This page is for all of you who I did not tell as soon as I knew I had bladder cancer. It wasn’t that I did not want you to know. The truth is, for several months, I thought it would quietly go away – and that was not wishful thinking. The first form of proposed treatment made me think of bladder cancer the same as I would flu; take some drugs and I’m good to go. But things changed. Here’s the process that transformed me from a handsome, vibrant, macho man into a handsome, vibrant, macho man with cancer.
(I know the dates because I’ve kept a daily journal since 1980. In fact, one of the things Eileen really likes hearing me say is, “Eileen, guess what we were doing 10 years ago today.”)
- March 17, 2015 – My pee looks like pink lemonade, but there are dozens of anecdotal reasons that I can attribute it to (like eating beets), so I ignore it, and it goes away.
- March 19 – It comes back. I think I might have a kidney stone (though I’ve never had one) and I make an appointment with Dr. Crowe at the KSB clinic in Amboy. He says symptoms are not a kidney stone. Prostate is fine. Probably a UTI (urinary tract infection). Gives me antibiotics.
- March 24 – Lab work indicates I don’t have an infection. Dr. says to come in for another look. Says I’ll need to see a urologist to find out what’s going on.
- March 26 – See Dr. Mathew Mathew at KSB Hospital in Dixon. He says to first get lab work, ultrasound and CT scan. Everything comes back clear. He schedules a cystoscopy (a look inside the bladder).
- April 7 – Have cystoscopy at KSB hospital. Takes biopsy – the process is called a TURBT.
- April 13 – See Dr. Mathew. Sample is cancerous. High grade, but no muscle invasion which means it is contained within the bladder. The treatment for this is BCG which is a virus inserted directly into to the bladder to stimulate the immune response. I am scheduled to have 6 weekly treatments, then go in for a periodic cystoscopy. (High grade bladder cancer has a strong tendency to return.) At this point I have every reason to think that the impact on my life will be minimal and there’s no reason to tell everyone.
- May 5 – I see Dr. Mathew for my first BCG treatment. As he inserts catheter, he sees blood and says I am not yet healed from the biopsy. But I should be, so he thinks there might be something more going on. He schedules another cystoscopy for June 2. Still no reason to tell everyone.
- June 2 – Have second cystoscopy at KSB hospital. Doctor takes another sample from different area.
- June 8 – New sample is cancerous, also high grade, with some muscle invasion. The BCG is no longer considered a viable option. Dr. Mathew says I need to see a specialist. He gives us several options. After research, we decide on the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City.
- June 17 – Eileen and I head to Iowa City to see Dr. Amit Gupta, urological surgeon, and Dr. Daniel Vaena, oncologist. They offer two options. Radiation and Chemotherapy OR Chemotherapy and Bladder removal (RC). I choose the RC. Dr. Vaena suggests I work with a local oncologist to implement the Chemotherapy.
- June 23 – I see oncologist Dr. Sharon Shipp in Rockford and set up a chemo schedule.
- June 25 – I start the blog to let everyone know because it’s a sure thing that I’m going bald (and people might notice).