By Stephen Wilson
The average bladder cancer patient is an older male who has smoked, worked with certain chemicals or has a family history of bladder cancer. Does that mean you can’t have bladder cancer?
That’s what Krysta thought. She’s a 37-year-old woman who has never smoked or worked in an industry associated with the risk of bladder cancer, and has no family history of bladder cancer. So, when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer, she was shocked. Bladder Cancer Canada talked with Krysta about her experience and what she would recommend to other women.“It was a Saturday and I decided to take myself out for a solo steak dinner… Right before I left the house, I used the washroom.” Krysta saw blood in her urine. It wasn’t the first time she had blood in her urine. Like many women, the only other time she had blood in her urine was when she had a UTI – urinary tract infection. But this time was different.
“I definitely know what a UTI feels like – most women do. There’s the heaviness, the pain, there uncomfortableness, stinging, and there were none of those symptoms. Just the blood.” Krysta immediately “went into panic mode” and cancelled her dinner plans.
It was late in the evening and her doctor’s office and the walk-in clinic were both closed. Even though she didn’t feel like she had a UTI, she didn’t want to go too long without antibiotics. Right across the street from the closed walk-in clinic was the hospital but, she was unhappy with the thought of potentially spending hours upon hours in the Emergency Room.
“I was freaking out of course, but I was not in pain, so I texted a girlfriend who actually worked in Urology for over a decade as a nurse.” Her friend told her to go home, drink a lot of water and to call her doctor in the morning.
In the morning, Krysta went to her doctor and gave a urine sample. The results showed blood in the urine. Her doctor thought it might be a UTI, so she prescribed antibiotics and told her to wait and see whether it cleared up. The next day the blood was gone.
Two weeks later, the blood was back, although there were no other UTI symptoms. Krista called her doctor and told her that there was also what appeared to be tissue in her urine.Her doctor scheduled her for an x-ray to check for kidney stones. There were no kidney stones. “My doctor said, ‘okay, I’m going to schedule you for an ultrasound.’” The ultrasound revealed a mass in her bladder. That’s when the shock set in.
“To hear those words, I mean, no one wants to hear the word ‘mass’ in their body… We don’t know what’s going on inside our bodies but to hear those words… I just crumpled over into tears. You don’t know what’s inside of you and now you’re being told that there’s this thing… So that was really heavy and upsetting news.”
Krysta was referred to a urologist and underwent a cystoscopy – a procedure that allows doctors to examine the lining of the bladder. “I remember being there in his office having it done and he turns the camera and he shows me the inside of my bladder wall. It’s light, porcelain, smooth, and then he pans it over and there is this mass in there… It was upsetting to me because how long has it been there and why do I have it in there?”
This January, Krysta had the mass surgically removed. To her relief, the post-operative biopsy of the mass showed that it was low-grade and hadn’t grown into the bladder wall. Regular checks to ensure that the cancer has not come back will be ongoing.
For Krysta, her experience is a powerful lesson she wants to share with all women.
“What the urologist told me is so important that, as women, UTI’s are common, very common, and when we go to the doctor and… they immediately put women on antibiotics and then send you on your way. And then they just continue to do that repeatedly over and over and over. And it’s not addressing what’s actually going on.
Krysta advises to listen to your body and know when something’s not right. She was lucky her doctor was so proactive and pushed ahead with other tests. Even though she did not fit the typical profile of a bladder cancer patient.
There are currently 80,000 Canadians living with a bladder cancer diagnosis and 12,000 more will be diagnosed this year. At Bladder Cancer Canada, we are doing everything we can to increase awareness of this devastating disease to as many Canadians as possible – including this podcast that we created for Bladder Cancer Awareness Month.
Bladder Cancer Canada’s mission is simple: To support patients, increase awareness, and fund research. Please join us in making our vision a reality – a world where bladder cancer is just a memory. If you enjoyed today’s blog/podcast, help us make a difference – please consider making a donation today.
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