#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

How to Triumph through Challenges with Marc Julien

Your life lessons can change lives.

Marc Julien is a father on a mission to change the world. He is a stage four cancer survivor, currently training for Race Across America. Marc has taken the lessons learned from overcoming a terminal illness into his calling to support drug research for pediatric cancer. Marc believes that true happiness comes from the authentic connections made with people and living unselfishly to make the world a better place.

Marc Julien portrait

“Cancer is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

—Marc Julien

Marc Julien Homes

33. How to Triumph through Challenges with Marc Julien

Key Takeaways

  • You can overcome selfishness and help others when you become committed to being a real person.
  • Every bad situation has a silver lining, if you are willing to seek it out.
  • True happiness comes from the connections we make, not the things we buy.

Social Links


Marc Julien is a father on a mission to change the world. He is a stage four cancer survivor who is currently training for Race Across America, a 3,000-mile cycling race that starts in Oceanside, California and finishes in Annapolis, Maryland. Marc is seeking to raise $500,000 for pediatric cancer treatment research, which will benefit the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Marc is also the Founder/Owner of Marc Julien Homes, a custom home building company based in Florida.

“I don’t have control over getting cancer. I have control over making it go away.”

—Marc Julien

Marc Julien Homes

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.

Today’s podcast is dedicated to OneOC. Founded in 1958 as the Newport Bureau of Volunteerism, they are dedicated to providing solutions and support services to nonprofits in Orange County so that they in turn can deliver upon their mission and make a greater impact. Learn more about OneOC at oneoc.org.

Michael Kurland (00:01):

All right. Welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Marc Julien, Team Principal of Ram 21 Team.  Marc, welcome to the show. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and a little bit about being the principal of Ram 21 Team?

Marc Julien (00:24):

Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. So a team principal, what does that really mean? It’s a formal name for the guy who put the team together. We have created a team that we’re going to race in the Race Across America, which is the world’s toughest bicycle race. Long story short it’s about two and a half times the length of the Tour de France and we do it in about five and a half days. We’re an eight man cycling team. We ride from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland nonstop 24 seven until we get across the finish line and today I’m here to talk about the evolution of my life before and after cancer and why I’m doing this cycling race.

Michael Kurland (01:03):

That’s great and I think that was a great intro and I mean, this sounds crazy to me, but also awesome at the same time that you’re going to bike nonstop right across America, but you’re doing it for such a good cause. So let’s tell the audience a story, like let’s give the background. So who was Marc before cancer? Who were you and let’s lead up to that?

Marc Julien (01:28):

Right. So I’m a guy that got married at 46. So clearly I lived a pretty selfish life until that point and that it was all about me. And after getting married less than a year later, my wife was pregnant and I was still going full force in my business and in my personal life, having fun racing go-karts and doing all sorts of crazy stuff day in and day out and never really taking a moment to even take a look at some of the achievements I had or even like they say, smell the roses. That was not in the cards for me. I was too busy thinking about what’s next, bigger, better, better. My daughter was born on May 10th in 2018 and three weeks later I was diagnosed with stage four cancer in my lymph node and in my tonsil, which you know, clearly put a halt on my entire life. Even just like in the movies where you know, everything goes quiet and you just sort of sit there contemplating, Oh my God, I’m going to die and that’s basically what happened to me. I was told that I was sitting in my pickup truck in front of my office and you don’t even know how to function after they tell you that even if they tell you good, bad or ugly, you’re just frozen in time.

Michael Kurland (02:39):

So, okay. So talk to me a little bit more about that. So they tell you, you have stage four cancer, which is obviously, like you said, you know, a shock and then what? Like, what did you do, where did your mind go and what did you start doing immediately after that?

Marc Julien (02:56):

After that you make a few calls, you call your wife, obviously tell her what’s going on and I think I called my mother because I told her that I was getting a biopsy and so she wanted to know, and then it’s like a freefall. Right? And so you go from the joys of having a daughter and just sort of realizing that and becoming a parent, which I was wanting to do and your life just sort of pops. And I immediately started thinking what’s gonna happen to my business. Am I going bankrupt? Am I going to die? Should I start producing videos for my daughter now about her first date and her graduating and her first job and like all these kinds of things that you think about for your life and how are you going to coach her through it?

