This note is intended as encouragement and some advice to someone who maybe faced with this unpleasant diagnosis. I had read an encouraging article on the internet at the beginning of my treatment. It was a source of inspiration and I wish to pass on the encouragement.
For the last 5 years, I had a persistent and gradually worse problem with frequent and urgent urination. I did get up two or three times a night and required reststops almost every hour during the day. No pain, no other symptoms. In 7/97, Inoticed traces of blood and then small clots in my urine. After a 10-day attemptto cure a potential bladder infection with antibiotics, my internist sent me to a urologist.
An X-ray revealed that my left ureter was blocked at the bladder wall...cancer.The following cystoscopy and resection successfully removed the blockage, butrevealed that the cancer had already invaded a significant depth of the bladderwall, the lining of the urethra, and prostate...the conclusion was that I had, at least, stage III cancer.
The internet and literature on bladder cancer are packed with discouragingdescriptions and terrifying mortality statistics. There even was the backgroundnotion that the prospects of cure are so limited, that it might not even be worth enduring invasive and debilitating treatment. My wife, Nancy, and I decided thata 30% survival rate really didn't mean anything to us, I was either going tomake it (100%) or I wasn't (0%)...and I was confident that I would.
We were tempted, at first, to search the internet and the local library for the very most up-to-date diagnosis, treatments, and drugs. Ultimately, we decided not to spend our time becoming a doctor, but rather to spend our energy findingthe specialists whom we would trust with my treatment. Our objectives became tofind specialists that met these criteria:
Removal of my bladder was attempted. Before the surgery, the CT scan revealedan enlarged lymph node near the bladder. During the surgery biopsies of thelymph node confirmed that the cancer had spread there...the indication now wasprobably stage IV. The surgery was not completed and I was recommended tohave chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy was started in 9/97 with 4 monthly rounds of MVAC, lastingthrough 12/97. My oncologist understood that I wanted the maximum dose. Theheavy doses left me bald, very weakened, and mentally tired. I was uninterestedin food, losing 25 pounds, and even passed out once...but nothing hurt and thenewly developed anti-nausea medication worked perfectly...I never was sick. In1/98, I had chest and pelvic CTs, including the region of the enlarged lymphnode...everything looked normal...I was diagnosed as having had a "completeresponse".
I then started daily treatments of pelvic radiation in combination with weeklydoses of Cisplatin as a sensitizing, enhancing agent. My Radiation Oncologistunderstood that I wanted the maximum dose. Radiation was easier to toleratethan the chemotherapy, I gained strength and weight, and resumed full timework. By 3/98, I had received a cumulative dose of 6840 cGy and was tiring again from the treatment.
In March 98, I had a cystoscopy which revealed that the interior bladder wallappeared fully normal with no evidence of cancer. Since then, I have had twoadditional CTs and one cystoscopy, all with positive results...no evidence ofrecurrence.
I had a CT scan in 1/99 and am still clear...so far, so good.
To my Doctors, Gentlemen...I thank you.
To my wife, Nancy...I love you