Julie Burke handles MS the way she handles her job: one step at a time, and always moving forward.
Julie Burke, sales engineer in Greenville, S.C., was shocked by the diagnosis: multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. It explains six years of on-again, off-again debilitating symptoms.
While physically challenged, MS was hardly Julie’s first or biggest lifetime trial—and she was not going to let it change her goals or her outlook. If anything, it has made her more patient and empathetic.
“MS has helped me appreciate and understand what other people are experiencing,” she said. “Now when I am talking to customers, colleagues and distributors, I am more conscious about what might be happening in their lives that could be influencing our interaction.”
Although proving to be a tough physical challenge—some days Julie finds it hard to get out of bed—she is determined to stay physically active. She completed her first half-marathon (13 miles) just a few months ago while three months pregnant; she completed a 50-mile MS fundraising walk while six months pregnant.
“Julie is a great example for perseverance, commitment and community awareness—in both her work and personal life,” said Michelle Keough, specialist, Commercial Sales.
Julie has a 23-year-old daughter, Lauren. Julie is also mom to a two-year-old son, Declan, and is expecting a baby girl, due on May 29.
“Having a child so young was one of my biggest challenges,” Julie said. “People said I wouldn’t graduate from high school. I did. I wanted to study chemical engineering in college, and a professor told me the courses were too hard for a single mom, I should transfer to another school and change my major. I determined then that if someone told me I couldn’t do it, I simply would prove them wrong.”
That willpower comes in handy now, when Julie’s mind must overcome her body.
“In my job, I have dynamic and unpredictable days,” she said. “I’ve learned to roll with whatever comes my way; now I apply that same methodology to my illness. If my body says I can’t keep my meetings that day, I tell myself just make it out the door and to the first meeting and if I can’t keep going, then I can reschedule. Then I make it to the next meeting. And the next. Then I look back over the day and realize that I made it, even though I didn’t think I could. That accomplishment encourages me to keep moving forward.”
That’s exactly the attitude Julie applies to running. “Most days I don’t think I can go a mile, much less 10,” she said. “More than saying ‘I won’t give up’ I tell myself, ‘I just have to start.’ That thinking helps me succeed at work as well.”
Julie finds strength and inspiration in knowing that she might not always have the physical strength she has now, so she must always remember to ‘use it or lose it.’
“I appreciate everything I can do now, and I know I might not be able to do these things tomorrow,” she said. “When one doctor told me I should stop running, I decided to run longer than I ever had before and completed my first half-marathon.”
“I want people to know that they don’t have to settle,” said Julie. “Just because you have a disability, don’t ever let anyone tell you what you cannot do. You just never know what you can do until you try. You will always regret not trying more than trying but not succeeding.”
Julie appreciates the company’s support and said her colleagues have been extremely kind and compassionate. “They offer help wherever possible and make sure I know that my health is a priority,” said Julie. “For my Challenge Walk MS, employees had a huge impact on my bottom line. Collectively, they donated a total of $3,100 to my cause.”
You can learn more about Julie’s efforts on her ‘Running From MS’ Facebook page.
Employees helped Julianne raise more than $6,000 toward her team’s total of $11,123! Julianne’s team was awarded the Rookie Team of the Year award for being small but mighty. No other team of only four people came close to the team’s totals.
Published: April 4, 2014