This mom-of-three is looking for donations to fulfill her dream wedding after an aggressive battle against cancer caused her to have her nose surgically removed.
Julia Davey first visited the doctor in April 2019 complaining of a persistent blocked nose, she never dreamed it would be anything serious.
But tests showed that she had an aggressive form of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
Julia and Nick (PA Real Life/Collect)
Since then, she has had a full rhinectomy – the complete surgical removal of her nose – and is now beginning immunotherapy.
She is refusing to let it affect her dreams of marrying her partner Nick Stoodley in November.
“I feel like I've had my whole world tipped upside down this past year," Davey said.
“At the end of the day, my goal is to be a mum to my children and a wife to Nick, who proposed just before I started treatment. I will do anything to make that happen," she continued.
“Though I haven't been given a prognosis, I feel good in myself at the moment. Doctors have told us to make the most of the good months ahead before the side-effects of treatment kick in."
“Nick and I were hoping to get married in 2021, but we've decided to bring things forward. It will be an intimate celebration with our nearest and dearest," she said.
Davey lived the life of a “typical mom," juggling work with raising her children and enjoying regular family trips to the beach with her dogs.
Then, in April 2019, she noticed that her left nostril had been blocked for around two weeks.
To be on the safe side, she visited her GP, blissfully unaware that every aspect of her life was about to be turned upside down.
“It felt like there was a big bogey up there that wouldn't shift," she explained. “I thought it was a bit odd but wasn't concerned."
Told she probably had a nasal growth. Davey was referred to see an ear, nose and throat specialist at Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester.
Julia and Nick (PA Real Life/Collect)
During her appointment the following month, medics performed a nasal endoscopy which confirmed there was a blockage.
Three weeks later, on June 1, she had a two-hour operation to remove the growth.
“I thought that was that," Davey said. “I was back to work the following Monday and thought nothing of it."
But a week later, she received a call asking her to come to the hospital to discuss the results of a biopsy that had been carried out.
“I'm quite naive so when they asked me in, I thought it was just protocol," she continued.
“I was so convinced it was nothing. I didn't even take Nick along."
Joel, Tom, Eleanor and Nick (PA Real Life/Collect)
Far from the routine appointment she expected, Davey was told that cancerous cells had been found on the nasal septum, meaning her growth was a tumor.
“It's hard to describe how it feels hearing the words cancer – it was just utter disbelief," she said.
“At that point they didn't say what type of cancer, it was just 'cancerous cells."'
“I'm good at looking at things objectively and by the time I left I was very much of the mind frame, 'I have cancer. We'll fix it.'"
Davey broke the news to Nick, but decided to hold off telling the children until she knew more about what would come next in terms of treatment.
The following month, she returned to hospital to have her septum removed, in a bid to eradicate any leftover cancer cells.
“It sounds like a big procedure, but you can live without a septum," she explained.
“It's not visible and it was meant to get rid of the cancer. That was all I cared about, getting the cancer gone."
Waking up to be told the two-hour operation was a success, Davey was looking forward to putting her nightmare behind her.
But then, in August, she was hit by the same bunged up sensation in her left nostril.
Another nasal endoscopy in September found another tumor, which she had removed later that month.
Davey was told the cancerous cells were a result of squamous cell carcinoma, according to the NHS, is the second most common form of skin cancer, with around 29,000 new diagnoses in the UK a year.
Due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, drastic measures needed to be taken.
Julia having chemotherapy (PA Real Life/Collect)
“They basically told me the fact that a tumor had grown so quickly after the first growth was removed meant the cancer was incredibly aggressive," Davey explained.
“They told me there was a real possibility they would have to remove my nose."
“I asked the doctor if it was anything to do with sun damage, as it was a form of skin cancer, and they told me that had nothing to do with it. The cancerous cells had formed internally."
The news were not easy to receive.
“It had seemed manageable up until then – but it all changed. I realized I had a bigger battle on my hands than I'd thought," she said.
“I'm not vain at all but your nose is so prominent. It was just devastating. Nick was with me when I got the news. I don't know how I'd have survived all this without him."
Julia's nose tripled in size (PA Real Life/Collect)
Doctors agreed that, in a bid to save her nose, they would first see how Davey's body responded to chemotherapy.