Marc Julien (03:40):

And then you go into panic mode for a little bit, because you realize, like how is my life going to really evolve here? And maybe a couple of weeks into it, I got over the fact that I stopped thinking I was going to die and that it was more, what is my everyday life going to look like moving forward while I go into treatment. And for a couple of weeks there was a shift in doctors and who I was going to use and who I believed in. And for me I’ve always been give me the worst possible scenario and a couple of the first doctors that I met were just making it too joyful and so I finally was lucky enough to meet my radiologist.

Marc Julien (04:21):

Dr. Williams, who was awesome, just told me straight up. I went from one doctor telling me it’s about two weeks of treatment, the bad parts are about two weeks long to my next doctor who told me it was going to be four months and it was going to be like the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life and laid out all the different scenarios that are going to happen to me and frankly scared me to have to adapt. But it was good and then I felt, okay, I can trust this guy. Like he told me the worst possible scenario and if it’s even three quarters of that I’ll be okay, I’ll make it through.

Michael Kurland (04:55):

So do you think your free life of being, if you will balls to the wall and living life, kind of with the hair on fire, did that help you, going in getting ready to attack this challenge?

Marc Julien (05:11):

I mean, probably the hardest part, right is being somebody who’s relatively, I’m not controlling, but I like to control everything in my life and I feel like I have control over it. Cancer is something that you have zero control over. So you go from being in my business A to Z, I can do this, this, this, guiding people and moving everything forward. And in my personal life and you know, everything around me to going to okay, cancer. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know the first thing about how to treat a cancer. I don’t know anything about the cancer that I have and all these guys are telling you, okay, you’re going to do this. We’re going to do that. Bang, bang, boom. And you basically just have to give up all control and just put your faith in them and say, okay, great.

Marc Julien (05:48):

You know, heal me. And that’s what we did, which was by far was the hardest part. I mean, I had to give up running my business for four months, trusting my employees, that they weren’t going to know tank the company, which now hindsight looking back, I’m so happy that the people that I have working for me are amazing and they did such an awesome job, but when you’re in it, you’re thinking everything, right? Like, Holy cow, am I going to be able to pay my bills. Can I pay my mortgage? You know, my company goes bankrupt. How long am I going to be sick for? And will I ever recover? And there’s just so many things that are going through your head. You know, it’s a real eye-opener to even just financially, you know, I do well, but you realize that you know, maybe you’re a little careless with what’s going on.

Marc Julien (06:33):

Certainly I planned for the future, but not into the distant future where at times people will get diagnosed with cancer. You may be in treatment for two years and it may not work and it may come back and then you’ve got to go back in again and all these different scenarios that I’d never even contemplated in my entire life was I had one chance to get this right. So if they gave me all the radiation they could give me and they were going to hit me with as much chemo as they could so that I didn’t have to have major surgery. And if I had to have major surgery, it was not going to be pretty. I mean, basically they were going to take out like half my neck. So you sit there and go like, man, what does life look like if it comes back and I got to take out half my neck? How do I function? How do I talk? You know, there’s so many things that run through your mind. And that’s probably the hardest part is you have zero control over any of this. I don’t have control over getting cancer. I have control over making it go away. I’ve got zero control. And that was probably the toughest part and the realization that overall in your life you know, shit happens.

Michael Kurland (07:34):

Wow. That’s crazy. So talk to me about the treatment. So you kind of alluded to it before that they hit you with the most amount of radiation and chemo that they could possibly hit you with. So you were telling me on the pre-show that you can’t ever get another radiation treatment again in your life. So what was that like? What was the treatments like? Let’s go into that a little bit.

