Not As "Sexy" As Other Cancers

I didn’t sleep well Monday night, I was worried about my Tuesday morning meeting. It was scheduled for 10 and as usual, we had to wait about 30 minutes. Dr. Zlotta came to greet us, unusual in that the first few meetings were with a resident. He lead us into a private room, we sat across the desk from him as he reviewed the test results. We watched him leafing through pages and circling different sentences and numbers. When he finished, he looked up, and his face was grim.

The BCG didn't work

“I’m afraid the BCG treatment didn’t work. It looked promising at first but that red blemish we saw on the last cystoscopy was a tumor. There were also traces of cancer in your urine.”

I was stunned, didn’t know what to say, so my wife Mel spoke first.

“So what’s next, where do we go from here?”

Another round

“First of all, we have to scrape you again to get rid of the tumor, and see if there’s anything else is in there. Then I’d like to try another round of BCG and see what happens.”

My mind was racing. I wasn’t angry, more disappointed and definitely scared.

“I thought you said this was the gold standard treatment, and it worked 90% of the time?” I was almost whining when I asked the question.

“It normally is, but you are one of the 10% that didn’t respond. That’s not to say the next round won’t work, we’ll give it another shot.”

I asked him if I’d been diagnosed 40 years earlier, what kind of treatment could I have expected?

His answer shocked me

“It would have been the same as today, there has been very little progress in bladder cancer treatment over the years. It simply isn’t as “sexy” as other cancers like lung, breast, prostate or even colon. It’s a constant battle to find funding for research. There has been some progress made; there’s a treatment in Europe, a form of chemo. It involves electric waves delivered directly to the bladder after an injection of mitomycin.”

I asked why we couldn’t do it here, and his answer was that it hadn’t been sanctioned by Health Canada and the treatment wasn’t available yet, so BCG was it.

Fear of the epidural

We set the TURBT appointment for two weeks later, which meant another night in the hospital while my body thawed and the catheter did its work. I was not looking forward to another night “out,” so to speak. It meant the same routine as before: pre-op examination, 6am arrival at the hospital, funky hospital robes, and another epidural. Of all the crap I had to go through, getting stabbed in the back scared me more than anything. Up until that point my treatment had gone without a hitch, but this time would not go as smoothly.

After being admitted the morning of the scraping I met with the anesthetist who would perform the epidural. She was cool and calm and asked if I had any concerns. My response was simple.

“Yeah, getting that needle again is a concern.”

She chuckled and assured me everything would be fine.

It wasn’t.

To be continued...

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