Three identical women climbing higher and higher on ladders

Advice to Your Past Self

Last updated: February 2020

Life with bladder cancer can take unexpected twists and turns. In many cases, your story may develop into something completely different than what you had envisioned at the time of your diagnosis. We recently conducted our 2018 Bladder Cancer In America survey to find out what the over 400 respondents with bladder cancer wished their past, pre-diagnosis self would have known about their journey ahead. Some of the insightful responses we received are below.

Become more involved in your healthcare journey

“Do more research”
“Discuss outcomes of treatment with my healthcare provider”
“Get a second opinion”

One common theme in the responses we received was that individuals with bladder cancer wished their past self knew to be more involved in the healthcare process. Doing research on their own, asking more questions about treatment outcomes, and seeking a second opinion when needed were all common topics of advice. One such response on seeking a second opinion was especially vulnerable:

“If anything, I would suggest for anyone to change doctors. Don’t wait for two years and the doctor treating you like you’re just after the pain pills. Very degrading. I have a urostomy and feel like had I gotten to a larger hospital, I might not have had to go through all of this.”

Enlist support and practice perseverance

“Join a support group”
“Don’t give up”

Another common topic of advice centered around expanding your support network and embracing feelings of tenacity and strength. Although friends and family may be excellent supporters, and provide you with the strength you need to keep moving forward, they may not know what it’s like to be experiencing bladder cancer firsthand. Many support groups (both in person and online) will contain individuals who have had, or are currently living with, bladder cancer. These individuals may provide you with a different perspective and be able to answer different questions than other supporters in your life. Additionally, being around others with bladder who are fighting their hardest may also inspire you to keep giving your battle all you’ve got.

Be kind to yourself

“Don’t smoke”
“Don’t ignore symptoms”
“Consult a doctor quicker after symptom onset”
“Practice acceptance”

One final theme of advice focused on being kinder to your body. This includes really listening to your body when it’s telling you something is wrong. Many individuals with bladder cancer said they wished their pre-diagnosed self would have stopped participating in activities that may have increased their risk of developing cancer, like smoking.1 Others wished that they had listened to their body more, and brought symptoms to their doctor earlier on, instead of ignoring them. Finally, some members said that they would tell their past self to practice acceptance sooner once they had received their bladder cancer diagnosis. All of these behaviors trend toward taking care of yourself to the fullest extent possible, and not letting your health take a back-seat priority-wise.

There are many different paths

As mentioned, everyone’s journey with bladder cancer can be incredibly varied. For some, there may be nothing that you wished you past self knew, and for others, the advice you’d give could take up pages and pages. Whatever the case may be, taking an active role in your health, practicing kindness to yourself, and enlisting the support of others may be great things to try no matter what point you’re at in your bladder cancer battle.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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