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Is BCG My Future?

Is BCG My Future?

The American Cancer Society describes Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) as “the main intravesical immunotherapy for treating early-stage bladder cancer. BCG is a germ that is related to the one that causes tuberculosis (TB), but it doesn’t usually cause serious disease. BCG is put directly into the bladder through a catheter. The body’s immune system cells are attracted to the bladder and activated by BCG, which in turn affects the bladder cancer cells. Treatment is usually started a few weeks after a TURBT and is given once a week for 6 weeks. Sometimes long-term maintenance BCG therapy is given.”1

What the description doesn’t tell you

The above is the technical explanation of BCG treatment for bladder cancer. I remember reading this when I was first diagnosed with bladder cancer. What this description doesn’t tell you is that BCG may become your permanent future, as it happens for many of us.

How my bladder cancer was discovered

I was diagnosed almost two years ago when an abdomen CT scan was done for my every-three-month lung cancer scans and picked up a spot in my bladder. I immediately saw an Urologist who scheduled a cystoscopy and then a TURBT. Then followed BCG treatments for six weeks. Six weeks after the TURBT to remove the tumors, I had another cystoscopy. More tumors. Another TURBT. More BCG.

The BCG process

This has become my normal. I have been extremely lucky that I have not had any other tumors appear, but I still go every three months for a cystoscopy and then follow it with three weeks of BCG (it is given weekly). The actual process when going to receive BCG does not take long at all. Unfortunately, most of my time is spent waiting in the waiting room. Once I am called to the back, it goes rather swiftly. Strip from waist down, lay on table, the nurse inserts a catheter and through that she inserts the BCG. I then leave and go home and am not allowed to urinate for two hours. My medical team recommends laying down and turning over every 15 minutes until the two hours has passed. I am then on my way out the door. The actual BCG proess takes less than one minute.

It feels like I am still battling it

Am I a bladder cancer survivor? ABSOLUTELY. However, it is difficult to keep reminding myself I am defeating the tumors. I haven’t had any new ones in almost one year. But that doesn’t stop the cycle of the every three months cystoscopy and 3 weeks following with BCG. It does feel I am still battling it. Due to the BCG, I do have spasms sometimes and painful urination. There is always a reminder.

I want to catch it in its early stages

But, in 2019 you must realize that science has come so far that I may or may not ever have the tumors reappear. No, I do not currently have bladder cancer, but I do receive treatment for it. My personal choice is to endure the frequent cystoscopies to ensure if the tumors do come back, that we will catch it in its early stages.

I am alive

So the next BCG appointment you have, or I have, and we are complaining, “Ugh, are we done yet?” – Answer that question with, YES, I am alive. I technically do not have bladder cancer and am participating in prudent treatments to make sure it doesn’t come back.

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

  1. Intravesical Therapy for Bladder Cancer. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladder-cancer/treating/intravesical-therapy.html. Accessed January 5, 2019.

Comments

  • LarryD
    4 months ago

    Good post, good information, good perspective. Thank you.

  • Sarah Wallin moderator
    4 months ago

    Thanks for the positive feedback, @larryd! Were you able to relate to any parts in particular? Take care, Sarah (BladderCancer.net Team Member)

  • Lisamlmm
    4 months ago

    Thank you for this article.

    I was recently told – after my TURBT, 6-week BCG treatment and subsequent cystoscope – with no recurrence (thank God)…”you don’t have cancer anymore”. I know that statement was said to make me feel better about my situation, so I tried not to be too
    negatively reactive with the person who said it. But while that may well be true, and believe me I am grateful, I am now facing 3 more weeks of maintenance BCG, and at least 2 years of this pattern, hoping each scope comes with good news of no new tumors so that I can continue on this plan. Too, I’ve slowly come to the realization that this maintenance plan can come to a screeching halt if a tumor rears its ugly head. Not sure I understood that at the onset of this journey 5 months ago when I was first diagnosed. But if that happens, my reality gets switched up a bit and a new path will need to be taken. I accept it.

    I may be new to this changed way of life that Bladder Cancer has taken me, but I need to take care of myself in the best way medically possible to remain free of cancer.

    Again, thank you, and I wish well in your continuing journey.

  • Sarah Wallin moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi @lisamlmm, your comment highlights the reality of life after cancer. Having to continue with maintenance is definitely an ordeal. Many members of the community have expressed those same thoughts, that although the cancer is gone, you are still reminded of it. I’m glad to hear you’re focused on taking care of yourself, that is so important. Wishing you continued health! -Sarah (BladderCancer.net Team Member)

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