The TURBT Before Chemo
Last updated: February 2023
2021 rang in as most New Year's do. Instead of silly resolutions, we would forget days or weeks later, Mom and I were focused on her bladder cancer battle.
We were 6 months into official diagnosis and treatments, yet the cancer came back after the last rounds of BCG. We were preparing for intravesical chemotherapy, albeit with much apprehension.
Another solo battle
The next step after the previous cystoscopy and before chemo was another TURBT to remove the new tumor. It took about a month to get her an appointment for this TURBT. It felt like she had a hundred TURBTs over the last 6 months, and each one sent a shiver up and down my spine. Mom struggled so much to find comfort after each TURBT.
I received Mom at the hospital curb again after this TURBT. Although the height of the pandemic lockdowns were already over, caregivers still couldn't join their loved ones for doctor visits, chemotherapy, tests, or surgery. Each appointment was a solo battle for Mom.
Because of how delicate and fragile her bladder was and how far we lived from any sort of world-class health facility, Mom always came home with a Foley catheter inflated in her bladder. She hated Foley catheters.
Making the best of a bad situation
While recovering at home one day, Mom decided to get out of bed. She had always been active, so it was hard on her whenever she had to rest and recuperate.
Mom walked around the kitchen and did small odds-and-ends chores like opening mail. I loved to see her get up and move around! She wanted her full health and mobility and didn't want to waste a day lying in bed.
I had already done the heavy lifting of cooking, cleaning, dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and mopping. Mom was something of a neat freak, and she demanded her floors to be spotless. Knowing this would be a challenge for her, I was glad to take over. Even if the world was collapsing around us, at least I could keep her home as comfortable as she deserved.
My sister called and asked if Mom wanted this mango boba drink she liked. Mom said yes, and my sister also got me a watermelon drink. I thought, thank goodness, because Mom sure deserves some peace and enjoyment. It was turning into such a lovely afternoon.
The 3 of us were standing around the kitchen island counter, enjoying our drinks and chatting when suddenly Mom's face soured. She began moaning. A look of fearful agony overtook her visage.
"What's wrong?" I asked, heart in my throat.
"OH, GOD! OH NO!" she blurted as she crossed her legs and held herself on the counter. "I'M PEEING!"
I saw urine starting to trickle down her legs, which looked weak and wobbly. Immediately I ran to get a bunch of paper towels off the dispenser and sopped it up at her ankles. She was trembling and making noises that sounded like a painful defeat. Fortunately, she was able to hold herself up with her arms.
"It's okay, Mom! Don't worry about it. You didn't get any on the floor!" I reassured her, as I knew this was a concern for her.
"I can't control it! How am I peeing with a catheter in?!" she agonized.
"Your bladder must be spasming uncontrollably. I wonder if it's possible for urine to get around the Foley like this?" It was possible, as I would find out later after a phone call.
My sister ran into the adjacent laundry room to get the towels we usually used for cleaning. I used them to wipe up the rest of the mess. Fortunately, most of the mess was contained to the slippers Mom was wearing, an easy toss into the washer with the towels. She didn't get more than maybe a few drops of urine on the floor. It was easy for me to clean.
This moment sticks out as one of the cruelest injustices Mom suffered.
My Mom was such a proper lady. She loved being clean and smelling good. I could feel her shame, anguish, fear, and embarrassment over the kitchen incident.
We walked her into her bedroom and helped her get cleaned up. A couple more spasms joined us in the efforts.
I did and said anything I could to reassure Mom that she was not a problem, bother, or nuisance. I didn't want her to worry or catastrophize, as was her wont. Moreover, I wanted to leave her feeling that things were okay.
Looking back on this moment, I realize I was probably talking to myself. Of course, Mom knew this was not okay. But I had to interject that things were as normal as they would be for a while. And that had to be enough for the time being.
That evening, as I put her to bed and hung out in her bedroom, we watched TV.
An Allstate auto insurance commercial came on, where the male driver is singing along to the Pet Shop Boys playing on the radio. Suddenly, his car's female hood ornament began singing along in duet, "Let's make lots of uh, uh, uh, uh!"
Mom busted up laughing. She laughed harder and longer than I remember in a long time.
I looked over at her. She was weak, scared, hurting, and beaming with radiant joy at this silly commercial. For a moment, I saw my Mom as she was in full health.
I laughed and smiled with her, fully betraying the lump in my throat and the tears I held in.
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?