Diagnosed in 2005 at age 30 with non-invasive bladder cancer
Key message: Don’t ignore any aches, pains, or feelings that something is not right within your body. Be attentive and aggressive with your medical care and know that you do not have to face this journey alone.
2005 was a year full of twists and turns, one of which changed my outlook on life forever. In December of 2005, I had my annual Pap smear. At that time, I hadn’t had any problems or concerns to bring up with my gynecologist. During the examination my gynecologist told me that she felt a lump, which she thought at the time was on my ovaries. She was very concerned about what she felt and immediately scheduled an ultrasound, which showed that the lump was not on my ovaries, but on my bladder. At that time, I was 30 years old with no children. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Will I be able to have children?” My gynecologist referred me to a urologist for additional testing and follow-up.
During the appointment with the urologist I had a cystoscopy and urinalysis done. Afterwards I was told that I had bladder cancer. I never thought that I would hear that phrase in my life. After hearing the news, my emotions were all over the place. I began to ask how, what, when, where, and why? The urologist scheduled me for surgery, which consisted of a biopsy and procedure to remove the tumor known as transurethral resection of a bladder tumor (TURBT). I was at stage Ta: Noninvasive papillary carcinoma (tumor limited to the innermost lining of the epithelium). I was instructed to return every three months for a cystoscopy. I remember reading over the pamphlets at the urology center and doing some research of my own through BCAN and I still was in denial that I had bladder cancer. I had no family history and I never smoked; however, I grew up in a household where both of my parents smoked. I never had any signs or symptoms that would have raised a red flag. In hindsight, I had a history of bladder infections, kidney stones, some urgency, and some blood in my urine, which I assumed was just menstrual blood.
After the procedure, I put on my seat belt, prayed, and rode this journey out! I had follow-up visits every three months, then every six months, and had my share of recurrences. As of December 2012, I have been cancer free for 3½ years and have advanced to having an annual cystoscopy. This journey has been very rocky and I’m truly thankful that my gynecologist followed up and referred me to the urologist. I decided early that I was going to fight. I am a SURVIVOR! My strong faith in God, a loving and supportive husband, and family and friends all keep me going. I continue to stay abreast of bladder cancer via BCAN in addition to being an organizer for the annual Walk for Bladder Cancer. The advice I would give women about bladder cancer is to not ignore any aches, pains, or feelings that something is not right within your body. Be attentive and aggressive with your medical care and know that you do not have to face this journey alone.