Unable to afford treatment, community rallies for cancer patient

More than $30,000 raised for family of Queen's alum

The Nantes family. 
Credit: 
Supplied by Julie Nantes
Five years ago, Julie Nantes’ husband was declared cancer-free. This Valentine’s Day, they got a call—the tumor was back.
 
Julie graduated from Queen’s in 2001 with a degree in theatre. She met her husband, Geoff, working on the set of Man of La Mancha. He was the light and sound designer, and she was the stage manager.
 
“[Cancer’s] not ever where you expect to be,” Julie said in an interview with The Journal. “We’ve been through this once. 
 
You kind of think you get to the end of it. You start to fall into the routine of normalcy again as you get another year cancer-free.”
 
Six months before their wedding, Geoff was diagnosed with brain cancer for the first time. Now, six years later, he was diagnosed again five months before Julie is due with their second child. 
 
This might seem like a bad omen to many, but Julie doesn’t see it that way. 
 
“Having that positive event coming up helped a lot and I think, again, this time we have this baby coming in a few weeks now that keeps you moving forward, too,” she said.
 
The first time Geoff underwent treatment, Julie’s mother—a trained nurse—was one of their biggest supports. She passed away from cancer last September.
 
“Our family has just been through this, so [we’re] barely out of the grieving process and here we are dealing with cancer again,” she said. “It definitely presents a challenge to all of us, but we’ve had a lot of great people who’ve stepped up and who’ve helped us out.”
 
Geoff immediately started chemotherapy following his diagnosis in February, but the radiation caused extreme swelling in his body, forcing him to stop the treatment.
 
They were told his best option was to start drug therapy, but the cost was $16,000. Not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) or government grants, funding the treatment was going to be difficult.  
 
When a friend offered to set up a GoFundMe page for Geoff’s treatments, Julie didn’t have high expectations. 
 
“I was kind of thinking, well, if we get half the money, we can figure out how to finance the other half,” she said. “I didn’t have any high expectations.”
 
In less than a month, nearly double the treatment cost was raised. 
 
More than $30,000 came pouring in from the Nantes’ family and friends, but also from strangers. Julie said they received donations from Queen’s professors and students she hadn’t seen since she graduated years ago. 
 
“We’ve been absolutely blown away by all of the support we’ve received,” Julie said. 
 
With maternity leave looming in a few weeks, Julie added the support relieves financial stress because the family lives off her salary. 
 
Geoff has already gone through the first round of treatment and will finish up two days before Julie is due to give birth to their second son.
 
Julie said it’s funny how timing works out.
 
“You get up, you keep going for your family,” she said. “You have to move forward. You can’t dwell. We were very positive last time and we were very blessed with a good outcome. Our family is growing and that’s something we both are working towards.”
 
Julie said the first time her husband was diagnosed, she remembered going online and seeing several “doom and 
gloom” stories.
 
“I remember a friend saying to me it’s because people who are doing well don’t take time to share their story,” she said. “I think it’s important, when you’re moving forward and you have some positivity, it’s good to share it so other people can hopefully be encouraged through that.” 
 
“We’re glad our story is out there and other people who are maybe in similar situations can find some strength from that. That helps a lot.” 
 
 
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