After finding out she tested positive for the BRCA genetic mutation, Cancer Time Bomb is Joelle Burnette’s non-fiction narrative about her prophylactic journey to becoming a “previvor” and free from breast and ovarian cancers.
This powerful story chronicles Joelle’s 3-year odyssey as she justifies slicing away healthy parts of her body that have high odds of producing cancer. While pressured by surgeons and family to take drastic measures that would remove cancer’s potential threat, she offers insight into what it feels like to face these significant decisions while not having cancer, and knowing there’s that miniscule chance the disease may never strike. Offering raw honesty, she reveals the darker side of choosing TRAM Flap reconstruction after a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. She details the challenging, long recovery as she comes to terms with her choices and their impact on her as a daughter, woman, mother and wife.
Breast cancer had already impacted or taken the lives of several family members. Moreover, it was supposed to kill Joelle’s sister in 1994, according to the doctors. Regardless, 32-year-old Colette suffered through powerful chemotherapy treatments and a painful bone marrow transplant to beat the odds and become a survivor. Thereafter, doctors had told the family, Colette likely would die if she ever got cancer again. When she was diagnosed and survived a second breast cancer more than a decade later, Colette's cancer triggered a series of events leading to Joelle’s own battle to remain cancer-free.
Colette fought cancer again while the health of these sisters’ father deteriorated after years of diabetes. All the while, caring for everyone was Joelle’s mother, Arlene, who played the strongest supportive role. Arlene remained by her daughter’s side while Joelle carried out the proactive steps to avoid cancer and stay alive for her two young children.