Inspiring Stories: Nurse is also colon cancer survivor

December 15, 2014 | by City of Hope

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope's Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is "Made Possible by HOPE." The theme of the parade is "Inspiring Stories."

Representing City of Hope's nursing and clinical care teams will be Anne Bourque, R.N., clinical nursing director in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. But Bourque also has her own patient story to tell. Here, the 35-year veteran of City of Hope relates her experience with colon cancer.

By Anne Bourque

Clinical nursing director and colon cancer survivor, Anne Bourque City of Hope nurse, Anne Bourque, is also a colon cancer survivor. Shown here with her fiancée, Steve Barnard, she'll ride City of Hope's Rose Parade float on New Year's Day. The theme of the parade is "Inspiring Stories;" the theme of the float is "Made Possible by Hope."

I have two stories: one as an employee of City of Hope, and one as colon cancer survivor treated at City of Hope.

I am a registered nurse and started working at City of Hope in 1980 when I was 25. I can honestly say accepting a job here was one of the best decisions that I have made in my life. I have worked with some of the most talented and remarkable colleagues, and knowing many of them for 30-plus years has enriched my life tremendously.

Fast forward to 2002: Then, as now, I was the clinical nursing director of hematology and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. I was divorced, with two children  – Elizabeth, who was 19, and Gregory, who was 14.

I was 47, had some bleeding and went for a colonoscopy at a different hospital. I had no desire to have any City of Hope physician see me with less than my normal work clothes on, so naturally, I would have the test done elsewhere.

On Feb. 13, on the colonoscopy table, I found out that I had colon cancer.

Well, forget the concept of having no doctor see more than Anne in her work clothes – that ship had sailed. I had a friend drive me straight to City of Hope, because I was positive this was where I wanted my treatment. I called Stephen J. Forman, M.D., who met me in my office when I arrived. I was joined by my significant other. Dr. Forman began to lay out options for me. I have to say, I was a complete wreck. I have never cried so much in my life.

How could I get cancer? I already clearly knew the value of life, because my mother died of cancer when I was 14. What would my children do? My 14-year-old son knew how to cook only hot dogs and Top Ramen.

I needed to live. I wanted to live. And guess what? I did live!

I had six weeks of continuous chemotherapy along with radiation daily and then, after two months, I had surgery. 2002 was a very tough year, but I am proud to say that I survived and have been cancer-free for more than 12 years. I have been able to watch my two children grow up; I have been blessed with a darling grandson who is now 6; and I proudly just celebrated my 60th birthday with my fiancée and family.

I will never, ever forget the kindness bestowed upon me by everyone with whom I worked, the outstanding medical and nursing care that I received and all that City of Hope did to save my life.

Riding the City of Hope float to represent nursing as an employee, and as a cancer survivor, is an honor and a privilege.

Thank you, City of Hope, for making a difference in my life and the lives of so many others.

Colon cancer survivor Anne Bourque with her grandson and two children Anne Bourque with grandson Blaize Gregory Torrez, son Gregory John Torrez and daughter Elizabeth Anne Torrez. Bourque, a colon cancer survivor, will represent City of Hope nursing in the Rose Parade on New Year's Day.

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Learn more about bone marrow transplants, or hematopoietic cell transplants, at City of Hope.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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