How I Dealt with Another Cancer Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in September 2017. I underwent 2 TURBTs and eventually had a radical cystectomy in January of 2017.
Recovery was normal and pretty uneventful apart from the usual constipation and, of course, dealing with leaks until the swelling on my abdomen had gone down and my stoma had taken on it’s “forever” shape. Life was returning to a “new” kind of normal, and 5 months after surgery we went backpacking around southeast Asia.
Routine annual check-ups
On returning back home, I had a number of check-up appointments to attend. The first checkup was with my urologist for my first annual follow-up following my cystectomy. Although it was a tense time awaiting results, I was informed that I was still clear of cancer. Phew, that was a relief!
The next appointment was for my annual endoscopy as I have a condition known as Barrett's esophagus, plus a large hiatus hernia and also a stomach ulcer. I attended my endoscopy appointment, and the usual biopsies were taken. Nothing appeared unusual, and I left thinking no more about it.
Unexpected letter from the hospital
That was until approximately 8 weeks later when I received a letter to make an appointment to go back. I called the hospital, fully believing that a mistake had been made, as I had attended my follow-up only a couple of months earlier. Upon calling the hospital, I was told that it wasn’t a mistake and that indeed, I did need to go back for further treatment. “What treatment?” I asked. “Have I got cancer again?” At this point, I was feeling sick to my stomach. The lady who I spoke to on the phone advised me that she would get the doctor to call me back that afternoon.
Waiting for a call from my doctor
It was a long and scary time awaiting that phone call, but eventually it came. The doctor told me that the biopsies had shown “abnormal” cells and that further investigation and treatment were required.
Diagnosing and treating a second cancer
3 days later, I was back in to see my gastroenterologist. It was then that he told me that the biopsies had revealed a low-grade cancer and that he needed to laser the cells and take further biopsies. I was stunned! The treatment went ahead, and I left the hospital later the same day. The doctor seemed confident that he had successfully removed the cancer cells. It all seemed so surreal.
I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone
It didn’t feel like I’d had cancer, although my ongoing fatigue had continued. Since it was low-grade and nothing as life-threatening as the previous bladder cancer diagnosis I’d received only 18 months earlier, I decided it wasn’t worth bothering about. I dismissed it and didn’t tell a soul.
Comparing bladder cancer to low-grade esophageal cancer
I felt like I couldn’t burden my family with yet another cancer diagnosis. It was low-grade esophageal cancer and nowhere near as serious as my bladder cancer diagnosis, so I would deal with it, alone. I felt that as it wasn’t high-grade that it wasn’t really cancer.
But it was cancer, and over the coming weeks, I began to think, “Wow,” I’ve just gone through another cancer diagnosis and treatment. I think having gone through treatment and surgery for a high-grade, very aggressive cancer, nothing would ever seem as bad or as scary as that.
Eventually revealing I’d had another cancer
3 months later, I decided that I should tell my husband and my sons. Since time had passed since the procedure had been done and no further treatment was required, I felt that now was the right time to tell them. They, of course, were a little shocked, but they knew that I was okay, so that made it so much easier for them to take in. For me, I wonder should I have told them immediately when I found out? I still don’t really know the answer to that question as I still can’t come to terms with the fact that I have had another cancer. So, for now as it’s “all sorted out”, I choose not to dwell on it and to continue seizing life and all its great offerings at every opportunity.
Have your views towards bladder removal changed since you were diagnosed?