My journey on the cancer pathway began one Sunday in end of August 2018, when I came home from a day out in the countryside and urinated blood as I was getting ready for bed around 11.30. I got up around 3am and again there was blood in my urine, and again at 8.30am and that was it. It was only those three times I never saw blood again. I rang my doctor on Monday, the receptionist spoke to him and told me to come to surgery to give blood to the nurse, and to come to see him on Tuesday morning. The doctor told me that he thought it was likely an infection, but to be sure he said he would put me on the cancer pathway. It’s a scary word when you are first confronted with that horrible C word, but like anyone else back then I was hoping for the best outcome.
Soon I had an appointment and I drove into hospital for an inspection of my bladder. To do this a fine tube was inserted into my penis with a mini camera on the end of it. It wasn’t painful I would say though, but it was uncomfortable. As I lay on the gurney the doctor was looking at a screen way over my head. At the end the nurse told me to put my clothes back on and to go and sit down at the doctor’s desk with him so he could speak to me. He was busy filling in a form of which he gave me a copy. When my wife and I got home the first pages were medical speak, but there was a square at the end where it said something like likely diagnosis, and in it he had written suspected cancer. Of course, it was a bit worrying, you think cancer happens to other people not me. Some time later I went into hospital for a short 2 day stay for a cystoscopy and this time I was anesthetised on the first day PM so that a larger tube could be inserted into my bladder with a larger camera and lights and some tools to take biopsy’s, which were sent off for analysis. I was a little bit sore after this for about a day, but it was not too bad.
This was followed sometime later by another cystoscopy, and a few weeks after this one I was called in to see one of the consultants of the urology team, to be told I had bladder cancer. Next, I was given a course of treatment called BCG. This entailed driving in for a day for 6 weeks, to see one of the nurses who passed a fine tube into my bladder, and filled it with living TB virus, the idea was that it would eat the cancer away. This didn’t hurt at all, after it was done, I drove back home. I had to hold my water for 2 hours. I could then sit at the toilet pee and fill the bowl with bleach then shut the lid and flush 20 minutes later. At the end of the 6-week course there was a 6-week break before I went back to see the consultant to see if it had worked, sadly he told me that it had not. I was given the option of another 12 weeks of treatment or major surgery. I asked the consultant “what was the chance of another round of BCG working” he said it worked the second time in a little less than 30% of cases. I didn’t think this was a good bet so to his surprise I chose the operation, because if it was not likely to work to rid me of cancer, it would be 12 weeks wasted while it got worse and started to eat through the wall of my bladder, and get really bad.
THE BIG DAY ARRIVES
On the 28th of May 2019 I was front and centre at the Medway Maritime Hospital at 6am and by 7am I was in theatre. Luckily for me there are 8 Davinci Robotic Surgery suites in the UK and one of them is at MMH. Although I was 75 years old at this time, I was passed as fit for this surgery, because I am a keen mountain bike cyclist. By having this procedure with the Davinci Robot there was no large incisions in my stomach, and no hands were put into my body. Thus, lower chance of infection, no large incisions and scars to heal afterwards, and faster recovery. Come the evening I was in a high dependency ward, and the staff and nurses were just brilliant, they really took care of me. Day 2 I was out of bed dangling a few tubes behind me, but I didn’t feel so bad as I thought I would. Slowly I got better every day until at day 6 I was moved into an ordinary ward. After 3 more days I was discharged and after all the paperwork was done and the drugs, I had to take home with me were sorted out, I was let out to go home at last at 9pm.
I now have a Stoma bag to deal with for the rest of my life attached to my right hip, which is where urine is discharged from my body. This is because after surgery I have no bladder, no prostate, no appendix and the lymph nodes in and around the bladder etc were also removed. There was some weight loss and for the first couple of months, I had to take it easy and I used to have an afternoon nap if I felt tired, but it soon passed. My Daughter gave me the details of a member of the Urology Support Group, and as I was feeling a bit down I called Micheal, and he spent a long time talking to me and reassuring me and he invited me to a group meeting at MMH one evening. So, I can see the benefit of having friends who have lived through cancer treatment. I have had regular check-ups with the Stoma Nurses and the consultant’s, and all’s well. It was a bit tricky at first changing the Stoma bags but now it’s a doddle and it just takes less than 2 minutes. Nobody knows I have this unless I wish to tell them. I do not regret choosing surgery over more treatment as I am cancer free. It’s done and dusted it’s all over. I’m alive I’m doing fine and yesterday since my surgery on the 28th May I was able to cock my leg over my bike and I went for a hard 12-mile ride thru the woods and fields. Not bad after 4 months following major surgery. There is life after cancer and I am here to prove it, I’m 76 years old now living life to the full every day and loving it.