Julee McClelland has stared down triple negative breast cancer. She has awakened to find her husband has left in the dead of the night, making her a single mother with no real income. But through it all, Julee grasped extremely tightly to her faith, and ultimately saved her life.
She begins, “I was going to go into law enforcement and went to UTEP and got a Criminal Justice degree. Tested for some academies, but had to have some surgeries, and by the time I was physically fixed I ended up getting married and having babies. While pregnant, I received the call that nobody wants to get: I was diagnosed with cancer – triple negative breast cancer at the age of 27 and so I was an anomaly. I found the lump in my breast when I was 6 months pregnant and they blew me off and said we’ll check it after the baby comes. We were in El Paso still and after my 2 month follow up for the baby, he sent me for a biopsy and they called me with stage 2 breast cancer. I sat down and told myself that I have 2 babies and I’m not going to be like my mom and die early at 46. And this was all without my faith at the time.”
A full year’s of treatment followed with a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation treatments. Thankfully, Julee tolerated the treatments well, and received a full remission diagnosis in 2005.
However, life had more twists in store for her. “2 days after Christmas in 2007, my husband left us in the dead of the night. At that time I was running an online business and it was doing ok, but it wasn’t enough to live off of solely. He helped out for a while, but then fell off and didn’t help at all.” Instead of cursing at her situation, Julee re-discovered her faith and doubled down on God’s plan for her life. “His mother flew out almost immediately after he left us and went to church with us on what would have been our 7th anniversary. I felt the Lord told me to pray for my salvation and the restoration of this marriage. My heart’s desire to be obedient caused me to simply stay still and wait for this marriage to be restored. I didn’t date, didn’t do anything and just focused on my personal growth and faith and raising my children.”
For 7 years Julee faithfully awaited the restoration of her marriage. She continues, “I was working at Carmax in 2014. and a guy 10 years younger than me hit on me. I was always totally put off by guys hitting on me – but I just had this clear sense in my spirit that I was free and I went on a date with him. It was hard on myself and the kids because we all knew we were praying for daddy, and so to go out with him signaled that it was over. I’ll tell you right now I was not looking forward to dating. Besides the guy at Carmax, I did Match and Christian Mingle and I dated and I just didn’t really love it too much. It had been a long time and I didn’t really know what I was looking for.”
While Julee might have been trying to restart her life and seek a relationship, she was also deeply lost in the depths of depression, though she hadn’t really come to terms with that yet. “Honestly in retrospect, while living in depression, I wasn’t living it outwardly. I was just completely disconnected. I came home from work and just wanted to sleep. I was home-schooling the kids and was barely giving it what I could. I wasn’t necessarily suicidal, I was just withdrawing. I was growing with God, but it was all so hard. What kept me from drinking and suicide and other things was that I had a good growing faith and support system.”
Despite her depression and struggles, Julee continued to seek a relationship. She ultimately found that in 2015. “I met Shawn in April 2015 on Eharmony. I didn’t even have a paid subscription and I got to browse people but I couldn’t interact with people. I waved at him on there, and he laughs and says I started it. I had tickets to a St Jude function at Cowboys and I said ‘Wanna go tonight? It was immediately love at first sight – but maybe that’s the wrong words. It was an honest spiritual connection. We had both prayed for each other for so long and we just knew that it was what God wanted for us. We married 3 months later.”
However, Julee’s depression was still rampant. While outwardly she was functioning, inwardly she was falling apart. The medications she had been given were getting maxed out in their dosages, her misery was compounding, her weight was ballooning, and as she put it, “I was simply completely and totally broken inside.”
She continues, “I had been given a 2nd chance at marriage and life and I was just sucking the life out of everyone instead of enjoying everyone. I had tried Plexus a few years before and I told Shawn I need to lose weight, I’m depressed, and I need to do something and maybe I should try it again. We agreed to take it together so that we could both see how it worked, and because I was not working at the time, I worked it as a business.” Since then, Julee’s weight has gotten under control. She is completely off her medications. Her business has improved, and Julee’s health and happiness have improved ten-fold.
As always, Julee credits so much of her progress to her faith. She continues, “Our participation in the changes He wants to make in us – just like stubborn kids – we are God’s children and if we’re not cooperating in the process, we prolong that. I’m hard headed and stubborn by nature, and God knew that. Until I got to the point that – true change in my life didn’t come until we come to the end of ourselves. Our egos. Our pride. It wasn’t a plunge that I had to dig out of, it was a roller coaster of struggles where I would do better, and then go back to my ways. It was a process. It also speaks to ‘Yes, I believe God is capable and able and willing to deliver us from things, but sometimes He delivers us through things’. I was struggling with my weight and my depression and I kept praying for Him to fix it – and He kept telling me to get off my butt and do something about it – and it took me a long time to listen.”
And she has certainly listened. Actively involved in their church, the couple is starting a Life Group in the spring. Julee co-leads the Radiant Ministries at 1910. Shawn is heavily involved in the Emmaeus Walk Group, and is a men’s ministry leader. As a couple, they have devoted their marriage and their lives to their faith, and it’s taken them both very long routes to find this ultimate destination. Julee concludes, “I’ve always tried to draw that connection about my mom choosing to die young when I was young – and that helped me handle my diagnosis and I refused to follow that route. I remember not really praying when I was sick and I was just trying to do it on my own. The Lord took my husband away because he had been my idol – and so God removed him so that I could focus on HIM, and that was a huge realization for me. I could have chosen to respond to that whole deal like my mom, but I didn’t. You always have a choice.”