We are honored to work with Jonathan to share the story of his bladder cancer diagnosis. Through months of cystoscopies, surgeries and finally, BCG treatments, Jonathan decided to capture the ups and downs of his cancer journey and through his writing and photography, patients and others in his life could get a glimpse into his experiences from his perspective.
Jonathan’s story is his own personal experience and may not reflect your own diagnosis and treatments. As always, remember that stories shared on Jonathan’s site, the Bladder Cancer Canada blog, podcast or elsewhere are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. The content on Jonathan’s site are the personal views of the writer and is for information only. Always consult your physician and do not rely on information you find on the internet when making decisions about your health.
A few weeks after his resection, Jonathan and Mandy celebrated his 44th birthday in early December. The next day, Jonathan went with his wife, Mandy, to meet with the urologist to get the news of the tumour composition. It was not good news. “The tumour was not only cancerous, but a very nasty high-grade cancer with a singular mission to end me,” says Jonathan. “The one ray of light was that the tumour had only made it into the fibrous layer of the bladder, about to go into the muscle. Although it doesn’t sound the best, this tissue boundary represents a large differential when it comes to survivability. If it had made it to the muscle, it would have been an immediate removal of the bladder and reconstruction.”
This result put Jonathan’s injury from a do-it-yourself project earlier in the fall into a startling perspective.
“Although the foot injury triggered the huge clot in my leg, it was the cancer that allowed the clot to form,” shares Jonathan, adding, “The doctor was clear that if this chain of events hadn’t transpired, the tumour wouldn’t have been found for probably another year or more, by which time my chances of survival would have been effectively 0%.”
Thanks to the resection that Jonathan had a few weeks prior, the tumour was now gone, and the resection had been so deep to ensure no lingering cancer cells. Jonathan was told that the odds of having his cancer return were around 30%.
To try and prevent Jonathan’s cancer from returning, his urologist scheduled him for a second resection surgery in six weeks to allow for healing and new cells to form and then they’d have to see what further steps would need to be taken. “If the tissue showed no cancer or only a few cells, then I would proceed with six weeks of BCG treatments,” says John. “If cancer cells were found in the muscle layer, then I would be looking at having my bladder removed and reconstructed out of a section of my own intestine.”
Regardless, it was clear it was going to be a long, painful and stress-ridden road. The holidays were quickly approaching. Jonathan’s and Mandy’s lives progressed day by day, knowing that they would need to take baby steps to get over the hurdles that Jonathan’s bladder cancer diagnosis had brought into their lives.
“The wait was filled with some dark days as you try to be positive, but sometimes the what-ifs sneak in,” says Jonathan, adding, “It was hard not to go through the holidays with a “could this be my last” type of mentality.”
“The mental and physical strain definitely wore us down, but we picked ourselves up. We kicked our already vegan diet into high-gear and added an intense daily exercise regimen as well. I can’t stress the positive impact both had on our thought patterns and energy levels. I’ve seen a lot of articles lately in the news about plant-based diet, exercise and cancer and I’ll attest to how valid they are. It may not stop you from getting cancer, it may not get rid of the cancer, but it will give you the physical and mental strength to get through the treatments.”
Up next: Jonathan Receives his First BCG Treatment
Can’t wait? Read the full story on Jonathan’s site here.
If you See Red, See Your Doctor
Early detection of bladder cancer is critical to preserving the bladder and protecting the quality of life for bladder cancer patients. The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, and unfortunately, this symptom is not always taken seriously. Medical attention is not always sought – particularly for women, who think that this blood could be related to their menstrual cycle. Other symptoms of bladder cancer include:
- The need to urinate often
- An intense need to urinate
- Trouble urinating
- A burning sensation or pain during urination
- Back, pelvic or groin pain
Waiting for and receiving a cancer diagnosis can be an extremely frightening and isolating experience. Many people share how alone they feel during this time, because others around them can’t relate at the same level. Support services are extremely critical during this time and BCC offers several free services through our website including a discussion forum, a peer support program (where patients talk one on one with other patients), online support groups, educational webinars, downloadable patient guidebooks and more.
All of these services are available for free at www.bladdercancercanada.org.
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