that your mind goes in all these different directions. None of them good.”
Edelman said she tried not to panic but couldn’t help but wonder if the lump meant she had breast cancer, even though there was no history of it in her family.
She immediately called a friend who is a radiation oncologist in the Northeast, who suggested she get a mammogram as soon as possible. Edelman returned to St. Petersburg and said she had difficulty getting a mammogram appointment in a timely manner.
"Our health care system does the best it can but it’s not the same as advocating for yourself. You have to be your own advocate and activist."- Julie Edelman, the “Accidental Housewife”
Edelman, called several health care organizations to schedule a mammogram as soon as possible.
“I called around and found an opening to get checked out,” Edelman said. “They did the ultrasound and the biopsy in the same day. I got lucky.”
She shared the results with her radiation oncologist friend and together they decided her next step.
“I decided Moffitt Cancer Center was where I wanted to have all the next steps done,” Edelman said. “Moffitt is the gold star and platinum bar of cancer treatment and now I’m living proof.”
Edelman knew she faced a challenging road ahead. But rather than focus on the minutia of the many details around her tumor, she focused on what she needed to get healthy.
“Humor has always been a big part of my ability to get through life’s detours, along with my positivity,” Edelman said. “I don’t need the details, the size of it, whatever. I blocked all that part out. I just wanted to get to the next step to get it out and my body healthy.”
And that next step led her to Dr. Brian Czerniecki at Moffitt. That’s when she learned her cancer was stage 1 and that she’d require a lumpectomy. The surgery was scheduled immediately.
“Humor has always been a big part of my ability to get through life’s detours, along with my positivity,” Edelman said. “I just wanted to get to the next step to get it out and my body healthy.”
Edelman called Czerniecki and his team a gift.
“He was determined to remove the cancerous tissue, but he also cared about my sense of self,” she said.
When he suggested a surgery that would “even out my post-menopausal breast,” Edelman said she found humor in the conversation.
“It was something that hadn’t crossed my mind,” Edelman said. “After I left the appointment, I told my boyfriend that I was getting a GWP, a Gift with Protocol, a breast lift on the side without cancer.”
Despite her sense of humor, Edelman said she was frightened. Following that surgery, she was told that a second surgery was recommended to ensure the cancer margins were clear and all malignant cells removed.
“I went into another state of shock and fear,” Edelman said. “Then I realized that I had a choice. I chose to focus on getting it all and I was confident in Dr. Czerniecki and his amazing team.”
Fortunately, both surgeries were a success and Edelman had few side effects from the 16 rounds of radiation that followed. The next challenge was learning how to dial back her active lifestyle.
“I’m a swimmer and between the surgeries, fears of infection and the radiation mean you have to stay out of the sun,” Edelman said. “My ‘zen’ was taken away from me. Once again, I did my best to focus on the positive and my new even breasts that had me wearing T-shirts braless again.”
Today, Edelman says she is healthy and feels strong. She’s being monitored and continues to exercise to build her body back. She is even participating in Miles for Moffitt in November with her aptly named team, “The Accidental Sisterhood.”
She has her next mammogram already scheduled for December.
“None of us ever thinks we’re going to get breast cancer or any potentially life altering illness, but life happens,” she said. “It’s very personal and we have to give ourselves permission to feel and deal with it in our own way. If you feel the need to scream, scream. If you need to be angry, be angry. It’s a personal feeling and you have to allow yourself to feel. But be proactive and do what you can to get things done and maintain your lifestyle the best you can.”
Edelman is thankful she found her lump when she did and encourages all women to do a self-exam.
“I know I am one of the lucky ones, though I live with some fear of it coming back,” she said. “But, regardless of what the future holds, I stay present and as positive as I can. A monthly self-exam, mega doses of humor and hugs with my son and loved ones are my daily prescriptions.”