A Life Well Lived: Lessons From My Mother In Law

When I planned to ask Glo to get married more than twenty years ago, I made an important phone call first. I spoke with Glo’s mom in California and asked if this guy from Boston could have her blessing to marry her daughter.

She agreed.
And my life was never the same.

How lucky for me to be adopted into a second family. It would be a new chapter for me, for Glo, for my family, for her family, and her mom who had immigrated to the United States from Central America to raise her family here.

Gloria Estela Melendez a woman who made her own American dream.

I’d soon learn that working hard was her trademark. Taking pride in everything done, for years the backbone of the facilities team at Loyola Law School in downtown Los Angeles. Pride in her work. Pride in her family, especially in raising her three children Gloria, George, and Vanessa and getting them off to college and starting their own lives. Her own graduation photo posted prominently on the stairs, followed by each of her children’s graduation photos in order. She was tough on them growing up. She was tough and expected the best from her kids. She demanded the best. Catholic school. Cleaning the house on Sundays after church. That house, the wall to wall blue carpet, always spotless. Always.

No TV for the kids in the bedroom either. (I’ve heard the stories of how they snuck the little TV under the covers)

I was in college when Glo and I began dating and we made that first trip to the west coast to meet Glo’s family. A college sophomore who found the love of his life, and her family. On that first trip they took me, a guy who hates amusement rides, to Six Flags Magic Mountain. Just to mess with me I think. Batman was first. They STILL get a laugh remembering my pasty scared to death complexion. I tried to get off the ride and the operators clamped me down with a traumatic thunk of the restraint and sent me on my way. Just an 8 story drop hanging from your shoulders. Five more roller coasters that day.

I’ve never gone back to Six Flags.
But I was officially in the family.

And our family kept busy. Over the years, traveling as a family to the east coast, to New York City at Christmas, to Washington DC and the White House, to National parks, to the lush forests of Hawaii. And yes, I’ve heard how she heated up food in the hotel room on that trip using a clothing iron. Always practical.

Food? Oh have we eaten.
We’ve broken bread, and pupusas, and latkes, as our two families mixed our heritages. Her juicy holiday turkey sandwiches are legendary with the turkey, lettuce, mayo, toppings, and then her homemade salsa on top soaking into the bread. That salsa belonged on store shelves. Always cooking a meal for someone. Her side hustle as a caterer with her friend Grace always had me thinking that the side hustle would one day be the main hustle.

I knew it was meant to be a long time ago when I learned that she and I both shared the same birthday. September 16th. Mother in law and son in law. What are the odds. For years, we’d celebrate together with the family in September 16th. Only recently did I learn her birthday is really September 17th and we’d been wrong all those years. I still wished her a happy birthday on the 16th. That’s our day.

I think it was the weekend of her retirement from Loyola Marymount, she got the same news of her cancer diagnosis. This self-made woman, the product of her own American dream, battling a rare cancer. It was an unfair twist for someone who’d worked their whole life and was just getting around to the good stuff. The same year, I got my own cancer news. Now we shared birthdays AND something else.

The family concerned for her.
She concerned for the family.

We got to carpool to chemo once this past year, I dropped her off at her appointment and then I went off to mine. I was happy to do it.

By now you know she loves her family.
Abuelita as she’s become known to our kids.

Other things you should know about Abuelita:

She loves her novelas.

She loves Celine Dion.

She loves a good game of Loteria.
“LOTERIA” she’d yell as she cleaned us all out.

And she loves Cobra Kai: LOVES it.
a fanatical love which doesn’t any make sense at all but there is was.

It was a guilty pleasure during covid and always the question, “when is the next season coming”? I got her a Cobra Kai T-shirt at the mall a couple of weeks ago hoping we could reminisce about the “All Valley Invitational” until the next season. Sweep the leg.

As her cancer progressed, she made the incredibly brave decision to stop treatments and go home, to be with her family, no more doctors and no more needles. Her family especially her children taking amazing amounts of care with her over the months.

I got the privilege of being with her alone for the whole day in the hospital waiting for her release that day a few weeks ago and I got to learn even more about my mother in law.

She wished she had traveled more. Paris. That’s where she always wanted to visit. The Eiffel Tower.

