The Cancer Curmudgeon Speaks: “Cancer is Not a Gift”

When Julia Anne Bourne was diagnosed with cancer, she got mad. Then, she got busy raising awareness and money for breast cancer research. Since she was “incredibly” healthy – a marathon runner and a cyclist – Julia felt blindsided by her cancer diagnosis. One of her friends was uneasy about Julia’s breast cancer diagnosis. “It scared her. If this (breast cancer) could happen to me, it could happen to her.”

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Julia decided she would not be a “happy camper” and fight her disease with stoic passivity. She describes participating in a breast cancer event not long after her diagnosis. “I was confused when they saluted breast cancer survivors. I was told that I was a survivor even though I had just been diagnosed. What other disease labels you a survivor based on just the diagnosis?”

A self-described “cancer curmudgeon,” Julia dislikes the ubiquitous breast cancer “pink fluff.” Says Julia, “I prefer white – the color of research labs – rather than pink.”

Julia’s curmudgeonly ways extend to the way she views cancer and suffering. “I hear people say that cancer is a gift. To me, cancer is not a gift.”

Saying good-bye to her breasts was an expected emotional hurdle. Julia’s reconstructive surgical team worked with her to select a “perfect” pair of breasts, which Julia enthusiastically showed off immediately prior to her StoryCorps interview.

Although her current diagnosis shows no evidence of cancer, Julia is haunted by the young women who keep getting cancer diagnoses. “We’ve got to keep focusing on research.”



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