We Are Not Alone

My mother had cancer. My father had cancer. A favorite aunt died at a young age of cancer. In fact, many of my relatives have had cancer. I’ve known and heard about other people with cancer. I was not one of them, until…

One day I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was totally unexpected. I didn’t realize at the time how life would change. I just felt numb.

This was happening to me

Then came the day treatments would begin. I went to the oncology clinic not knowing what this new experience would be like. I could still hardly believe that this was happening to me, until…

Live would be different from now on

The nurse led me into a large room where patients were receiving infusions. There was one empty chair. “There,” she said, “that’s your chair.” I remember looking at the empty chair and thinking that I am now just like many others in this room, a cancer patient. It began to sink in that my life, as I knew it, was not to be going along as I had expected.

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Questions ran through my mind. Would I become nauseous from chemo? Would I lose my hair? Would my household fall apart because I could no longer care for my family? What if this doesn’t work?

Very reluctantly, I sat in my chair. The nurse tried to put me at ease. “Would you like a warm blanket? A cup of coffee? Something to eat?” Then she gave me a few pills, I think for nausea. She hooked me up to the saline and then the chemo. Yes, this was really happening.

I am a stronger person now

I had been diagnosed with muscle-invasive urothelial cancer and, a few years later, with small cell neuroendocrine bladder cancer. In all I’ve had 11 cycles of chemo, 33 radiation treatments, and almost 2 years of immunotherapy. The good news is that I am currently cancer-free. Also good news is that I am a stronger person now than before my first diagnosis. I am more resilient. My faith has grown. I appreciate good health more than ever. I’ve learned that it is okay to depend on other people as needed. I’ve made new friends along the way. What I did not anticipate was that I would feel a real connection with others who are diagnosed with cancer, especially bladder cancer.

I now have the desire to offer encouragement

Cancer patients have faced mortality. We’ve had to come to terms with a scary diagnosis. We’ve agonized over how to tell families and friends, and about much to share. We’ve undergone specific treatments to extend our lives, and we live with side effects from those treatments. We’ve known the anxiety of waiting for test results.

I do know through experience what others with cancer go through.

I find that I now have the desire to offer encouragement, or at least be able to listen with understanding, and to somehow share the burden a cancer diagnosis brings to a person and to the family. Before my own diagnosis, no way did I consider that this would be an actual part of my life.

Life's journey continues

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about cancer. I now realize that everyone in life goes through something, and for me and for many others, it is bladder cancer. Being “members of the club no one wants to join,” we can be truly supportive of one another. To reach out for those connections can make a positive difference in facing and living with those words we never wanted to hear: “It’s cancer.” We are not alone. Our course may have altered, but we have new companions, and life’s journey continues.

(By the way, I did not become nauseous. I did lose my hair. To my great relief, the household did not fall apart! I am fortunate that treatments were effective and I still have a bladder.)

This is my story.

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