Marc Julien (07:58):

Sure. So not knowing anything about chemo, chemo is seven hours. You sit in a chair and they plug you in. One of the side effects of chemo is that you may become dehydrated and your veins may collapse. So I had a chemo port put in, so they basically put in like an area to plug into your chest and that’s a line that goes directly up into your neck, straight into your aorta, and delivers the chemo right into your heart immediately. So I had one of those put in, which was terrifying. And then they tell you, you’re going to put in a stomach feeding tube as well. It’s called a G-tube. So they basically cut a hole and pop this hose in there. In case you can’t eat, you can’t swallow anymore. So that was one of the things that they told me after five weeks, that that may happen.

Marc Julien (08:44):

So, you know, week one, you go to radiation five days a week. And so I went in for my first five days. I started chemo I think it was on the Tuesday. So Monday radiation, Tuesday chemo, seven hours, radiation treatment is half an hour long. And so the radiation is 30 minutes where they basically bolt you to a table. They heat up this plastic mask that they stretch over your face and when it cools, it basically holds your face perfectly in the same position. So every single time you go, you put back on this mask, which is then bolted to a table. So you can’t move at all, at all, at all. And then you sit on the table for 30 minutes while it spins you around and zaps you with this laser or whatever it’s doing.

Marc Julien (09:27):

And it basically treats just the very, very area that needs to be treated and that part is terrifying. If you’re claustrophobic, you lose your mind. The first time they put this mask on in order to fabricate it, they have to heat up this plastic, and then they stretch it over your face, like Saran Wrap and they can’t cut anything. So they have to let it basically, it’s like a mesh that goes over your face. You’re stuck on the table and you have to wait for it to cool. And then they cut holes after for your mouth and for your nose. That was like the first experience where I was like, Holy cow, this is going to be, this is going to be terrifying. So it gets you out of the mask. And then that’s your mask for the next 35 treatments.

Marc Julien (10:04):

You get to hang on to it at the end, which is pretty cool. It’s my little memorabilia that I have. And they basically put you on the table. The actual radiation doesn’t hurt at all. The side effects are the big issues. So, you know, week one was your throat’s going to get a little sore maybe, and you’re going to start tasting some metal and nothing major week two, it’ll get a little bit worse. Week three is going to feel like you’re sick. Like now you have a sore throat where every time you swallow, it hurts and then week four starts to get really bad where you now have all sorts of blisters in the back of your throat. Most likely you’re not going to be able to swallow or eat at that point anything so if you can get anything down there.

Marc Julien (10:42):

So that’s when you start using your G-tube, which is an enormous syringe that’s about four or five inches long, you fill with food and then plug it into this hose and you push it into your stomach so it doesn’t have to go down your throat. And then week six, seven, eight, nine is horrific. It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever endured in my entire life. It was like gasoline. I had thrush, which is like an infection where the top roof of your mouth becomes so sensitive. It’s like somebody taking a lighter and touching it every time you swallow and you endure this for it doesn’t go away in like a day or two. You’re taking these pills and trying to make it go away. And it starts coming back. And it was just an absolute shit show to have to go through that.

Marc Julien (11:25):

And as the treatments really kick in just the radiation side, your saliva turns to molasses. So you can’t clear your throat. So there’s about three weeks there where you’re constantly trying to clear your throat and spit it out and it literally hangs there. If you’ve ever like spit out before and you get a little cling on, this thing is like solid. And it just gets stuck in your throat. So you start choking yourself as you’re trying to clear it and you choke, you’re trying to spit it out. You’ve got this mask on, on the radiation table where you start freaking out thinking, Oh my God, what happens if I start choking and because they can come rescue you quickly, right? You’re behind these big steel doors and everything like that in this room by yourself.

Marc Julien (12:04):

And that was pretty horrific. That was pretty horrific. Now that I look back on it, I can laugh, but I remember going into the radiation treatment thing and like, man, I hope I don’t choke while I’m strapped to this bed for 30 minutes. Because it’s going to be ugly if I’m going to freak out. And so you do radiation treatments and by far that’s the absolute worst. Using a feeding tube is horrendous. If you’ve ever seen it before, it looks like it’s simple, but it’s constantly to try and clean it and you’re in the shower and you’re trying to use this thing. I mean, it’s just, it’s without getting into too much graphic stuff, it sucks. Like it just frigging sucks to do. And then the chemo it was a nice little icing on the cake where you do your seven hours of chemo.