But really she told me, she didn’t regret much. She set out to do what she did.

“I had a good life”, she told me.

As the days grew shorter, family gathered at the house. She and I spoke at home by her bedside on Thanksgiving. She told me she loved us all. And especially,

I know she’s referring to her children:
Glo (Isela), George, and Vanessa.

her grandchildren:
Alicia, Andreya, Jayden, and Joaquin

her siblings:
Miguel, Miriam, Rosa, Arturo, and their late brother George

and all her friends and family.

She said she regretted not finding the word earlier in life to tell everyone. The word “love” had evaded her. But now as her words grew fewer and fewer, she had found the word which really mattered. If her kids read this, they need to know she loved them most of all. Even if this tough as nails woman didn’t always have the words to say it.

In that same moment, she told her grandkids that she’ll always be watching over them and whatever they do, to do it well. They agreed.

Just a few days later, with things moving quickly, the family gathered again. Her kids surrounded her and held her hands and just spoke to her. Her kids providing for their mom as she’d always done for them.

And one other thing.
We watched season 4 of Cobra Kai, and narrated to her what was happening. In her final act, she saw a Hollywood sneak preview of the upcoming season.

As I left last night,
I told her I’d see her soon, but I also told her if she was ready to leave on that big trip to Paris, I wished her love and I wished her safe travels.

My wife stayed with her overnight and called me this morning, That trip to Paris was waiting.

Gloria Estela Melendez,
my mother in law
A life well lived.

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Keith Richards: My Long Life Inspiration As I Tackle Treatment #8

I’m in “maintenance” treatments now but the routine is the same. Me and my pretty bladder as the doctor has named it. I had gotten used to six weeks without treatment. Now I’m in the middle of another three. This week a rare Thursday. You show up, give a pee sample. And wait. It may be TMI so stop now if you need to. You’ve been warned. Here goes.

They prepare the BCG immuno/chemo at the hospital. Custom ordered just for me. So lucky. They prepare the batch when I arrive and then it comes in a little cooler with a medical escort. The tube itself- what I can only describe as one of those little caulking guns- a tube with a plunger at the end. No modesty here. Clothes off below the waist. Cheap paper table cloth of a medical napkin placed down below. I appreciate the nurses and the small talk in the most unenviable of positions (them AND me). Last week the nurse told a joke in the middle of the injection, an ill-timed belly laugh from me.

Today, clothes off, custom BCG arrives. The procedure itself doesn’t take too long. I try to take a deep breath and stare at the ceiling. Lidocaine is used to numb everything down there. Then comes the catheter. Hard to explain what that sensation feels like other than maybe an alien abduction procedure. Then comes the caulking gun- and a hit of the plunger through the catheter to send what is essentially a form of liquid Tuberculosis into the body. Years ago they discovered it had the ability to ward off cancer cells from returning. Would LOVE to know how those first experiments came about. Medicine is a mixture of weirdness, wild, and wonder. And so here I am. Discomfort. Yes. Embarrassment. Yes. Life-saving- Yes, maybe. And then it’s done. I can get dressed and move around.

The immunotherapy stays inside for two hours— exactly— and then I ‘dispose’ of it. This involved pee’ing. The scientific term: “gotothebathrooma”. And then bleach in the toilet to kill all that BCG. Yeh I have my own Clorox supply. Rinse and repeat for the next six or so hours. Pee. Bleach. And Nap. There can be side effects but mostly it makes me sleepy. I try and do it on a Friday to rest up on the weekend. This week I get Thursday. As the Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want”. One more maintenance treatment and I’m done for three months or hopefully even longer. Fewer treatments, longer and longer gaps in between. Another step on this unexpected bladder cancer journey.

But I’ll get there. Get to the doctor. Early detection is key. The camera scans say I’m cancer free. And if I live as long as Keith Richards then I guess it’s all worth it. 

For more information on Bladder Cancer and treatments visit the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network at bcan.org

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The Scope Of Things: my bladder cancer update

Seven months after first diagnosis of bladder cancer, two TURBT procedures, six weeks of immunotherapy injections, it came down to this one scope. I’m one of the 80,000 new bladder cancer cases in the US this year. You don’t hear much about it because it’s uncomfortable to talk about. It’s uncomfortable to live with it. It just is. Uncomfortable.

