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My Allergic Reaction to Treatment

Typically, Stage TA, non-muscle invasive, high-grade (fast-growing), papillary bladder cancer is treatable with a TURBT (transurethral resection of bladder tumor), followed by several weeks of BCG treatments (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin). This combination is the current standard of care.

The first three weeks

I went to my first BCG treatment, and I had cramping for a few days, stinging during urination, and other than that I was fine. Week two, I had cramping non-stop for about a day. Week three is when the bottom fell out. I kept thinking on the drive home that the medication stung a bit more than usual. By the time I arrived home, I felt as if I had to pee so bad that it would happen in the car (I forgot I had a catheter). Other times, I had pain in my pelvic region that I can only explain as two scraped pieces of flesh rubbing against each other. By that evening, I was covered in hives from my neck to between my toes. It was absolutely one of the worst weeks of my life. Then came the cramping of the muscles surrounding my bladder. It was truly hell on earth.

I should have mentioned these effects to my doctor from week two when I started having mild side effects. I didn’t give week three proper consideration, whereas really I should have gone to the hospital.

Some signs you may be allergic to treatment

Symptoms of an allergic reaction might be mild, like mine were initially, and then become more severe with additional exposure to whatever is causing the allergic reaction. In my case, this was the BCG treatment. Mentioning my symptoms to my healthcare team could have helped them identify the issue earlier and stop the treatments.

Symptoms to look out for

  • Hives (itchy red spots on the skin)
  • Nasal congestion (known as rhinitis)
  • A rash, scratchy throat, or watery or itchy eyes
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
  • Wheezing

Be extra aware of your symptoms

If you have a severe reaction, you should seek emergency help right away. Don’t try and be a martyr as I did. By the time I would made phone call, it was too late…the hives were everywhere. Print out your physician’s name and phone number and place it somewhere where you and family members will see it. And lastly, once you are diagnosed with any type of cancer, you must be extra conscious to what symptoms you have. You may even think to yourself, “I’m becoming a hypochondriac,” but this is not the case. Any type of cancer treatment – ANY! – can have symptoms/reactions that you may have never had before. Don’t assume that they are normal side effects to treatment. It is very important to communicate with your healthcare team with any changes you feel. It will likely be nothing. Hopefully.

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

Allergist. Drug Allergies. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jul. 2018].