Radical Cystectomy: the Mental and Emotional Recovery

Last updated: August 2022

Suppose you are reading this article and considering a radical cystectomy (RC) surgery or have the surgery already scheduled. In that case, I hope this article will help you emotionally prepare for the surgery.

A radical cystectomy is considered an option in several circumstances that your doctor and medical team will discuss with you. Most commonly, an RC is a procedure used to treat muscle-invasive bladder cancer. That is cancer that has spread into or through the muscle layer or is at risk of progressing to this stage.

Medical teams will always look at all options and only recommend bladder removal if it is the best option for you, and any alternative options would not have the required effect to treat cancer.

It was scary

I remember all the scans and meetings that led to my diagnosis clearly, but none as clear as when my doctor told me my bladder would have to be removed. It is scary, and so many questions come into my head, not least how I will pee?

Firstly, you need to give yourself a chance to digest the news. This could be talking to your partner, family, or friends. It could be reading any material supplied by your medical team or need to read the articles and forum posts here on BladderCancer.net.

As tempting as it may be, try to avoid Google searches. There are thousands of unreliable sites with comments and posts which are not in context and will often result in more questions than answers.

Write down your questions

Once you have had time to take in the proposed surgical treatment, take time to write down any questions at all that you may have. It might be financial concerns, how to tell children, family, or friends, practical aspects of the surgery, or more specific questions around diagnosis and treatment.

Do not worry about who is the right person to ask. Your doctor, specialist nurse, or any member of your medical team can either answer the question or point you to the correct person who can answer your questions.

Let others look out for you

Information is often said to be power. Once your medical team has all the options, take the time to review what is best for you.

This is a time to put yourself first. You may be a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, a daughter or a son, a wife, or a husband. Each of these roles has responsibilities that often put others before yourself. For now, though, let others look out for you.

Allow yourself time to progress a whole host of emotions you will feel. Upset, shock, anger, disbelief, and apprehension are valid human emotions that people experience at times of change and when the road ahead is not completely clear.

It is important to process these emotions. Some people find writing down their feelings in a diary therapeutic. Others find joining support groups or talking to friends and family is the best way.

The fear of the unknown

As the date of surgery approaches, it is very normal to feel a great deal of apprehension. Fear of the unknown heightens these emotions. Try to focus on the end target, which is the removal of the cancerous tumor. Think of the surgery as the next step towards improving your health.

Take strength from those who have been through the surgery. I am 4.5 years on from my surgery and am currently cancer-free. I will tell you the surgery is tough, and the recovery is too, but it is achievable. Day by day, week by week, you gain emotional and physical strength. I will also tell you that you can go back to doing the things you did before and live a good life.

Recovering from a radical cystectomy

Knowing what I know now, what would I say to the pre-RC surgery me? "Laura, this will take strength to get through, but you will find it in so many unexpected places. There are others out there who have come through the other side. Reach out to them, take comfort in the shared experience, and gain knowledge through their tips and experiences."

You have got this!

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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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