So today I was back at the doc again for my three month scope after beginning immunotherapy. She said it was the single most important scope in my entire life to determine if I’d be seeing a recurrence of bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is notorious for coming back which is why early detection is key. So they take that camera, and peek around inside your bladder. There’s only one way in. Yeh, THAT way.

As uncomfortable as it was, I’ve become accustomed to it all and was able to watch it all live as it happened. The doctor looked around, pointed out the scar from prior procedures, looked around some more, I’m holding my breath expecting bad news around the next curve and she said, “you have a very pretty bladder… and I see no evidence of cancer”. She had me at pretty bladder. THERE’s something that’s never been said to me before in my entire life. Oh and no evidence of cancer.

So I’ve graduated now to ‘maintenance’. Me and my pretty bladder. Another shorter round of immunotherapy. A longer gap before my next scope. And so it goes. If you ever see blood in your pee. Get checked out. Fast. I’m cautiously optimistic and we’ll see what the next scope brings.

I left the doctor and had one more appointment to keep across the city. This guy with the pretty bladder and cancer battle got an appointment to get his first covid vaccine shot. Done.

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5 Lessons As A New Cancer Fighter

World Cancer Day is meant to inspire action for a cancer-free future. For me, it’s taken on an important new meaning after being one of the 80,000 people diagnosed this year in the US with bladder cancer. This has been a year of lessons learned on the cancer road I’m traveling and it’s clear that everyone’s road bends a different way.

Lesson #1: 

For me, the number one lesson learned is that early detection is key. It was two bright spots of blood in my pee one morning that got me to the doctor in the middle of a pandemic.Those two bright spots of blood may have actually saved my life. They weren’t normal and I knew that. Listen to your body. The cliche is true. It took a couple of months after that to get my full diagnosis and then surgery and treatments.

Lesson #2:

Cancer isn’t pretty and it isn’t fun to talk about. For me I’ve found I need to lean-IN to the discomfort. If I can’t talk about my treatments. If I can’t talk about my fear of needing a bladder removal one day. If I can’t talk about the worry of needing to pee through a bag for the rest of my life, who CAN I talk to. I hope it never comes to that. But it’s my truth and I need to own it— and I intend to own it— in hopes of making a difference.

Lesson #3: 

I’m learning to accept the help and encouragement and recognize that people don’t know how to react when they’re facing YOU who is facing a serious illness. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard from people that I “look good” said with a hesitant consolation prize voice. I’m grateful to look and feel good. I’m grateful to have been able to keep working through treatments which is also a reason I’ve often refused help or have rain-checked people when they’ve reached out with an offer. A good friend hit me with that dose of reality and said, “you need to learn to accept help”.  I’m still trying. 

Lesson #4: 

I’m trying to forgive myself for my shortcomings. And there are many. But life is heavy enough, and dealing with an illness is hard enough, without being weighed down by other baggage I don’t need. Resolutions? Weight loss. Work-life balance. Patience. More family time. I’m a work in progress this year. Health is my priority and beyond that, it will all happen in time.

Lesson #5:

My biggest moments of panic come when I google too much, and look too far down the road. I feel fine one minute and think I’m doomed the next. None of us know what’s around the next bend and that’s especially true if you have a serious diagnosis. But you CAN successfully manage the road right in front of you. Today. Baby steps.  

Today I’m good. 

Let me concentrate on that.

So on this World Cancer Day remember:

Prevention.

Detection.

Treatment.

oh and get a dog.

We got a dog this year.. Bowie

a bright spot in a tough year!

read my other columns:

https://dadmissions.wordpress.com/2020/11/13/my-bladder-cancer-battle-the-text-chime-which-could-change-it-all/

https://dadmissions.wordpress.com/2020/12/18/3035/

https://dadmissions.wordpress.com/2020/11/26/opening-the-door-to-my-heart/

https://dadmissions.wordpress.com/2020/11/08/bladder-cancer-the-unexpected-curveball-2020-threw-my-way/

https://dadmissions.wordpress.com/2020/10/15/cancer-the-walking-contradiction/

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Going on the OFFENSE: taking charge in my bladder cancer battle

It was late spring when this chapter began. Two bright spots of blood in my urine would lead to a summer of doctors appointments and eventually a diagnosis of bladder cancer. Two TURBT surgeries later, and many other followups, the warm summer air has given away to chilly late fall mornings as Christmas lights now decorate people’s porches.

