A bladder with an inserted resectoscope undergoing a TURBT procedure.

TURBT Is an Acronym I Know Too Well

Last updated: June 2022

It seemed like no time from when we finally got Mom's bladder cancer diagnosis that she was scheduled for the first surgery. The very word surgery made my skin crawl. I realized that we would not be able to be with Mom after surgery due to COVID restrictions. It was still in the first 4 months of the pandemic.

What a horrible time to need any sort of care, as even medical professionals didn't fully understand the virus, so patients were put off. I saw it time and again with Mom.

Day of the TURBT

Our nervousness on the way to the hospital was very evident as we drove. We drove to the roundabout in front of the hospital and parked.

My stepdad, sister, and I walked Mom to the hospital's front doors. We each gave her a hug and word of encouragement and waved her off into the abyss. Her small figure grew smaller behind the windows and disappeared, and so did my courage. 

However, I had to keep strong for my stepdad and sister.

Resolute and brave

We walked the outdoor covered corridors when automatic sliding doors opened, and there was Mom!

She said she needed to give us her personal effects. All she could have was her cell phone and ID. I was glad to take them and sneak another hug! She then walked resolute and brave into pre-op — my poor, sweet Mom.

The three of us collectively sighed and decided to have lunch at the hospital cafeteria.

A promise

On the way, my stepdad waived down a lady in a lab coat, "Hey! How are you, doctor?"

"I'm good, Mr. Williams." This was her urologist, who was performing this day's surgery. They had met before at a pre-op appointment.

"I'm just getting ready to go see your wife. I promise to take good care of her." We exchanged pleasantries from 6 feet apart, and she whisked off.

Wishing and hoping

Lunch was good, but I don't remember what I ate. I remember my stepdad had 2 lunches. He was very nervous, as we all were, and this was his way of hiding it. My sister and I always crack jokes when we are nervous. Jokes were flying all around the meal.

I had brought some healing crystals to work with while we waited - smoky quartz, citrine, carnelian, and lepidolite. My sister brought a book. My stepdad tried in vain to nap while seeking whatever shade he could find. The minutes felt like hours of agony. At this point, I had no idea what a TURBT was or what to expect.

I remember flashes of Mom's previous battles coming to mind. The fear of losing her, the unreal circumstances she always seemed to face. I had hoped we would never be in such scary waters again.

Unexpected complications

Despite the agonizing wait, it seemed way too quick to see Mom's doctor walking back out to us. I could see something was wrong with her eyebrows and posture.

"Well, I want you to know she's ok. She's in recovery right now. But unfortunately, I wasn't able to remove the tumor."

My stepdad and sister began weeping. I was in shock. "What do you mean?" begged my stepdad, the desperation audible in his voice.

"Her bladder is very sick. When I went in, I couldn't see because there was so much blood. But I could see the wall of her bladder was so fragile, like paper mâche. It's separating from the muscle of her bladder. I don't want to cause a bigger problem. I am referring her to a bladder oncologist, one of my colleagues specializing in delicate cases like this. He's going to see her next week. I'm so sorry, Mr. Williams. I just didn't want to cause a bigger problem."

I was relieved and simultaneously horrified at what was to come.

Rude awakening

It seemed like seconds went by when my phone rang. On the screen read Mommy Dearest.

"Hey Mom, how are you feeling?"

"Hi, son. Oh, I'm hurting, son." She was slightly slurry and slow.

"I bet, Mom. It sounds like you did good! Did you talk to the doctor?"

"Yeah." The weakness in her voice saddened me.

"What did she tell you?"

She was quiet. "Mom?" I asked. I heard her catch her breath and her voice trembled.

"She said she couldn't take the tumor out!" She began weeping pitifully. I was so upset she had to be alone to get that awful news.

"I know, Mom. She told us, too. But the good news is she is referring us to a specialist that sees this kind of thing all the time." I hoped she believed me, because I barely did. "We don't want anyone but a specialist doing this, right?"

"I know." She struggled to keep her upset and fear at bay.

"Mom, they want to keep you overnight for observation. But if all goes well, you'll be coming home tomorrow, ok?"

"Ok, son."

Fortunately, she did come home the next day. About ten days later, she had her second TURBT procedure, which was successful this time. We had no idea what horrors and disappointments lay ahead.

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