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

About Pete Wilgoren

Author of Dadmissions. Pete Wilgoren is an Emmy winning journalist, blogger, and author writing about parenthood, life, and other stuff
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2 Responses to Going on the OFFENSE: taking charge in my bladder cancer battle

  1. Patricia Bunin says:

    I love the way you juxtapose joy with reality. You are honest and earnest. Strong and vulnerable. A shining light for going through tough times with Grace.
    You are knot in the stomach one minute And laughing with your children and the new dog the next.
    You share your story with an open heart. And I am rooting for you with mine.
    Patricia

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