One month ago I was given the first dose of good news in the battle. “No residual cancer”. Now comes the task of trying to keep it away. Bladder cancer loves to come back and when it gets into other parts of the body it can be most dangerous. So the best defense in this case is a good offense even if the good offense sounds just about as scary.

BCG treatment. 

It’s been used for decades. It’s not chemotherapy but immunotherapy. In this case: direct injections into the bladder of a weakened strain of bacteria from the same family as tuberculosis. Yep living bacteria. It’s designed to intentionally trigger a fighting response from the body. I’ve done all the reading. Serious side effects can happen, but hopefully the most I’ll see is fever and fatigue. 

So here I am. 

Looks like I’m the youngest guy in the room. Bladder cancer usually strikes people twenty years older than me, lifelong smokers and factory workers. What can I say. I’m unique. 

The waiting room is the loneliest place. Another urine sample and then back to sit and to wait until the immunotherapy arrives.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Stomach in knots.

Waiting.

The procedure itself wasn’t bad. OK not good either. It’s not fun getting a catheter. If you haven’t had one consider yourself lucky. But the injection of the BCG therapy itself is pretty quick. Once it’s in, then you wait again for a couple of hours while the BGC does its work. 

I caught up on some Netflix:

Finished the first season of Dexter..

(Yes I know I’m fourteen years late) 

Began the first season of The Queen’s Gambit..

I guess you could say out with the old.. 

and in with the new…

And while I sat there I thought about others I know going through their own cancer treatments right now and other big life challenges. They’re the real heroes. So far I’m the lucky one. Early detection has been key.  

I left for the day and will wait and watch for side effects now, hopefully not many. The BCG comes with a list of safety instructions down to how someone uses the toilet after treatment. The staff handles it with gloves and a hazmat bag to dispose of. I got gloves too.

That’s the next phase: aggressive treatment to make sure there’s no sequel. Once a week for at least six weeks and then tune ups after that. It’s another step down the road.

In the meantime, 2020 is ticking down to the closing days, with a new calendar ahead.

As I said, out with the old. 

And in with the new.

And while my bladder is getting in fighting shape I’m thinking it needs a good super hero name. Maybe Blad The Impaler.. or Blad To The Bone.  Coming soon in 2021.

For more information about bladder cancer, go to the bladder cancer advocacy network: www.bcan.org

For more information on early detection, check out this podcast with friend and colleague Hal Eisner: https://www.foxla.com/podcasts/what-the-hal-overcoming-the-fear-of-doctor-visits-during-the-pandemic.amp

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Opening The Door To My Heart

It’s been three months, two surgeries, and countless needle sticks, scopes, and exams since my cancer diagnosis. I’m headed into immunotherapy in just a few weeks. It’ll hopefully cut down the 70% chance I have for a bladder cancer recurrence.

It would be easy to say thanks for nothing to 2020 for another gift I never asked for. But on this Thanksgiving week I’m reminded of so many family and friends and even total strangers who have reached out.

After my second surgery recently, two good friends offered to deliver dinner for the family. I delayed. I stalled. I was so grateful for the offer. But I also felt (and still feel) there are so many people going through things more difficult than me. After our third round of texts over a couple of days, this friend finally texted:

“You really need to learn to accept a gift and a thank you. I know it’s hard. It’s also an acceptance that you are as deserving as those you take care of.”

We were so thankful to accept the dinner and it was brought over the next night. And truth be told, it was the first night in WEEKS that we actually sat down for a meal as a family. That gesture brought us together even for just a few minutes. I’m grateful for it.

This week was my first day back at work in a couple of weeks. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s the longest time I’ve been out of a newsroom in twenty years probably. I went to the mail room and grabbed a card in my mail slot. It was from someone at a competing station in LA who I’ve never even met. 

She wrote in part, “You don’t know me but I know of you through our mutual news business.. I want you to know I’m sending good energy your way… Our business is small so we gotta hold each other up!”