Marc Julien (12:48):

And like three days later, you’re out cold on your bed and then you get all sorts of side effects from that, from urinary tract infections to sleeping disorders to hallucinations, to ringing in your ears and it just like goes on and on and on. When I did it, they hit me with the most amount of chemo they could give me in the first treatment in the hopes that I would do three of those. And after I did the first one, I realized there was no way I was going to pull that off. And there were just way too many side effects. And so I started going once a week after that for chemo, which was about five hours instead of seven, because they’re giving you a little bit less and you just make your way through it.

Marc Julien (13:29):

I mean, the nausea, it’s crazy with the insurance companies are crazy. Because they don’t allow you to get like there’s a basic nausea pill, a medium one, and then a really good one and you basically have to do your treatment. So if you’re doing five or six treatments before you get to your fourth or fifth, maybe they finally give you the good nausea treatment pill before your chemo, because they don’t want to pay for the good one. So they give you like the crappy one, the semi crappy one. And then if you’re lucky enough, maybe you get the good one. So my daughter is like, you can just pay for the good one if you want and that’s what I did, but I sat there thinking like had I not asked, he never would have told me that. And you would go in chemo and you start barfing up all your food and with the G-tube it’s not great throwing up. Because it creates all sorts of issues in your stomach and that kind of thing. And I just thought it was so funny that they don’t say anything. They just assume you’re not going to pay for the good one. It costs me 500 bucks. So it was worth it. I was like, I’ll do it. No problem.

Michael Kurland (14:24):

That’s, that’s the insurance company. I mean, Jesus. So you’ve just endured so much. So you did this for five months, right? And then you went into remission.

Marc Julien (14:36):

My treatments were about seven weeks long, but once you’re done, there’s still another like four or five weeks where, I mean, you’re nowhere near functioning. And then it literally took me six months to get back on my feet. You know, where in the depths of treatment, I couldn’t sign my name on a check. I couldn’t even remember. I couldn’t get my brain to actually move my hand. I would start the check and it wouldn’t move. And going upstairs, you’re winded. I lost 30 pounds, 15 pounds of muscle over that short period of time. I mean, you’re just, you’re the shell of the person you were before. And you know, amongst all the other stuff that’s going on, you know, my salivary glands stopped working. So you constantly have dry mouth. So you’re constantly drinking water.

Marc Julien (15:18):

And then you’re going to the can all the time, you’re trying to sleep, but you’ve got to get up every hour because you’re drinking too much water. It’s just like this constant you’re on like, what do you call that? The little treadmill there with that little mouse where you’re just on the wheel going around and around and trying to recover. You don’t realize how bad you are until, you know, I was finished in October. At the end of October, I finished my treatments in November. They pulled out my feeding tube and my chemo port. And I was like, Oh, I feel great. And then, December rolls around. I’m like, Oh no. Now I’m feeling great. I was feeling like crap in November. And then January rolls around. You’re like, okay, now I’m feeling good. You’ve completely lost your baseline as to like what feeling good feels like. And it was literally, it was six months before I actually felt like quasi normal.

Michael Kurland (16:03):

So you went through this, this crazy painful, like chemo and radiation, you got hit with the most that you could get hit with, your daughter now, your daughter’s born and you’re in remission. So where is your head at now? Like what are you thinking? You you’ve come through this pretty much life or death situation and you just cheated death. Right. So how are you thinking now? Are you still the same guy? Have you changed?

Marc Julien (16:32):

I mean I tell people that cancer is the best thing that’s ever happened to me solely for the fact that I think I’m actually a whole person now as opposed to what I was prior to getting sick. I think I was just a selfish, driven, egocentric person. And I wasn’t mean to people and that kind of thing. I just mean that really I was just focused on myself and doing what I wanted and what was important to me and really never looking through the rear view mirror, never really enjoying life. And the connections that I had with people were few and far between. I knew a lot of people, but I don’t think I was really even present for conversations with them, aware of what’s going on with them. And then once I got through this whole treatment and everything, I mean, everything has just shifted.

