Diagnosed with Stage 1, high grade bladder cancer in 2008
My story may sound like the fastest bladder cancer diagnosis in history but please read to the end. Coming home from a family reunion on Saturday, January 5, 2008 (dates are forever etched into our memories and become as important as birthdays), my husband and I stopped for supper. I ordered my meal and then left to use the restroom. I was totally shocked by what happened next. My urine looked as though it was mostly blood. There was no pain and no discomfort but lots of blood. Remembering the warning signs of cancer from many years ago, I thought of cancer right away and was very scared, and actually believed that I might bleed to death. We headed home and to the local emergency room.
I was seen almost immediately by the ER doctor who took a urine specimen. By then, there was no gross hematuria, only microscopic blood. I didn’t have a urinary tract infection (UTI) but he was sending it for culture. Two hours after first finding blood in my urine, this doctor told me that I probably had bladder cancer and to see a urologist ASAP.
I saw the urologist a few days later. At first he told me he didn’t think it was bladder cancer but interstitial cystitis, which I had suffered from since I was a teenager. However, he would look into my bladder. When he did, he found four tumors. The transurethral resection of a bladder tumor (TURBT) conducted a couple of weeks later confirmed stage 1, high grade (T1 G3) bladder cancer. I had 12 Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and interferon treatments but the tumors came back with a pathology report saying that it was suspicious for muscle invasive disease. Because my doctor wanted to wait three months and see what happened, I elected for a second opinion at a comprehensive cancer center. My doctor there immediately recommended bladder removal. The shocker was that he asked me how I was treated for bladder cancer in 2006 (all my records and slides from my interstitial cystitis test in 2006 had been sent to him). The pathology reports from back then showed nothing but when the comprehensive cancer center re-examined those records and slides, they found bladder cancer! What if I had been treated in 2006 rather than waiting until 2008? My radical cystectomy was performed on September 5, 2008 with an ileal conduit. Although I have had a few bumps in the road, I live a very good life doing the things I love to do including swimming, snorkeling, hiking, traveling, and more.
One piece of advice I would give to women is connect with other bladder cancer thrivers in a support group, be it local or online, to share your concerns, receive information and support, and give back by participating in the Walks for Bladder Cancer on the first Saturday of May. Don’t let bladder cancer define or confine your life. Stay positive so that you can continue to do the things you love to do.