The Scope After BCG
Last updated: November 2022
Mom didn't get to enjoy the holidays of 2020. Halloween and Thanksgiving were not the celebrations she deserved. Furthermore, the family stayed away while she was in discomfort and fear.
Having been newly diagnosed with bladder cancer at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and its shutdowns in June of 2020, Mom was quite emotional. She was so scared and had to face so much of it alone, even if I was in the car waiting for her to come out from whichever appointment.
However, I remained resolute and instilled as much hope into our situation as I knew. We had just finished her first round of BCG, and I was certain we were on the right path.
Not too bad
The BCG treatment phase of Mom's bladder cancer battle was arguably the best phase in the war. It went remarkably well and with little side-effects.
Nevertheless, Mom did experience the mild discomfort and malaise associated with BCG treatment. We usually went in for treatment on a Wednesday, and by Saturday or Sunday, she was feeling better from the "BCG flu," as we joked.
The next phase of the battle would be determined by her upcoming cystoscopy.
Scoping out the situation
Obviously, the anticipated day arrived quickly. I took the day off of work and wore the new faux-mink coat I bought myself for my birthday just days before.
Mom walked into the appointment while I went to Noah's and got us bagels to bring home. Everything seemed like it would be alright. I was ready for a celebration.
After an impromptu solo photo shoot in the hospital's parking lot for my social media posts, I waited for Mom while I listened to the XM 60's station. Before long, I saw Mom's figure exiting the automatic doors of the clinic.
Mom's footsteps seemed off as she scuttled toward the car. Although she wasn't walking in her normal gait, it was not in an injured way either... Just different.
I figured the cystoscopy must have made her extra tender or uncomfortable. As she got closer, I saw the look on her face, and I was instantly struck with concern. Her brow furrowed, and she struggled to turn up the trembling corners of her lips.
"Son, the cancer came back." Unwelcome tears began to emit from the corners of her eyes.
"What?! What did they say, and what is the next step?" I was so upset that I had to ask her these questions instead of getting the answers directly from the medical staff.
"They said either take my bladder out or chemo," she confessed with much effort to choke down her tears.
Crippling concern struck me to my core. Intuition told me taking her bladder out was a good idea. Regardless, I knew she was resistant to the idea.
"What do you think you want to do, Mom?" I asked, silently begging her to decide on radical cystectomy.
"I want to try chemotherapy," she muttered as she blew her nose and wiped her tears.
"What does the doctor think about that?" I felt my anger growing that I could not ask these questions directly.
"He keeps saying it's aggressive. I think he wants to take my bladder out." Her voice trembled with defeat.
"Don't you think that might be a good idea?" I pleaded.
"Son, I don't want to lose my bladder!" By now, her tears completely betrayed her strength. "I don't want to have a bag! People will stare! They will see the tube and bag hanging out of my clothes."
She buried her face in her hands, a showing that was entirely out of character for my warrior woman Mom.
Obviously, I didn't know how to proceed. Everything in my gut told me radical cystectomy was the right way to go. Nevertheless, who am I to decide what is best? I am not a medical professional, nor am I the patient in question. Furthermore, I did not hear the news directly from the doctors, only what Mom could glean through her fear and emotions.
"I don't know, Mom. I imagine if they removed your bladder, you would be free of the urinary issues that have been bothering you for years! And we would get rid of the cancer," I tried to convince her.
"There are no guarantees. It could still come back, and then what? I would have no bladder, a bag, AND cancer!"
I completely hated that we had to have this conversation. Most certainly, I didn't particularly appreciate that my Mom was subjected to so much pain, fear, and uncertainty.
Admittedly, the drive home seemed an eternity. I peeked over every few minutes to see my beautiful Mom wipe a tear or stare out as if lost in a strange land.
"I'm sorry this is happening, Mom, but we are gonna beat this!"
"I hope so, Son."
"No matter what, I will be here for you, Mom."
I am so glad that was a promise I was able to keep.
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?