I never expected to hear the words "You have bladder cancer."

For almost 10 months I was prescribed on again/off again antibiotics for what was thought to be a recurring UTI. I had never been one to suffer from UTI's and didn't feel anything going on physically that would indicate such, but I took my doc's advice and soldiered on trying one antibiotic after another as my routine urine tests indicated blood not visible to the naked eye.The year was 2012 and I was 58. I had never smoked, exercised routinely, took care of myself, ate organic food, had no aches or pains and worked full time.

Unexpected urgency

In the middle of the night I awoke feeling a sense of urgency. I sauntered into the bathroom and found myself initially unable to do anything. Finally urinating I looked down to see a toilet bowl full of blood and knew something was wrong, wrong, wrong. Panicked, I woke my husband and said we needed to go pronto to the ER, as I still had a feeling of needing to urinate and was unable to do so. I was catheterized, found immediate physical relief, but also deeply worried. The ER doc took my physical history, and because I was a female non'smoker said it probably wasn't anything, but just to be sure gave me a referral to a urologist. I made an appointment, gave a urine sample and then waited to hear back.

Finally... some answers

I heard nothing. Finally, I called and discovered they had lost my sample and I would need to return. I was not happy with this turn of events and didn't really feel comfortable with the specialist I had seen so decided to follow up with my GP. Before I could make an appointment with my GP I had another bloody toilet bowl issue and was able to make an appointment that same day. My GP gave me a referral to a different urologist. Following a cytoscopy and biospy I was diagnosed with muscle invasive bladder cancer, stage 2, possibly higher since it was a highly aggressive form.

"I'm not supposed to be here in this place"

The day my husband and I found ourselves at the urologisits' office to go over my diagnosis was a day unlike any other I had experienced in my life. It was early summer, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was collapsing onto my husband's shoulder after being told I needed to begin chemo immediately and would need my bladder removed following completion of chemo. I was also told to get my affairs in order. That's just not something you want to hear from a medical professional. From that point on I was in a haze. I just wanted to get through whatever I had to without thinking much about what I would have to do to get to the end. I remember going up to the 6th floor of the hospital for my first round of chemo and saying to myself "I'm not supposed to be here in this place, in this line of people waiting to do this."

Moving forward one day at a time

Fast forward: I got through chemo, made it successfully through surgery, adjusted to a new life without my bladder and moved forward one day at a time with the love and support of my husband, family and friends. Was it easy? No. Did I learn a great deal along the way? Yes. I'm 10 years cancer free this month, loving life each and every day.

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