By Sylvia L. Ramsey –
After a long, hard battle with bladder cancer, I consider myself blessed that I am able to live a normal life that is cancer free. Many people do not realize that in the United States bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer among men, and in women, it is as prevalent as cervical cancer but deadlier. In 2010, an estimated 70,530 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed in the United States, and 14,680 people died from the disease. Because there was little information available about bladder cancer when I was diagnosed, I have made it my mission to make a difference and change this.
Sixteen years ago, I experienced a life-changing bladder infection. The blood in my urine did not go away. The antibiotics did not solve the problem. Eventually I saw a urologist and underwent medical tests that showed I had bladder cancer. After several diagnostic tests, the urologist told me that my cancer was invasive and had engulfed the left side of my bladder.
The cancer’s advanced stage meant my chances of surviving were slim. I had never heard of bladder cancer, and I was more frightened than I had ever been in my life. I frantically searched the Internet, but found little information. What I did find scared me even more. My urologist told me that a radical cystectomy was necessary because of the advanced stage of the cancer. Surgery was scheduled to remove my bladder; it also included a radical hysterectomy.
I started my research again and learned about the various surgical procedures. I took what I had found with me to my next doctor’s appointment to discuss the possibility of getting an Indiana pouch instead of a urostomy. An Indiana pouch would create an internal reservoir using a portion of my colon and small intestine, instead of having a permanent opening and a bag strapped to my leg for urine collection.
I was lucky because the cancer had not spread to other areas of my body. The doctor was able to construct an Indiana pouch. My plumbing may not work the same as it did before surgery, but I have been luckier than many of my sisters who have not survived a late diagnosis. I am among the approximately 600,000 men and women in the United States today who are survivors of bladder cancer.
What I learned from my experience is that blood in the urine and urine frequency are symptoms that should not be ignored. Urologists have tests to pinpoint the cause of these symptoms, and if your regular physician does not refer you to one, you need to find one and be checked.
Much work needs be done to keep bladder cancer research funding and physician and patient awareness in the forefront. Bladder cancer will strike about 1 in 42 men and women during their lives. Unfortunately, there have been no celebrity spokespersons or corporations to champion public health messages. To me, this seems odd considering the well-know people who have had bladder cancer. I have a list of some these people on my blog, and I am sure many of them will be familiar. Because of this lack of such people speaking out, women are still not receiving the information they need, getting proper diagnoses or getting the support needed to fight bladder cancer, even though the prevalence of bladder cancer is similar to ovarian and cervical cancer, and it is deadlier. Bladder cancer also has the highest recurrence rate of all cancers.
I have been sharing a message of hope with the many people I meet at book signings and community events. “Life is as frail as thread and as strong as rope,” is one of the lines in a poem I wrote. It is my belief that life is about-facing ones fears, considering alternatives and choosing to persevere in spite of the risk. My new book, Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts, details the voyage coping with bladder cancer as I traveled my life’s road. It also covers, child abuse, marital abuse, caregiving and more. There are funny stories and poetry I wrote as I traversed life’s road included in the book. All the proceeds from all my books are given to the American Bladder Cancer Society to increase awareness as well as give support to survivors. My hope is that the book will bring about understanding to others, and be inspiring to even more. Our journey in life has a purpose, finding it is often the most difficult task of all.
Links to more about the book, and me:
My blog on the book: http://love-faith-and-guts.blogspot.com/
Authors’ Den: http://www.authorsden.com/sylvialramsey1
Amazon Author’s Page: Amazon Author’s Page
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R60M2x5ZMY&feature=player_embedded
American Bladder Cancer Society: http://www.bladdercancersupport.org