Just over two years ago, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. As a fifty-year old woman, my first reaction was “Isn’t that an old person thing?” I had never heard of it.
Bladder cancer is not a high-profile cancer -it doesn’t have its own ad campaign or wristband or fundraising walk. For me, finding information, support, or even another woman with bladder cancer to talk to was daunting.
So I started down the road that most cancer patients take, with endless tests and doctor appointments, second opinions, and hours of online research. Finally, I made the decision to take the damn thing out. Why fool around? They could build me a new bladder, which might not work as well as the old one, but at least would get rid of the cancer….and give me some semblance of a normal life.
So off I went to surgery with my amazing urologist and two years later I am cancer-free. I love my new bladder (a neobladder made from my small intestine) even if it doesn’t work as well as the old one. In the “before cancer” days, I laughed along with everybody else about incontinence products and how we would need them when we were really, really, old. Now I march into Superstore regularly and buy the largest pack of incontinence pads they have because a leaky bladder is better than no bladder at all.
While I have many friends and family, all of whom are amazingly supportive and kind, I didn’t have anyone to talk to who had been through what I was going to go through -there are few women with neobladders here in BC and the ones contacted to ask if they would speak to me declined. I felt very alone.
That’s where InspireHealth comes in.
I attended the LIFE program and learned so much about cancer, but more importantly, I spent time with people who were going through the same thing. The shared experience, the support, and warmth and understanding were truly healing. I felt adrift after my surgery, not sure how to get back to being myself. Spending time with InspireHealth members and medical staff really made a difference to my recovery.
And the support I received “inspired” me to make myself available to others dealing with bladder cancer. In the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a half-dozen women about their cancer and neobladder surgery.
Cancer can be a long road… it’s the personal contact and sharing of experience that make you feel not alone.
And while bladder cancer doesn’t have a wristband, I got my own -after reading Susan Fiedler’s article about her wonderful F*Cancer Embrace Life Bracelets in the weekly InspireHealth update (August 5th) I bought one. It expresses my sentiments exactly.
To read more from Susan on bladder cancer, please see her article recently published in The Globe and Mail.
If you or anyone you know are living with cancer and would like to connect with Susan, she would be delighted to hear from you. Please email her directly firstname.lastname@example.org