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Good News Fridays: A Childhood Brain Tumor Could Have Killed Julia York, But She’s Graduating In Nursing From UAB With Her Dream Job

Welcome to the Good News Fridays segment! Each week here on Geek Alabama, Good News Fridays will feature something good, wholesome, positive, and overall something great. After a long and stressful week, we all need something good to read or watch on Fridays! Enjoy a heartwarming post below!

One week after Julia York’s 12th birthday, doctors gave her parents some horrible news: Julia had less than a year to live. Today, almost a decade later, York graduated with a degree in nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Growing up, York struggled with migraines; the symptoms seemed to get worse with age. After a relentless headache sent York to an urgent care clinic, a neurologist ordered an MRI scan of her brain.

York looks forward to starting work at Children’s of Alabama in July. (Frank Couch / UAB)

“That’s when we found out I had a brain tumor smack dab in the middle of my brain stem,” York said. “I did not have a biopsy done of my tumor because they thought even that would be too risky.”

She began radiation therapy — 33 rounds of it. Her parents enrolled her in a clinical trial, and she started taking chemotherapy pills.

“I had a really bad reaction to it. I lost all my hair, and I got an infection that put me in the hospital for a couple of days, so they had to remove me from the trial,” York said. “My parents were left looking for other options for treatment just because there are so few options for treatment of pediatric brain tumors.”

After months of MRI scans every two weeks, doctors noticed something. The contrast dye was no longer showing up in the tumor, meaning the blood flow to the tumor had been cut off. Slowly, doctors started backing off the MRI schedule — from once a month to every three months and now once a year. York never showed any more side effects. The tumor had stopped growing.

“My doctors are fascinated with my case because I shouldn’t have lived,” York said. “I hate saying it just because it sounds a little crazy, but it’s truly like a miracle case.”

Because of the chemotherapy, York is immunocompromised. When she was hospitalized in high school for a suspected meningitis infection, York went in for treatment and came out with a newfound passion.

“I was talking with my nurse and decided that nursing was the right path for me,” York said. “I had an epiphany that that’s what I’m meant to do with my life and my experience.”

During a campus visit, York fell in love with the UAB undergraduate experience and urban campus and decided to apply to the School of Nursing.

“Everything just really lined up for me to come to UAB,” said York, who is a Dean’s Nursing Scholar and Honors College student. “UAB provided me with the support and knowledge I needed to accomplish my goals and pursue my dreams.”

After graduation, York will begin work as a nurse on the Children’s of Alabama Hematology-Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant unit in July.

“I love kids, and I want to use my story to help those who are in a position similar to what I was in,” York said. “I have literally been in their shoes, so it is easier for me to understand what they’re going through. It is another way I can care for my patients.”

From having less than a year to live to graduating with her dream job, York realized her journey gave her one of the greatest skills a nurse can have — empathy.

“I always had the mindset that everything happens for a reason,” York said. “I got cancer for a reason, and I lived for a reason, and I think it was for me to come to UAB and become a nurse, specifically become an oncology nurse, and use all of those experiences for something bigger.”

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.

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