Alberta Cancer Foundation

Remembering Julie Rohr

“Hi Julie, I have your lab results back, and I’d like to discuss them with you.”

For Julie Rohr – a loving mother, sister, wife and beloved Albertan – a voicemail changed everything. Stage four cancer.

This is how she described that moment, “My blood ran cold, my heart stopped for a second and then started pounding hard. I started to cry, hot tears on my bewildered face. No – please, no.”

Diagnosed with Retroperitoneal Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) – a rare soft muscle tissue cancer – and given only 12-18 months to live, Julie, an eternal optimist, continued to look for the good in life.

“Stage four, which, to put it bluntly, meant I was dying. It also meant [for now] I was very much living,” said Julie.

She certainly was. And, as she said, she would always choose love over fear.

“You cannot control what happens to you. Life is going to throw you some big challenges — it already has,” said Julie. “…but in most cases, you can control how you react to these life events.”

In November of 2015, Julie’s cancer journey began. This is how she described visiting the Cross Cancer Institute for the first time,

“I drove in the darkness of the early morning, with my husband, to the Cross Cancer Institute for the first time. I remember the exact route we drove; the view of the city lights from Groat Road, the flutters in my heart that morning.”

During her journey, Julie underwent three major surgeries (kidney, liver and lung), radiation, ablation, chemotherapy. She also took part in clinical trials at the Cross Cancer Institute. These interventions, alongside her fantastic support system and her undeniable positivity and optimism, gave Julie six more years of precious memories, precious moments, with her loved ones. Five more than anyone expected.

Some of her favourite moments she shared were with her two young boys who she loved very dearly. While her heart ached to have to tell them, “the thing in Mommy’s tummy is in fact cancer,” she shared again and again how proud she was to watch them grow into the people they are today, filled with resiliency and equipped with the ability to manage stress and anxiety.

“The thing is, being a parent doesn’t stop for anything. Not for blizzards, not for late nights, and not for cancer,” said Julie.

Not only did Julie continue to be a beacon of hope and light for her boys, her husband, her friends and family, but she also inspired countless Albertans with her positive approach to her prognosis and her willingness to share every step of her journey on social media. A talented writer filled with optimism, Julie’s words – her story – captivated the masses.

Part of living this journey, for me, is being honest and vulnerable,” said Julie.

Sadly, in the fall of this year, 2021, Julie ran out of treatment options. As her health declined, her family came together and moved her into hospice. Even when things were looking down, she continued on with positivity and gratitude.

“Each day is true grace. I am surrounded by absolute love. I lack for nothing,” share shared on social media the night before she moved to hospice.

While in hospice, she continued to inspire the masses and even garnered the attention of celebrities, including Dan & Eugene Levy, Ryan Reynolds, Glennon Doyle, Rick Mercer, Chantal Kreviaz, Peter Mansbridge and Connor McDavid (to name a few), who reached out to her with messages of love and encouragement.

“All I can do at this point is have tears of joy & be slightly overwhelmed at all of these videos & messages. Hundreds,” said Julie. “I’m totally blown away with these loving videos. I can’t even say what they mean to me.”

Sadly, on September 16, 2021, at only 39 years old, the beautiful Julie Rohr passed away. Julie will be missed greatly. Not only by her loved ones, but by every life she so graciously touched – there are (so) many. And, although Julie is no longer with us, her story is far from over, her legacy will live on, and she will continue to inspire the world and be a beacon of hope for all Albertans facing cancer.

“Friends, it’s been a wonderful life. I leave with some sadness, of course; I wish I could have stayed with you much longer. I had so many memories to make, so much I still wanted to do, say and experience,” said Julie. “Cry for a time, however long that may be. Feel the grief you feel, as I allowed myself to do. Lean into the pain of goodbye. But eventually, lift your face towards the sun and allow joyful memories to be the lingering thought.”

You can help Julie’s legacy live on by helping to create more moments for all Albertans facing cancer. One in two Albertans will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime and one in four will not survive. We need to do more. With your help, we can.

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To learn more about Julie’s inspirational story, please read the following articles dedicated to her:

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