Bladder Cancer and Mental Health

This week I read a very disturbing report regarding urological cancers and suicide. The statistics that I read I found very distressing.

It got me thinking about my own situation and the affect that having bladder cancer had on me.

Initial feelings

From the first moment I saw my tumor on that screen, all I wanted was it gone, out of me as soon as possible. I didn’t care how, I just wanted it gone, and then I would feel better and everything would go back to normal.

Surgeries

I underwent 2 TURBTs, but on receiving the biopsy results, each time the tumor was becoming more aggressive and now was about to break through the bladder wall. A radical cystectomy was now the only way I could go. I was now being referred to a specialist cancer hospital.

Referral

The appointment date came, and I met with the Professor and a cancer nurse specialist.

I was told quite briefly what would be “removed” during the RC. The Professor would be removing my bladder, cervix, anterior wall of my vagina, appendix, lymph nodes, ureter and part of my small bowel. I had already had a hysterectomy many years earlier, or else this would have also been done. I would be coming back for a pre-op appointment where my “stoma” site would be marked and bloods would be taken etc.

Radical cystectomy

Surgery date came and I underwent a radical cystectomy. I awoke in Intensive care; this was no surprise as I had been forewarned that this was normal procedure. I was transferred into a private room within a day as my recovery was coming along exceptionally well.

The reality of my cancer treatment

At no point during my cancer journey so far had anyone spoken to me about my “mental wellbeing”. I just went for all the scheduled appointments as planned. I did as I was advised, but everything was very clinical, and I felt “out of control”; my cancer and the associated treatments had taken over my life.

Now all that is over, the cancer has been removed, and I’m left with a huge scar and this blood filled bag hanging from me. I was very sore from where they had taken my cervix and part of my vagina, and to be honest, I was totally unprepared for how this surgery would affect me both physically and mentally.

Breakdown

It was about 3 days after my surgery when I began to feel angry, so very angry, an uncontrollable anger. Anger due to the realization that my life would never be quite the same because of CANCER! An anger at my tumor not being identified sooner, so I wouldn’t have had to go though this.

I cried and cried like I had never cried in my life before. I could not stop! I needed help, I asked for help, I begged through sobs for help, before it was agreed that “yes,” I did need to speak to someone, a counselor. Why was I now feeling like this? I really couldn’t understand my uncontrollable emotions. I was angry, I was upset, I felt ugly, I felt like I was grieving the loss of my former self. This I was not prepared for at all.

I told my husband that I now realized that our intimate relationship would never be the same again and that he should divorce me. Again, this was something I was totally unprepared for.

The counselor

The counselor eventually came to see me. My initial reaction upon looking at him was “he’s younger than my son.” But I felt in such a state, that I just needed to offload onto someone and it might as well be him.

I have to say, my young counselor was a great listener. He agreed with how I was feeling, and that it was “normal”, how could this be normal? Never in my life have I ever felt like this before, this is not me, this is not who I am, I don’t behave like this. He then said to me, “But Shirley, you have never had life threatening cancer surgery before”. He told me it was OK to be angry and thump the pillow if necessary. He told me that although my relationship with my husband may be different, we will still manage to have a loving and fulfilling relationship. He told me that it was normal to feel angry at not being diagnosed sooner. He told me it will be OK and through my sobs I agreed with him, I believed him that things would get better, I had hope.

The moral of the story

I believe that we all need some mental support during our cancer journey. Seek out your counselor before you need them. Do not be afraid to ask for help; it is not a sign of weakness. Your body and soul have been through tremendous stress both physically and emotionally. The physical bit may be over, but it’s just the start of our emotional recovery.

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.

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