Marc Julien (17:17):

You know, I mean, I got rid of so much stuff. I had a huge burn rate of play stuff that was really irrelevant. But I think it was feeling maybe a void that I was trying to fill, you know, with stuff as opposed to filling it with relationships. And one night when I was laid up in bed, I started watching this Harvard study on a Ted Talk, talking about what made people happy and true happiness. And they’d studied, I think 450 people. It was the largest study ever done. And they followed them all through their life until they passed away. And that the study is still happening to this day. And they took people from all different walks of life, all different backgrounds, financial backgrounds and everything. And they would ask them every year, are you happy?

Marc Julien (18:00):

Why are you happy? They’d ask them a series of questions and after the first 30 years, they came up with the fact that the people who are the most happiest have nothing to do with money, their status in the community, their job their family, it’s all about connections with people. So some people may not even have a family, but they have amazing connections with their community and the people around them, maybe the people at work and they’ve got great friends or whatever. Those were every single time the happiest people, regardless of how much money they made. You can have rich people who are miserable. Rich people were happy, but it was all about these connections. When I heard that, I realized I don’t have those kinds of connections. I have some, but I really don’t work them. And then I knew I was going to make a change there and I was going to start connecting to not only the people around me, but what I could do to be more connected to the world around me. And how can I help the world and help people and just be more committed to being a real person in this world, as opposed to just somebody who’s cruising through and taking as much as he can.

Michael Kurland (19:00):

That’s great. That’s definitely being better right there. So, you said cancer was the best thing that ever happened to you and you have become a better person. So let’s talk now about Team Ram 21 and what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Start on your own mentality and then let’s talk about how the team was founded, where you started coming in at that point.

Marc Julien (19:28):

So laying in bed, my many, many hours of self-reflection and complete boredom, I started looking, I needed the silver lining because there was some really dark days there where my biggest fear was that I was never going to get back to at least maybe half of what I used to be physically and that kind of thing. And was cancer ever really going to go away or these side effects, are they going to be with me forever? So it was depressing, it was dark and it was a tunnel that I wasn’t sure, there was ever an end that was going to come. So I started looking for something to create a silver lining, motivation or excitement, or just something to get my mind off of everything else that’s going on.

Marc Julien (20:06):

I started researching just crazy things that you could possibly do, whether it was climbing Everest or just doing sailing around the world or trying to swim the English Channel, just like all sorts of ridiculous things that frankly, I have no skills in doing, but I thought, why not? Why not see what’s out there and see what’s doable. And I started looking at the Guinness Book of World Records stuff, and I was just randomly looking around and I’d cycled a little bit before, but nothing more than a hundred miles in a day and I came across the race.

Michael Kurland (20:36):

That’s pretty good though. That’s a good, that’s a good length.

Marc Julien (20:39):

So I came across Race Across America, which somebody talked to me about years before and said, Oh, that was my dream. I want to do that. And I sort of said, okay, whatever. So I started researching that, taking a look at that. Then I was talking to my wife and said, you know, would it be crazy for me to do Race Across America and we just sort of chatted a little bit about it and she’s like, maybe we should just get out a treatment before you start worrying about that kind of stuff. And then finally December 13th, I went into remission, I got my results back and I was like, okay, so this is going to be my thing. One, I’m going to step up and I’m going to prove to myself that I can heal myself.

Marc Julien (21:16):

Because at that point I felt horrific and I was nowhere near able to even ride a bike at that point. But it became sort of my cry, my mission, my sort of personal mission statement that I was going to do that. And then I started thinking, it would be cool to put a team together of cancer survivors who may be going through the same thing or thinking like am I ever going to be normal again? Not knowing anything about anything. I just posted something on Facebook, on Ram Facebook page, hey I’m a cancer survivor. I’m looking for seven other guys that want to do this race and if you’re interested, let me know. And through that, I found three or four guys, and then we just slowly started building a team and we were all cancer survivors.

