Saturday, July 02, 2016

Hard to Believe - TEN years today

Ten years ago today I presented with the classic symptoms of Bladder Cancer and my life changed forever.

Within weeks I had life saving surgery and within that first year I had been scanned and had a second duplicate operation.  I didn't think that I'd make ten years but hoped for five.  I was concerned that I'd not see my children grow up, Graduate and go on to live their life as adults.  I hadn't really thought then that I'd lose my marriage but it gradually crept up on me and now I'm almost divorced.

However, I'm here, alive, living in a post Cancer world and I'm in pretty good health.  I'd like to be slimmer and fitter than I am at the moment and I'm back on course to lose the weight I've piled on this past two or three years since I left the marital home and setup on my own.

To anyone who is newly diagnosed or perhaps in their first  or second year of treatment - it gets better and the intrusion on your life gets less.  I hardly think about having had Cancer these day unless a song, film or TV Programme remind me. I still have six monthly check ups and as recently as January this year have had to have an operation to investigate a red mark in my bladder - the third such false positive I've had.  Of course, the main thing is that as upsetting as these things are, it is better to have the operation to remove all doubt than to suffer a relapse.  I've forgotten how many operations I've had in ten years - I'm going to estimate it at around 12 or 14.  I've had BCG treatments and think that they are around the 24 to 32 mark.  With the other procedures we are talking a long time attending hospital and waiting around or just lying down recovering.

The fallout from the treatment was probably the worst of it all.  Even today I'm still tired and can drop to sleep in an instant.  There's no doubt that the treatment is exhausting but if you think that they were using the body's own defence mechanisms to fight the cancer it is perhaps understandable.

I finally feel that I'm mentally on the right track too these days.  For the past three years I've been in a much better place.  A lot of that is to do with my attitude to everything and I think after I read Eckhart Tolle's 'A New Earth' it helped me to get rid of the emotional and head baggage I carried around all the time.  I don't have that weight on me anymore.  It takes a little doing but I no longer carry around any of the 'problems' I used to have.  I have a clear head which is great.  There's nothing for my mind to chew over and get wound up about.  I don't worry about the past or the future.  The past is over, the future hasn't happened and the only place to live is here (in the Now).  

I'm grateful to the medical professionals who treated me and to everyone who supported me. I' delighted that the blog might is some small way help.  Here's to the next 10 years and lets hope continued health and well-being.  

Regrets?  Yes well my marriage - my Ex really looked after me and held it all together and all I did was walk out on her but there's more to that than I want to say here.  It's all amicable (as these things can be) and after almost three years things get back to 'normal'  whatever you perceive normal to be.

So ten years on, I'm here where some of my friends and my father are not, in their cases their cancers were aggressive and not operable or treatable.  The advances in treatment though are impressive, let's hope that continues and more people recover or are cured altogether. 

Life after cancer?  You bet, things are great.  I hope within the year to have moved from rented accommodation to owning a place somewhere semi-rural away from all the hustle and bustle where nature is right at your doorstep and I can enjoy the life I've now got back.  What good is it if you survive and don't take full advantage of the life you've been given back?

There's hope, there's light at the end of the tunnel.  You must do your bit too and work with your medical team.  You'll have to sort your own head out - they don't do that.  If anything over the ten years it was the head f*** that I had the problems with.  In the UK there really isn't much to help you (or there wasn't ten years ago).  It's a hell of a roller coaster ride and after ten years it's just about stopped apart from twice a year when I go to get checked out - these "judgement days" (Thanks for naming our flexible cystoscopies that Steve Kelley).  It is the only time that I think about the possibility of recurrence which, given ten years after presenting with cancer is a remote possibility.  The longer you go without a recurrence the better chance you have of full recovery. 

Life's good....


Steve Kelley said...

Ten years is the magic number for bladder cancer. While most cancers are considered to be "cured" or, more accurately, "in remission" after 5 years, the high recurrence rate of bladder cancer in the first 10 years sets a higher benchmark. I just passed by 8 years cancer free, and at 10 I hope to start saying (and believing) it's "in remission."

So congrats on being officially out of the recurrence zone. Unfortunately the checks for recurrence are a lifetime deal, so it's really only a mental assist to be "cured."

Michael Krug said...

Just came upon your blog randomly, my symptoms presented themselves summer 2014, after the biopsy and unexpected exsessive bleeding that put me in the hospital for three days, I too embarked on the BCG path to healing. This has been one hell of a ride, one that I certainly had not chosen, but since it was given to me, I just choose to make the best of it, often with humor and disbelief. Thank you for your blog, there have not been very many obvious resources offering the human side of this disease, my only regret is that I was not smart enough to have created a professional life where I had more control over so that I could purposely plan the time needed for recovery and not been so compelled to work endlessly just for the sense of job security.

A Dived Ref said...

Hi Michael, Thank you for adding a comment to the blog. I'm glad to hear that the BCG regime has done its job, it's one hell of a ride and character building - not for sissies I once heard it described as. We each deal with it out own way and I'd been running an independent business for some time beforehand but got ill after I'd returned to full-time employment. I'm glad you enjoyed some of my posts and wish you well with your ongoing recovery. It gets better and better as you progress. All the best David...