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