About 12 years ago when Julia Wolf was 18, she complained to several doctors that a birthmark on her ankle had raised and started to itch. It might be skin cancer, she told them but she was told to apply some moisturizer. Now 30 and a mother, Wolf is dying from cancer and may have just eight weeks to live.
The British Columbia, Canadian told the Times Colonist that had it not been for her 5-year-old son Lucas, she would have given up fighting her cancer a long time ago.
She is now focused on fighting for more time to live because she feels she owes that much to her son who is already aware that she might be gone soon.
It pains her to think, however, that if doctors had taken her concerns seriously all those years ago, when she matched her skin cancer symptoms to those on a poster on the wall of one of the doctors she visited, she wouldn't be planning to die and hoping to live.
"Why was it not possible for someone to send me to a dermatologist? Why have those skin cancer posters in their offices if they don't take them seriously?" she asked.
Wolf said as her cancerous patch grew over the years she visited a number of doctors and one of them felt that she was just trying to get some time off from work.
"He basically just made fun of me in his office," she said.
She was only diagnosed with metastatic melanoma when she got pregnant with Lucas. But it was already too late. Her cancer has proven resistant to chemotherapy and a series of drugs. It has invaded her lungs, liver, kidneys and bones.
She recently spent some time in the hospital after cracking a rib while trying to sit up in a chair to play with her son.
"It hurts to move. It hurts to breathe," she said.
Wolf, as a single mother with limited financial means, has had to depend upon the generosity of Canada's public health system for treatment but feels the medical system failed her.
"I was really failed by the medical system, and now I have to fight for my own life," she said.
A youcaring page started by Wolf's friends is now trying to raise funds to take care of incidentals and related expenses to help her travel to California to "receive the PD1 treatment through compassionate use." This could buy her more time. So far, she has already raised more than $20,000 with 40 more days left in the campaign.
"Part of me hangs onto this hope that I can beat this and raise him (son) myself," said Wolf.
However, she is also being pragmatic about her future and has made arrangements for her pastor and his wife to be her son's guardians in the event of her death. And she is working on getting Lucas to get used to that idea.
"I have to acknowledge that, yes, I am dying. I can tell his heart is hurting. It has always been just me and Lucas," she said.