How I Survived and Flourished During Bladder Cancer Treatment
Looking back, I realize that I was so underprepared for what this journey would bring me and how to cope through the treatment itself. I want to share my experience on how I survived during my treatment to help those going through it.
First of all, any type of treatment for bladder cancer is tough, whether it is BCG, mitomycin or traditional chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery. You are bound to get distressed and anxious at some point, even the hardest and strongest of us do, and that's okay. It's normal to have feelings of despair or being overwhelmed.
Have something to look forward to
One tip I would love to share is to make sure that you have something to look forward to, something to focus on while having treatment. It may be just popping out and having cake and a chat with a friend, or it could be a small walk or picnic, but whatever it is, make sure you do something NICE for yourself. This gives you something to focus on during those tiring, dark days and can give you a lift when you need it.
Talk about your experiences honestly
Find someone who you can speak honestly and open with; it may be a best friend, a bladder cancer friend, or even a counselor. It doesn't matter who it is, just as long as you can be totally honest about how you feel. One of the things that didn't help me was trying to be "positive" all the time. I now realize that being honest about how I feel is much more beneficial than keeping it inside.
Facing how we really feel
I know that sometimes it is hard to even face how we actually feel. To admit it to ourselves feels like we are failing, but I promise you, you aren't. To feel positive, we need to embrace the not-so-positive days as well.
On the really rough days, I would find a film and snuggle on the sofa with my dog Sherlock. It is so very important to give yourself, and your body, time to rest and time to "just be," not worrying about the washing up or cleaning the toilet. Yes, those things are important but not THAT important. Give yourself time, and just know that although it feels like you will be like this forever, you won't be. There is sunshine on the horizon and things will get "back to normal", whatever that is for you.
Make sure you stay hydrated (yawn!). I know that this is one of the things that everyone goes on about. However, it is so vital that you stay hydrated so there is no added pressure on the kidneys and so that you won't suffer headaches, and your body will be at its optimum. The body is already having to deal with cancer cells and treatments, so be kind to it. If you can, pour yourself a luxurious bubble bath and pamper yourself.
Eat whatever you want to eat
Don't get too strung up on healthy eating during treatment. As long as you have everything in moderation, you will be fine. Talk to your doctor about your diet and any concerns you have. I went through a stage where strong smells would make me gag, so my food became simple. A plate of tomatoes and mozzarella became my go-to foods, along with rice pudding.
Adapting to change
Try not to focus on the things that you can't do because this phase of your life will pass. Everything is constantly changing and evolving, so perhaps one day you will feel awful and not be able to do much, but a few days later may be all the change that you need. Don't beat yourself up about it. This is hard, coming from someone who constantly beats herself up. Really try not to; you have enough pressure on you already without putting your own self-imposed pressure on.
Buy a V-shaped pillow
Oh, how I love my pillow! It helped me get comfy on the sofa after having my bladder out; it supported me and snuggled me - trust me, it is such a good investment.
Ask for help with chores
Now this one is extremely difficult to do because we all like to think that we can cope and that we don't need anyone else to help us. However, having someone to help vacuum or to do a small food shop for you is so valuable. It takes the pressure off you, and you know that you would do this for your friends, so don't feel guilty.
Above all, please know that "this too, shall pass."
Have you talked to your doctor about navigating sex with bladder cancer?