Would I Get a Second Chance?
This time of year is a difficult one for me. It is full of mixed emotions and a roller coaster of hours that became days.
On the 29th of October 2017, after a stage 4 bladder cancer diagnosis 6 weeks previous, I saw most of my family for the "last" time before. If all went in my favor, I would be having a total pelvic exenteration operation on November 1st to give me a possible second chance at life.
Preparing for the worse
My cancer was aggressive and invasive, and the surgery really was my only option with virtually no palliative care options.
I had spent the few weeks at home between hospital stays, hoping for the best and preparing for the worse. This operation did hold a larger risk of operative mortality than an average surgery and the first 48 hours post-surgery are critical.
I had spent my time making freezer meals for my husband as I wanted that in order. I wrapped Christmas presents for my nieces while so physically weak I could hardly wrap the presents. And emotionally weak, knowing there was a chance I wouldn't be here to give them to them.
October 20th was the pivotal day. It was the day I would find out if my second PET scan confirmed that there had been no spread of the cancer out with my pelvic area and therefore the surgery could go ahead.
At the time I knew the day was important but on reflection, I realise how much more important it was than I would ever know. In a sense, more important than the day of surgery as without a green light on the 30th of October, the surgery would not go ahead.
Getting the green light for bladder cancer surgery
Late morning, I got the confirmation I needed. It was now also so real. It was a relief, it was scary, it was every emotion imaginable.
On October 31st, I was admitted to the hospital, ahead of the surgery. A day of signing forms, meeting consultants – urologists – oncology and reconstruction, colorectal surgeon, clinical nurse specialist, and the anesthetist. It was a day that I remember in its parts but not in its entirety.
The night before my surgery was difficult in so many ways. I was in a great deal of pain and my husband had to come back and spend the night with me.
Preparing for surgery
I was literally crawling to the bathroom with my two nephrostomies, fitted as a temporary measure to rest my kidneys pre-surgery. I was losing blood through my urine and feces. Ironically when all female organs would be removed the next day, I had my last every period.
I was so worried all these issues would prevent my operation from going ahead. I was so scared this second chance was slipping away and along with it my life and everyone and everything around about me that meant the most.
The last time?
The next morning, November 1, 2017, was the day. Pre-op checks confirmed the surgery could go ahead.
I will never forget the moment when I had my surgical gown on and I was taken down for surgery, saying goodbye to my husband for, what seemed at that moment, the last time. I was wheeled into the lift and that was it, he was gone from view.
My second chance at life
So, 4 years on - this is still an emotional week. The days leading up to the 1st of November are all significant and mean something, as this did back in 2017. The memories are vivid and real. They make me a little emotional but also ground me and remind me how far I have come, how well I am managing, and how much life I still have to give.
I got my second chance and every morning I wake up, I am truly grateful for the medical team whose expertise and skill allowed me still to be here living my best life.
Did you get a second chance at life? Tell us about your bladder cancer surgery experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
How long did you wait before telling others about your diagnosis?