Bladder Cancer…at 39?

Last updated: June 2022

My story began with a visit to the doctor for an unrelated issue. In the course of the discussion with the doctor he wanted to take a urine sample. I had had a urine sample taken three weeks before for a change of insurance and it was clear so I suggested he didn’t need to do another. My doctor gave me one of those looks that said “I’m the doctor Jeff, and you are not” so I did the urine sample. And that decision proved to be one of the smartest I have ever made.

The Test Results...

It came back with microscopic traces of blood and my GP said he was referring me for a cystoscopy. I was surprised (as was my wife who is a GP - she thought it was a significant overreaction) but I went to the appointment.

They took another urine sample at the appointment which was clear - no blood. False alarm I thought. I’m about to have a camera shoved where it shouldn’t go for no reason. Boy was I wrong.

The cystoscopy experience itself was strange (I am used to them now) but the nurses were very reassuring and explained everything really well. The images from the camera were on a huge tv screen beside me so I was able to see what the consultant was seeing. The nurses explained the different things, my prostate, the blood vessels in the bladder wall, where the fluid entered the bladder from the kidney, all very straightforward and chatty.

And Then They Turned The Camera…

I noticed this thing. It seemed to me to be odd, but, never having seen inside a bladder before, perhaps everyone had one of these in their bladder. As I strained to see it on the tv I realised the chatting had stopped. No more conversation from the nurses. Much more businesslike and focused. The consultant started saying “take a picture of this…take a picture of that”

My heart sank. This was something.

I got dressed after the procedure and went to the waiting room to sit with my wife and wait for the consultant to come and talk to us. She looked up when I came into the waiting room, fully expecting everything to be fine.

“I think they found something”
It was all I could say. It was overwhelming.

The Unfortunate Diagnosis

The consultant came out and explained to us (mostly to Jenna - I don’t think I was able to concentrate) that they had found TCC. Cancer. The consultant was surprised that I didn’t smoke or work with chemicals - he said it was very young for bladder cancer.

We drove home in silence. At home we had a conversation about whether we we’re going to tell others. For me I wanted our family, friends and community to support us so it was an easy choice.

What was not easy was the phone calls. “Hi Mum, No everything isn’t actually ok. I have cancer.”

Many tears were shed that evening.

Moving Forward

The NHS (I am in the UK) kicked into top gear in the next few weeks. I had CT scans, full bone scans, blood tests, you name it. Within less than four weeks of the diagnosis I was in the ward waiting for an operation to remove the cancer. I was the youngest in the ward by about forty years.

The operation was successful and after going to the toilet (which was excruciating after the operation!) I was able to go home. No need for BCG follow up.

I received 1 month, 3 month, 6 month and 12 month cystoscopies and I am now on a yearly cystoscopy to check all is ok. So far so good but each appointment letter brings a fear. “What if it’s not clear this time”

4 Years Cancer Free

You would think that after 4 years of being cancer-free I would be back to normal but every time I go to the toilet I briefly think, “what if there is blood today? What is going on in there?”

Every. Single. Time.

But I can live with that.

I am thankful that I was caught exceptionally early. I am thankful that the cancer gave off blood at the precise time I had the doctor’s appointment. I attribute this to God’s plan for me.

I appreciate that this is not everyone’s story and that so many have experienced much more difficult journeys. But hopefully my story will resonate with some and help you through your journey.

This is my story.

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