4 Ways to Be a #GratefulPatient with Bladder Cancer
September 7th was #GratefulPatient Day. Going through bladder cancer is, as my oncologist puts it, not all puppy dogs, rainbows, and unicorns. That's for darn sure, right?!
Silver linings are to be found everywhere. I am sharing some of mine here.
1. Be alive
By the time I was diagnosed, I had stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma. A T4 tumor growing through my bladder wall. It had taken me years to get a physician to listen to me and get a proper diagnosis. My urology oncology surgeon is convinced that had I not gotten my diagnosis when I did, we would have been planning my funeral instead of my radical cystectomy. I am continuously grateful to be alive, and I spend more time making my moments count than I did before my diagnosis.
2. Have an incredible care team
I would not be a patient without my doctors. Even though I have not had good experiences in my younger years with doctors, I have an amazing care team now. Everyone communicates and plays well in the sandbox together. They listen to my concerns. My questions are answered. They take time with me when it is called for. They are even supportive of my writing and advocacy work. Most of all, I adore them and I would not be writing this article had it not been for them! If you do not have a team that makes you feel valued and like you are a part of the decision making process, fire them and find someone new.
3. Show your gratitude
After at least 2 years of actively seeking help from the medical community, I finally got a referral to a urologist. I went in and she spent quite a bit of time with me, reviewing records and asking me questions. She promised me that she would get to the bottom of it. A week and a half later, I was scoped. A few days after that, I received my diagnosis. I was both floored and grateful to finally have a diagnosis. When I finally received my surgery date for my radical cysectomy, I decided to have a bouquet of flowers sent to her as an expression of my gratitude. My surgery date was moved forward. I scrambled to get everything in order. It was then that I realized the flowers would be delivered on the day of my surgery. Thinking of it makes me cry still. Gratitude comes full circle.
4. Live life to the fullest
Let's be real. Not everyone has the means to take off and travel the world after a cancer diagnosis. What you can do is be present in the moments of your life. You can rededicate yourself to going after the things that matter most to you. Stop being content in a position that does not fulfill your soul. Release those relationships that do not bring you joy. Most of all, take care of yourself as best as you can.
#GratefulPatient Day was on a US holiday this year (Labor Day), so many of us weren't necessarily be able to express our gratitude on the actual day. You can do something now! Drop off a sweet treat. Handwrite a note and send it to the people on your care team who made the biggest impact. Even getting on your providers' patient portal and sending an electronic thank you message is always appreciated.
My oncologist has told me that attitude is one of the biggest indicators of survival in cancer patients. I truly believe that. If you're struggling, try the attitude of gratitude. Change your perspective. Open up and share. Pay something that's been done for you forward to another.
We would love to hear from you. In what ways are you a grateful patient?
How long did it take to get diagnosed after your first symptom(s) appeared?