I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in early March
2007. Up until that time, I had been a relatively
healthy person. I first knew something was wrong
in October of 2006 when I noticed a slight discomfort
in the lower left side of my abdomen. I was concerned
that it might be ovarian cancer so went to my GYN
clinic in November but they could not find the reason
for my complaint. I again went in December and then
in January but it was not until February when I saw
blood in my urine that I became alarmed. A few friends
tried to calm me by saying they had seen blood in their
urine before and it was no big deal. For me, however,
it was a big deal.
When finally I was seen by a urologist in March of 2007, he asked me if I wanted to see the monitor. I said yes but was not prepared for what I saw....an ugly, red, angry looking mass of tissue that I knew had to be cancer. He didn't have to even say the word. I just knew. And I knew I wanted it out of me as soon as possible.
Within a few days I was in the hospital for a TURB, that is the acronym for the procedure to remove the tumor. I had found the term on the Internet and read the procedure was done for "superficial" bladder cancer. Superficial.....I thought.....I like that word....that's not so bad, I can live with that. But when the procedure was over and the doctor came into see me, he said something to the effect that he could not remove all the tumor, that he didn't want to go in too deep and puncture the bladder, that my tumor was invasive to the muscle, that I needed 3-4 months of chemo and then have my bladder removed. I was devastated. Surely, I told myself, I can't be hearing him correctly....I must not be fully conscious yet.
But I was conscious. It was no dream. The doctor also told me that I would have to remain in the hospital overnight for more scans and X-rays to determine if the cancer had spread to anywhere else in the body. I was numb. I spent the afternoon and evening frozen in fear....afraid to talk, afraid to think of what might lie ahead for me. By the time midnight arrived, I was in tears and wanted my mother. Now, my mom had been dead for nearly 20 years and we had never been very close yet I wanted her near, wanted to be held close and comforted like a child and told that everything would be OK.
I also wanted to be able to give God thanks for my day as I did every day when I said my evening prayers. It is written in the book of Isaiah... in all things, give thanks and praise. In the last few years I had gotten closer to God and I wanted to give thanks and praise to Him, even for this very dreadful news. But how could I be thankful to God for something so awful? As I thought more about it, I reminded myself that even small children get cancer....so why should I be exempt? It then dawned on me that I could be thankful after all. I told God that I was thankful that it was I who was faced with cancer and not my children. And having said that, my spirit was calmed and I was finally able to sleep.
That was how my journey through cancer began. It was an arduous journey but one that proved to be educational and beneficial in ways I could not possibly have imagined in the beginning of the process. Were I to have the chance to erase that chapter of my life, I would not.... for I have gained more than I have lost. In the coming days, I will provide more details about my journey with the idea that you may find it informative and reassuring if you are about to embark on such a journey yourself. It is a frightening experience in the beginning but less scary when we realize how others, like myself, were able to make the journey and thrive in spite of the circumstances. I pray you too will be so blessed.
Ocrtober 08: One year following my initial bladder surgery, I was told I had bladder stones. I had no idea such things existed. But I had them. They were small and were removed in a simple but not entirely effective procedure.
October 09: One year later, a scan revealed I again had stones, but they were again small and so I decided to wait. One year later, the scan revealed they had grown to 3 inches in size. Yikes! I had put off the earlier surgery because I did not like the idea of again having to go into the OR ....and for my situation, there was no other way to do it. Not only did the stones need to be removed, but I also had a fistula (hole) in the pouch that needed mending. I moved forward because I felt if the fistula was repaired I would no longer be growing stones and I was right!
November 2010: I went to surgery to have the stones removed, and to have a fistula repaired. I knew the fistula existed due to the condition of my urine. My output contained tiny food particles to include sesame and sunflower seeds....but until the doctors went in to remove the stones, they had been unable to find the fistual on the scans or x-rays. My surgery was only three hours and much easier than my inital bladder surgery had been 3.5 years earlier. I am glad I had it done. I think with the fistula being repaired, I will not produce any more stones.
After working 40 hrs. a week and spending 3 hrs. commuting each work day, I retired in early 2017. I try to take better care of myself as I recognize how important it is to keep my immune system strong. Although I haven't the energy to do all I would like to do, I was able to meet up with my youngest sister in 2014 for my daughter's Kauai wedding, and later was able to attend my son's wedding a year later. Eleven years later now I have been blessed with two healthy grandsons. Life is good!
April 2014 in Kauai, Hawaii attending my daughter's wedding. Pictured here with my youngest sister on the left, me, my son-in-law Branden, daughter Melissa, son Kyle, and his wife Lauryn.
Picture of me with my daughter Melissa and my son Kyle while I was undergoing chemo treatment.