I got home that night and there was an anonymous package for me. I’ve written about my new suspenders fad I’ve started. Belts can be too painful with bladder cancer. So it was suggested I wear SUSPENDERS instead. A pair of tie-dye suspenders arrived from a mystery sender. I’ll wear them proudly as they join my new collection of Super Man suspenders, and suspenders in grey, red, and Dodgers blue. 

I love them all.

There have been messages, texts, calls, including a couple from one person who has battled cancer himself. He may not know it but he moved me to tears when he called out of the blue and said he was going to keep calling and checking in on me. Just because.

So on this Thanksgiving week I’m more than thankful. Cancer is a diabolical bastard. But it has brought so many people back into my life over the past few months. 

Today I reflected back to Nathan who I met five years ago. Nathan was living in an RV behind the Rite Aid in town. I don’t know why but we struck up a conversation one day and I bought him lunch. As he shuffled through all his disheveled papers, he gave me one of them as a thank you for lunch. It was a handwritten drawing I still have. 

I opened it up and it said, 

“open the door to your heart.”

Nathan knew something that I didn’t.  So here I am. And I’m doing just that. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the family, friends and coworkers who’ve reached out.  Love you all!

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My Bladder Cancer Battle: The Text Chime Which Could Change It All

The message chimed in on my phone with a ding like it was any other text message. Of course it did. It’s 2020 after all. Maybe I should have given it a doomsday tone, or the Death Star music, but it just got a “ding”.

“New Test Result Available”. 

I knew exactly what it was. I’ve been waiting for it all week since undergoing my second TURBT procedure at UCLA.

It’s been several months since I was officially diagnosed with bladder cancer in the middle of an unforgiving 2020, several months since I underwent a first “Trans Urethral Resection of a Bladder Tumor” to remove the tumor, a chemo patch in the bladder to treat the area, and weeks of sometimes painful internal recovery.

Last week I underwent the second procedure. 

Bladder Cancer often returns. When it gets into the muscle it’s most dangerous. And even when you remove the tumor, unwanted cancer cells can stick around. So the prescribed treatment as crazy as it sounds is to often undergo a second procedure to cut again— this time cutting deeper— to make sure the cancer hasn’t found a way to hide.

Now the pathology was in. Ding. Just another text message on my phone.. only it wasn’t just another message. Maybe it’s ridiculous but I let it sit there a couple of minutes. The difference between knowing and not knowing can be a world of difference. For just a brief period of time I preferred not to know. More cancer found would mean a far, far different treatment path. It was a critical life juncture all of a sudden on a random afternoon.

I finally clicked the message.

“Hi Mr Wilgoren here are your pathology results. No residual cancer! We’ll discuss the next steps at the next appointment”

Deep breaths. I read the text ten more times. ‘They’ added the exclamation point not me. That must be good news. I googled “no residual cancer” to see what google said about the phrase. I read the medical jargon down below “no residual carcinoma identified.” I googled that too. More deep breaths. Certainly seemed like the best and only news I was hoping for at this stage. Not done with the battle yet but this seemed like a victory. 

I sat on the news till I could speak with the doctor today— Friday the 13th— in a video conference call. The doctor began the call saying it’s the ‘best news’ we could hope for and then she explained. True, they had found no cancer cells remaining. That’s the great news. But this cancer still loves to come back. Left without further treatment and I have a 60-70 percent chance of a recurrence and likely within the next few years. 

And so I’m choosing door number 2. 

BCG Immunotherapy. 

It’s an inactive form of tuberculosis which will be given to me on a strict weekly schedule starting in just a few weeks after I heal up again. It can cut my chance of recurrence by more than half. More Than Half. Based on the calendar, my first BCG treatments will come right before Christmas. Yes, there are side effects. Some could be severe but that’s unlikely. It’s the best, most important next step. As the doctor explained to me, the next five years of my life will be critical. AFTER five years, the chance of a recurrence drops dramatically. So the clock is now ticking.

A reminder to get to the doctor. Early detection is KEY as it has been in my case. 

Cancer screenings will be with me for my entire life now. It’s going to be that annoying relative who always shows up at the family gatherings.  We don’t have to like each other but we better learn to get along.

