How I Was Diagnosed

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, 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. (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, 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).

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