Marc Julien (21:56):

So we said, why don’t we raise some money for cancer? As I started to get into that, I started thinking about, there’s so many different organizations raising money for cancer and what cancer do we want to do? And that kind of thing. I ran across some information on pediatric cancer and the fact that it’s the number one killer of children by disease. They only have 10 drugs that have ever been made for children that have cancer, which sort of shocked me. I couldn’t believe there were only 10 drugs. I mean, there are hundreds for adults. There are only 3% of the government money that they put towards cancer research goes to towards children. I just started thinking about all the conspiracy theories, but I started thinking like big pharma makes over $150 billion a year in the U. S. alone taking care of people who have cancer.

Marc Julien (22:47):

And then they’re taking 97% of the money and putting it in their pockets is that about drugs that they’re then going to turn around and make billions of dollars on. And yet we’re not doing anything for these kids. They’re 43 kids a day that get diagnosed with cancer in the U. S. and it just started hitting me like, this makes no sense, like this is going to be my calling. This is what I’m going to make an impact on. And if kids got to go through what I went through, or even remotely close to it, I don’t even know how they make it through. I don’t know how parents make it through. And frankly, if my kids got sick and I found out that we’re going to take these adult drugs and pump them into your kid at smaller doses, but regardless, and it’s gonna give them cognitive problems and all sorts of long-term cardiac problems, and you’re basically saving them and then destroying them at the same time. It made no sense to me. So everyone would sort of got together and said, you know, let’s do it for pediatric cancer. And so part of it’s for leukemia, because that’s the number one childhood cancer. Then the another part of the money we’re raising is going to hopefully help fund the 11th drug that goes into clinical trials hopefully next year, which again, 11 drugs, we not even 10 drugs right now, the 11th drug, absolutely it’s insane to me.

Michael Kurland (23:59):

Like you said, big pharma, I mean, kids don’t have jobs to pay for things. So that’s probably why. It’s terrible.

Marc Julien (24:08):

Right? They say 16,000, right there at 1.8 million people in the U. S. to get cancer every year, it kills 600,000 people, right. So that’s like a huge number and kids are only 16,000. So they’re like, wow, 16,000, there’s no money. Why would we invest in that? And I get it like dollar wise, it makes sense. But we have to do something about getting the government more involved and getting the government to fund more research for kids because they don’t have a bone to pick. What do they care? But there’s lobby groups and as I’m getting more and more into this, I’m realizing like the machine behind all this is immense. It’s a big uphill battle, but it’s one sort of, I’m ready to pick up.

Michael Kurland (24:47):

I mean, thank you for what you’re doing. It’s really great that you took a really bad situation and turned it into such a positive one. So how much money have you raised thus far? And what’s your goal?

Marc Julien (25:03):

The goal is $500K and we’re at, just over, let’s say $175 last time I checked.

Michael Kurland (25:09):

Okay. You are you’re riding on June 19th, correct?

Marc Julien (25:14):

Right. So we leave Oceanside June 19th, and hopefully we get to a Annapolis Maryland about five, six days later, victorious.

Michael Kurland (25:24):

Well, this has been a great, a great story, a great interview. I really appreciate your time. So how can the audience help you get to your goal? What’s the website that they can make donations?

Marc Julien (25:39):

RAAM21com. So RAAM21.com and there’s a donate button there. You just click on it and donate whatever you want, big or small, any dollar. We’d really appreciate it. We appreciate the support from you and from your listeners, if they can help us out. That’s awesome. You’re making a difference in a lot of children’s lives.

Michael Kurland (26:00):

Well, Marc, it’s been great having you on the show. I know first thing I’m doing when we get off, this is going to RAAM21.com and put in a little donation. So thank you so much and good luck on your race and your money raising efforts.

Marc Julien (26:15):

Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Thank you.

I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better.  Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

Call Us Email Us
Close menu