5 Years Clear!
Last updated: March 2023
The 1st of November 2017. This is a date I will never forget. A date that will always have great significance in my life. A day I will continue to celebrate every year. This is the day I went to the operating room for my living-saving surgery.
Fast forward 5 years to November 2022. I was up early to catch a flight from Scotland to Hungary for a business trip to meet my new client. Not only was this 5 years to the day since my surgery, but it was also the day the results of my 5th (and final scan!) were due.
Leading up to this day, for several months, I had some very mixed feelings.
Another year of clear scans
On one hand, I would be delighted to hear that I once again had clear scan results. I would also be glad it would be my final scan. My medical team had always made 5 years the goal. The point at which they would consider the chance of the cancer returning is significantly reduced.
On the other hand, it would be the end of CT surveillance. The end of the annual "comfort blanket" to confirm everything was okay. It felt strange that regardless of the outcome of this particular scan, I felt anxious about the outcome.
I landed at Budapest Airport, and the cabin crew indicated it was safe to turn our cell phones back on. I checked my e-mails for anything important for work. There it was, the e-mail from my urologist. It confirmed my 5th and final scan was still showing No Evidence of Disease (NED). I was beyond delighted and relieved.
Take some hope from my story
I also felt almost instantly like a weight had been lifted. A weight that had got lighter as the years had passed but still, a weight that had been there since the date I was diagnosed with late-stage, invasive bladder cancer.
I know people reading this will all be at different stages in their own unique bladder cancer journey. It may also be you are reading this as a caregiver, supporting a family member or close friend.
Please take some hope from my story.
From advanced bladder cancer to clear scans
My cancer was stage 4 muscle invasive squamous cell carcinoma bladder cancer at diagnosis, with no time for chemo or radiotherapy.
I had a few weeks to live at the time of my life-saving total pelvic exenteration operation. This extensive, invasive surgery involved clearing all organs from my pelvic area.
The surgery left me with 2 ostomy bags. However, it left me with lots more than that.
Celebrating 5 years clear from bladder cancer
It also left me more years with my friends and family, enjoying so many of the things we like to do together.
It has left me with the opportunity to go back to the job I love and even receive a promotion to a senior position. It has left me the opportunity to be a patient advocate and to become an ambassador for the leading bladder cancer charity in the UK. It has left me the ability to support many going through similar journeys.
It has left me the ability to enjoy still "stepping out" of everyday life in my kitchen, where cooking provides me with some satisfying and relaxing downtime. It has left me with so many opportunities to travel. To enjoy short trips in my beautiful homeland, Scotland. Also, the chance to often travel overseas to enjoy new food and experiences.
Most significantly, for me, it has allowed me to enjoy so many more years with my wonderful, caring husband and, of course, to be able to be here sharing with all of you.
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?