Breast cancer survivor, artist gives back to Providence

Artist Julie Cassin has exhibited her paintings in the Providence Portland Community Gallery three times over the last decade. During that time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, both times treated and cared for by the cancer team at Providence Portland Medical Center.

The first time, Julie received a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is considered the earliest form of breast cancer. DCIS is noninvasive, meaning it hasn't spread into other parts of the body.

The tumor was removed in a minimally invasive procedure called a lumpectomy by surgeon Shaghayegh Aliabadi-Wahle, M.D., FACS. Then Julie received five weeks of radiation. Kristina Young, M.D., Ph.D., medical director, radiation oncology, Providence Cancer Institute of Oregon, was her radiation oncologist. Both doctors are Providence-affiliated providers with The Oregon Clinic.

In June 2021, less than two years after her first cancer diagnosis, a second lump was found during a mammogram. This time the lump was too large to remove by lumpectomy. Julie had a double mastectomy and reconstruction, performed by Providence-affiliated plastic surgeon Mia E. Skourtis, M.D. However, over the next six months there were complications related to Julie’s healing process that required three more surgeries.

It was an extremely challenging time, made more so because Julie was also caring for her mother who had received a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis while she was recovering from her surgeries.

“The most excruciating part of all of it was caring for my mother through her cancer,” says Julie. Her mother passed away in November 2021.

Art helps her heal

Julie is on the other side of cancer now and she says creating art has been a form of therapy and healing for her. She also credits Providence caregivers for helping her through her cancer journey.

“Cancer is a crazy thing to go through, but I felt like the support I had at Providence was above and beyond,” she says.

Pictured: Julie Cassin with Chelsea Sokolow, Chief Philanthropy Officer, Providence Portland Medical Foundation

In gratitude for her care, she has donated a percentage of sales from the art exhibited in the Community Gallery to cancer research at Providence. In May, she donated 100% of art sales from an auction for Providence caregivers.

“My art has been such a gift to me and if it helps someone in some way, soothes them, I love hearing that.”

National Cancer Survivor Month

In the United States, there are more than 18 million cancer survivors. They have put their bodies through surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy and have successfully gotten through it all. National Cancer Survivor Month, celebrated in June, is about honoring their cancer journey — the good and the bad — and looking to their future.   

What can you do to support cancer survivors? The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) website has numerous resources to help you raise awareness about cancer survivorship including ways to help make cancer research a national priority.

Celebrating cancer survivors at Providence Cancer Institute 

We feel fortunate to have cared for thousands of cancer survivors. We work to honor them every day through research, advancing treatment and providing whole-person care.  

Through our Cancer Survivors Program, we help each survivor create a long-term plan for their health and well-being. This plan may include follow-up appointments, management of side effects like lymphedema and genetic testing. We also offer referrals to complementary therapies that may help with recovery, such as acupuncture, therapeutic massage and nutrition counseling. 

Find out more about Julie and see her art at

Learn more about our innovative, compassionate care and research at Providence Cancer Institute.

Related news

Register for a free, virtual cancer nutrition class

Providence volunteer and cancer survivor offers patients hope and a smile

Cancer vaccine is focus of breast cancer study at Providence