For more information on early detection: please listen to this podcast with my friend and colleague Hal Eisner:

https://www.foxla.com/podcasts/what-the-hal-overcoming-the-fear-of-doctor-visits-during-the-pandemic.amp

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Bladder Cancer: the unexpected curveball 2020 threw my way

I’m a journalist. It was written into my DNA a long time ago as I woke up every morning watching the Eye Opener in Boston. News is my life. It’s how I’ve made my career. And it kills me to be sidelined during a big story.

But here’s why I am.

I’m home recovering from my second TURBT. That’s the trans urethral resection of a bladder tumor. Yes, in a 2020 that was unpredictable and at many times unforgiving, 2020 dealt me an unexpected surprise in Bladder Cancer.

The journey started at the height of the protests last May, I woke up one morning and was faced with something I hadn’t seen before: two bright spots of blood in my urine. I had been feeling a little weird down there and went to get checked out in urgent care. They gave me antibiotics and urged me to follow up with a urologist which I did. It led to a summer of tests and some follow up tests and a camera test called a cystoscopy where right there as I watched, the doctor said, “See that? I believe that’s bladder cancer. And THAT is what caused the bleeding.”

I’m in my mid-40’s with a wife- and two kids in middle school and high school. The doctor asked if I was a life long smoker. I’m not. Did I work in a factory with chemicals. I don’t. And along the way she said something that really stuck with me, “Sometimes it’s just bad luck.”

With that, my first TURBT was scheduled. In the middle of COVID, with people avoiding medical centers at all costs. I was heading right into the biggest medical challenge of my life. The surgery was set for September and I had several weeks to prepare.

If you haven’t heard of Bladder Cancer you’re not alone. Many people haven’t. There will be more than 80,000 new cases of Bladder Cancer in the US this year. It’s the fourth leading cause of cancer in men, less common in women. Yet according to what I’ve seen, it’s underreported, under-discussed, and certainly under-publicized. If you DO know someone with bladder cancer they’re usually quite a bit older than I am. 

But here I am. It’s my story. I’ll own it.

My first TURBT was scary. I suppose any anesthesia surgery is. In general, I read as much about cancer as my mind will allow and then I stop when it gets to be too much. I knew all about the TURBT by the date of my surgery. It’s done with special cutting tools that go in through your front plumbing. My last memory was being wheeled into the operating room. And then deep sleep while they did the rest. They got the tumor out and took more tissue from my prostate. I woke up in the recovery room with my first catheter. No way to sugar coat things: the recovery is painful.

I’m oversharing I know. 

But not many other people are. So I will.

The true recovery time is 6-8 weeks. I was out of work for several days and remoting for work a week longer. It was shorts and loose clothes the entire time and no lifting. It takes at least that much time to deal with the discomfort and related bladder issues. And the internal issues then take weeks longer to resolve.

At the end of the first week I got my official pathology from the doctor: high grade papillary urotheleal carcinoma. Confirmation that it was for sure bladder cancer. And confirmation that it was “high grade” which is more aggressive cancer that likes to spread. I consider it a split decision because we believe they also caught it early.

Healing from the TURBT came next.

Then the treatment course of action.

And a second opinion. 

I went to another top notch cancer center and they agreed with everything prescribed in my treatment plan. Even if it’s not what I wanted to hear. I would go in for a second TURBT to cut a little deeper in to the bladder to make sure any other irregular cancer cells are gone. Bladder Cancer is sneaky. It’s deceptive. It loves to return. So high grade cancer needs an aggressive plan of action. 

I’m a news guy like I said. Journalism is what I do. So I looked at my first TURBT recovery time, and tried to schedule my second— around the NBA finals, and the World Series, thinking LA could be in both, and the election. It was scheduled for three days after the election just within the recommended window to get the second TURBT done.

And that’s where I am today. I’m recovering from my second TURBT where doctors again cut into my bladder to see if my cancer is staying away and how I’m doing. This is a deeper cut into the bladder to make sure there’s no sign of other abnormal cancer cells in the bladder muscle. And now I’m home, heavy on pain meds, hobbling around like an old man for a few days. As the Presidency was just announced, and the celebrations are happening across the country, I’m laid up in bed recovering.

The next pathology will tell me a lot.

