BCG: It Was All Going So Well
Last updated: April 2023
For those of us diagnosed with non-invasive bladder cancer, there is some relief with the knowledge that there are treatments that can stop the spread of cancer from within the bladder lining.
Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) is a type of immunotherapy drug used to treat some non-invasive bladder cancers. It's given directly into the bladder (intravesical). BCG is more commonly known as a vaccine used to for tuberculosis (TB). BCG is placed in the bladder to react in a way that triggers the immune system to get rid of cancer cells.
Doing my research about BCG
This treatment along with other alternatives were explained to me by my urologist after 2 operations to remove tumors from the bladder. My medical team was confident that my cancer was contained within the bladder lining. So as a result of this feedback and doing my research on the effects of BCG, I opted for this course of treatment.
The BCG is given once a week for a period of six weeks through an outpatient department. The drug is delivered through a catheter into the bladder and is relatively painless and takes no longer than 2 minutes. I was told after each visit to go home after treatment, relax, and not to pass urine for 2 hours. This helps to increase the concentration and effects of BCG in your bladder.
I felt great after the first 4 treatments
At best after each treatment of BCG I felt bit wobbly and maybe even a bit tired. I could never be sure however if this was in my mind or reality.
When you have cancer and a professional tells you that you may feel tired after treatment, you feel tired even if you're not. I basically felt great but took the advice to rest and did nothing for that day. The following day I was up and about, going to the gym or riding my bike with no side effects. I even took to posting on social media with photos of how great I was feeling, and my family was amazed at how unaffected I seemed to be. This remarkable reaction to my treatment lasted another four visits and I was looking forward to the end of my cycle.
BCG side effects
Two days before my 5th session of BCG, I was working out at the gym and found after 45 minutes that my body temperature was struggling to warm up. The tips of my fingers were also losing circulation, so I cut my session short and went home. What was to follow after walking through my front door was 48 hours of unbelievable pain.
Severe pain and a loss of appetite
My entire body literally shut down on me. I had major fever type symptoms, excruciating pain in all joints, and a severe headache. I was unable to eat and just about managed to take on fluids over the two days.
After discussions with my medical team, who assured my wife it was a reaction to the BCG. I was admitted to the hospital for three days, unable to breathe properly, with severe kidney pains that could only be eased with morphine. A CT scan was taken that fortunately showed no abnormality in my kidneys, so I was eventually sent home with a course of antibiotics.
I learned to take it easy during treatment
I've since finished my BCG treatment and I'm now awaiting a biopsy to establish how successful my treatment was. My hope is that I'm given the all clear and allowed to move on with my life with just the little inconvenience of having to get myself checked every three months.
However, it may turn out that I'm advised to undertake another course of BCG treatment. If that is the case, I will now know for sure that it is very unlikely your body will cope with having major toxins put inside it. Cancer sufferers have to suffer for a reason, which is to ultimately rid our bodies of this disease.
This pain will all be worth it if I can achieve this, but either way, I'm prepared to go through the suffering.
Has cancer impacted your mood during the holidays?