Bird Beats Cancer & Takes to the Stage
- Julian Bird, 80, was diagnosed with bladder cancer at 60 and the prognosis was grim; after several operations, he became cancer-free. Beating cancer led him to pursue his lifelong dreams of becoming an actor.
- Bladder cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
- Many people find that cancer leads to a shift in priorities, as well as potential career changes.
At 63 years old, Bird became a student at the esteemed Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. And today, at 80 years old, he is playing the lead role in a play in London.
Bird is the progeny of artists, and he was initially hesitant to pursue the arts when he was young because of this reason. Instead, he became a psychiatrist and practiced the profession for 34 years. Bird initially became interested in medicine after facing a health battle as a young boy, and meeting with a doctor who inspired him.
Treating Bladder Cancer
Treatments for bladder cancer can include surgery (which is how Bird treated his cancer), biological therapy, chemotherapy, and in some cases, immunotherapy. In an earlier interview, Johns Hopkins medical oncologist Dr. Jeannie Hoffman-Censits explains using immunotherapy for this type of cancer.
“Immunotherapy is a really powerful tool that we use in urothelial cancer in all different disease states. There’s probably hundreds of clinical trials ongoing really, if you look at it,” she says.
“So, at least for advanced urothelial cancer, the disease that I treat, the current indication for both pembrolizumab and atezolizumab is front line. If someone is not a chemotherapy candidate at all, or if a tumor biomarker shows that the tumors PD-L1 positive, it can be considered in the front line. Maintenance therapy has been FDA approved with a survival benefit,” says Dr. Hoffman-Censits.
Dr. Jay Shah, an associate professor at Stanford University and a cancer surgeon at the Stanford Cancer Center, says in an earlier interview that the treatment path for bladder cancer is important, and equally as important is where you get treatment.
“You want to give the patient the best chance at defeating this cancer, but you don’t want to make the patient so weak or harm them from treatment that they don’t do well,” he explains. “This is where the expert knowledge at cancer centers comes in particularly handy.” Dr. Shah advocates for patients using specialized cancer centers, versus regular hospitals.
Career Pivots after Cancer
Bird is an excellent example of how it’s possible to make some major life changes for the good after cancer. Many people, as Bird did, find that during their cancer journey their priorities and perspectives change. This is a natural occurrence and a common one.
These shifts may also lead to a career change, as it did for Bird. Welcome these new outlooks with gratitude and positivity, and see what takes shape for you. After beating cancer, truly anything is possible for you – the sky’s the limit.