If the cancer cells are staying away, then it’s likely on to weekly immunotherapy treatments using a strain of tuberculosis to trigger an immune response in the body to fight any future cancer (yes truth is sometimes stranger than fiction), and a potential lifetime of camera scans to make sure they stay gone. I haven’t needed “traditional” chemotherapy yet (and hopefully I won’t), and haven’t needed to discuss bladder removal, both can come with bladder cancer far down the road. And don’t ask me about survival rates. You can google them. It depends on type and stage of the cancer and where it spreads.

I can’t/won’t let my mind go there yet. 

In the meantime I will use my voice to raise awareness for something that most people just don’t know about. And I will urge taking your health seriously. I will urge not being afraid to go to the doctor. It’s safe to do so. If you see blood in your urine. Get checked out.

And I will urge one more thing: suspenders!

It became clear to me after my first TURBT that the bladder can be a particular pain point when you sit or when you drive. Belts make it even worse. So I stopped wearing them. And an amazing thing happened. People who read my story started sending me suspenders instead. First my cousin, then coworkers, and friends. Gray suspenders, blue suspenders, red suspenders, Super Man suspenders. 

You’ve literally lifted my spirits- AND my pants. I’m grateful for so many people reaching out and I thank you.

Learn about Bladder Cancer from some great resources like the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network at BCAN.org

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Cancer: The Walking Contradiction

A lot of people have been asking me how I’m feeling lately after my diagnosis of bladder cancer. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the calls, the texts, the messages.

Truth is— I feel a little bit like I’m on an island.. it’s a cancer few people know about, one that few people my age ever deal with, one that I don’t meet most of the risk factors for. It still seems like I’m talking about someone else.

The doctor told me, 

sometimes it’s just “bad luck”

I feel good after my first procedure to remove the tumor and now comes lengthy treatment to keep it from returning. 

On any given day, 

I feel like reading all I can about this illness and then reading none of it at the same time.

I feel like I’m totally going to beat this thing, and then like I’m doomed just minutes later.

I feel like bad luck got me here and now it’s only good luck that will get me out.

I feel like a slob because I haven’t been wearing belts to work because the cancer and treatments are right at my belt line.. and I’m paranoid that wearing belts during the long drive or sitting at work could make it worse.

I feel like 2020 is the worst year ever and then like it probably could be even worse so I just need to shut up about it.

I feel like I can’t wait to get the next treatment done and then into my immunotherapy. 

I feel like I didn’t even get a cancer that people know about or talk about… and at the same time I know it’s so petty and ridiculous to even think that. 

That’s how I feel today.

I’m bound to feel different tomorrow. 

It’s my story. An unexpected chapter.

I need to own it. 

Early detection even in the time of Covid is key. Read my first post about the two drops of blood that started it all, here:

https://dadmissions.wordpress.com/2020/09/06/two-drops-of-blood-my-most-important-blog-post/

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Two Drops of Blood: My Most Important Blog Post

It’s been nearly ten years since I started dadmissions— documenting all the ups and downs of parenthood and this might be my most important post: and I’m gonna get uncomfortable with you for a second. If you ever see blood when you pee.. even a drop.. get to a doctor. That’s what happened to me three months ago at the beginning of this endless summer. Just two bright drops. It led me to urgent care for antibiotics and eventually to multiple appointments at a urologist. Tests. More tests. The doctor was still bothered by those two drops of blood. Just a month ago, she did one more test and scanned me with a camera live on the inside of my body and pointed to a jellyfish looking thing and said, “See that? I believe that’s bladder cancer.. and that’s what caused the bleeding.” That led to what seemed like a lifetime of waiting for the surgery I had this week to remove the tumor and apply chemotherapy to the area. Now they’ll fully diagnose things. Bladder cancer is insidious and loves to come back but because of those two drops of blood it was likely caught early. In the time of covid, cancer scans are way down, and I can’t stress enough HOW important those doctors appointments are. I felt safe the entire way. The hospitals are sterile. The teams are safe. So get that checkup! I’m thankful for my family and wife who is juggling more 2020 curveballs than we ever imagined. I’m home recuperating for a couple of days and then back at it. I know I’m walking a road that so many people have walked before and are walking right now.

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