Before she could begin the six-week chemo course in September, she faced the harrowing task of telling her children what had been going on.
“I was very honest and told them, 'Mummy has cancer in the nose and the doctors are trying to fix it'," she said.
“Obviously Eleanor understood a lot less from that than the boys, but they've all been kept in the loop since then."
Enjoying as much family time as possible before starting chemotherapy, one particular day out with Nick will always stay with Davey.
“We were on our favorite walk with the dogs on the coast," she continued.
“Halfway through, Nick produced a ring from his back pocket and asked me to marry me," she said.
“It wasn't the most extravagant of proposals, but it meant the world to me. He's my rock and I knew he'd carry on being my rock."
Julia after surgery (PA Real Life/Collect)
“We were thinking of tying the knot on June 24, 2021 – to mark the seventh anniversary of when we met," she continued.
“I'd gone into the phone shop where Nick worked looking for an upgrade and ended up walking out with him."
By the end of her second dose of chemotherapy, Davey was left in agony as her nose tripled in size, and it became apparent the tumor was growing.
“It was like the worst headache and toothache you could possibly imagine, combined," she said.
“My head and nose felt like they were going to explode. The tumor was nearly coming out of my nose."
With no other choice, Davey had a rhinectomy on November 18, 2019.
In a 14-hour operation at Southampton Hospital, surgeons removed her entire nose and top palate.
For 24 hours after coming round, she remained in intensive care where she recalled being flooded with relief at no longer being in pain.
“I certainly wasn't prepared for the new reality of my life," she said. “But the first thing that crossed my mind was, 'I'm not in pain anymore.'"
Julia and Eleanor (PA Real Life/Collect)
“To look at, it was like I'd been in a car accident, but I didn't feel like my entire head was going to explode anymore," she said.
Whilst in hospital, Davey learnt how to dress her nasal cavity, and after two weeks, she was allowed home.
“There's a hole where my nose is. There's no other way to describe it," she said.
“Only a few people have seen it – including Nick – but I haven't shown the children. I don't want them to have nightmares."
Explaining it to her kids was the hardest part.
“I told them that Mummy's had her nose removed to make her better and that's enough for them," she said.
“They're making a prosthetic nose for me based on photographs I've provided for a specialist consultant but it's not quite ready yet."
Julia (PA Real Life/Collect)
After a much-needed quiet Christmas with family, Davey was told at the end of December that doctors had successfully removed all traces of the cancer in her nasal cavity.
She then had 30 sessions of grueling radiotherapy, over six weeks, beginning in January.
“The radiotherapy was hard, but it was the last slog before the day I could say I was cancer-free," she added.
An MRI scan at the end of April to monitor how she had responded to radiotherapy revealed another tumor had grown in her left maxilla, part of the jaw.
Last month, she was back on the operating table for surgery to remove both the growth and part of her jaw, before a follow-up scan found another tumor.
“Like every surgery before, I was happy to get the bad tissue out and move forward," she said. “But every time, they'd take a little and more would come back."
“This time, they said if they removed anymore it would do more damage than good," she said.
“It's too close to important nerves and my brain. They can't go near it."
Davey has not been given a prognosis, as she must wait to see how her body responds to immunotherapy.
Julia and Nick (PA Real Life/Collect)
Currently feeling relatively well, she wants to make the most of what she is calling her “good months" in case the side-effects of the immunotherapy make her feel unwell, or she has to have any more invasive treatment.
Her sister, Angela, has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover costs, she has pulled forward her wedding to November this year.
“I don't feel comfortable asking people for help, but Angela wouldn't let up on the idea," Davey said.
“Any savings we had have covered the cost of me not working for a year."
Taking each day as it comes, Davey refuses to believe immunotherapy will not work, saying it “simply is not an option."
“The immunotherapy should shut down the tumor and stop any further growth, making it manageable," she said.
Joel, Tom, Eleanor and Julia (PA Real Life/Collect)
“My drive is being a mum and I've got to stay positive," she continued.
“It can feel like I'm fighting against the tide, but I need this treatment to work."
To donate to Julia's GoFundMe, click here