Reflecting on Four Years Since My Diagnosis
On August 9th, 2016, I went to the urologist to have a cystoscopy. This simple procedure permanently altered the course of my life. At 40 years old, I had experienced increasing urinary problems for at least 2 years that went ignored and overlooked by medical personnel. Finally, I found a physician who would listen to me and ordered more testing.
A call from the doctor
A few days later, on August 12th, I received a call from my physician's colleague, who asked me to come into the office for the results of my scope. This was another physician, not a nurse calling. He suggested that I bring someone with me. I called a close family friend, a friend's mother whom I've known since I was eight. She came and we went to the office together.
Wracked with anxiety in the waiting room
As I sat in the waiting room, I was a nervous wreck. Exhausted and in a lot of pain and discomfort, as I had been for months. I wanted answers. I wanted appropriate treatment. I wanted relief. Hell, I even wanted sleep! For months, I was going to the bathroom as often as every 5 minutes. I was experiencing bladder spasms and urinating blood clots. Getting a decent night's sleep was next to impossible because of how often I needed to urinate. I couldn't have imagined what was going to come next, but I was definitely anxious and scared.
The results of my scope
We were called to the exam room, and the doctor came in almost immediately. He paused and very earnestly looked in my eyes and told me that I had bladder cancer. The heat rushed to my face, the hot tears immediately streamed down my face. I don't remember much else in detail. I felt like everything around me was in slow motion and that everyone sounded like the adults on the old Peanuts cartoons. Wah wah wah wah wah.
The next steps were a blur
The next few weeks were a blur as I moved through the phases of devising a treatment plan, scheduling surgery, healing, and moving towards chemo. I was off work for a total of 8 months and very nearly lost my job because I was out so long.
Free of my stage IV non-metastatic bladder cancer
By May 2017, my active treatments were all over, and it was confirmed that I had beat the rare diagnosis of stage IV, non-metastatic bladder cancer. I was elated to the point of tears, yet I knew my journey was not over.
I knew I had to share by story
Due to the struggle to get diagnosed and reading up on the discrepancies in symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment between men and women, I knew that I needed to share my story and advocate for improvements. I decided to start a blog, and I began checking out local support groups as well as national organizations that contribute to the improvement of people who have been impacted by bladder cancer.
Long-term side effects
I slowly started trying to get back into the swing of things, volunteering, being active. Still, I greatly struggled with strength, endurance, and energy. My appetite and weight were all over the place, being affected by chemo and the struggles my body experienced. Minor hearing loss and peripheral neuropathy were considered permanent side effects that I was dealing with. I gradually improved though.
Continuing to improve my health
Now, as I approach the four year anniversary of receiving that devastating news, I can't help but marvel at where I am now. I have officially been given the news that I'm still cancer-free by my oncologist. I am still working on making improvements with my health on a number of levels, however, I am still alive and thriving.
There's a lot to be grateful for in those four years. It's hard to believe all that has transpired.