Fighting Mesothelioma One Day at a Time


A patient fights cancer the same way a runner finishes a race: one mile marker at a time. On Aug. 23, 2016, meso warrior Julie Gundlach reached an important milestone. She celebrated 10-years of fighting, surviving and living with mesothelioma since her diagnosis.

Like her 5-year anniversary, Julie marked the occasion with a tattoo. This time the tattoo was a lotus. Julie based her tattoo off of the Buddhist quote: “May I live like the lotus, at ease in muddy waters.”

Rooted in Mud

Julie is not cured or in remission. The medically correct term for Julie’s status is ‘stable.’

“There’s a public perception that a cancer patient has walked through fire and been purified by the experience,” Julie said. “And you’re like, ‘No!’”

She still has to pay her bills, she still gets put on hold and she still gets colds in the winter months, as if she hasn’t already been sick enough in her life.

“Life just continues to go on, and that, in of itself, feels weird,” Julie said. “When you’ve faced something of that magnitude, the daily minutia is frustrating.”

On Sept. 24, Julie is registered for the 5K event of the Alton Miles for Meso race. She is running to inspire others, like her, who are also fighting cancer.

If she could go back in time and give herself advice, Julie says she would tell herself to keep going and stay in the moment.

“Keep the faith and keep putting one foot in front of the other,” she said. “You only have to do in any one day, what you can do in that one day.”

One Petal at a Time

A few years ago, Julie made a decision to change the way she lived her life. She would no longer solely focus on her fight against cancer. Of course, that was still important, but she felt ready to move forward, to consider what her life could look like beyond cancer.

Julie, along with a friend, traveled to several Eastern Asian countries in a quest for discovery. At a Hindu temple, run by a priestess, they attended a special ceremony. There, Julie discovered pink lotuses that grew along the muddy banks of the rice paddies.

The spiritual significance of the lotus flower resonated with Julie.

The lotus has its roots in the mud, at the bottom of streams and ponds. Out of those dark muddy places, the plant grows to become a beautiful flower that blossoms one petal at a time.

That idea inspired the next phase of Julie’s journey. When she returned home, she started a pottery shop and called it Muddy Lotus Clay Designs.

As an artist, Julie creates porcelain pieces using a lithograph process onto raw clay. The pieces undergo a combination of firing and glazing in a kiln before completion.

“Just like the lotus, we too have the ability to rise from the mud, bloom out of the darkness and radiate into the world.” ~ Unknown

When Julie shared a photo of her finished lotus tattoo on Facebook, she put it more simply: “No mud, no lotus.”

Next spring, Julie will return to New York for more scans. Until then, she will run in a 5K race. She will be a mother, a wife. She will make art. She will live at ease in muddy waters.


#JoinJulie at the Alton Miles for Meso 5K on Sept. 24 and run your own race one mile marker at a time.

Click here to register >>>


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