Only 30 at the time of his diagnosis, Jeff is not your typical bladder cancer patient. Now four years and three children after his diagnosis, Jeff views his experience as an opportunity to raise awareness as well as funds to support research to end bladder cancer.
After noticing blood in his urine, Jeff became concerned and went to see his doctor. In a recent interview, Jeff explained: “After examining me, the doctor said ‘I think you have cancer. We’re going to set you up to go see a specialist’, and he walked out of the room.” That specialist thought he found kidney stones in my bladder. And they set up a routine scope to take a look and “to get rid of the kidney stones.”
But Jeff didn’t have kidney stones; it was cancer as the first doctor predicted. Bladder cancer. After his tumor was removed, Jeff and his wife, Crystal, discussed his treatment options with his doctors. Because they had been trying to have children, they decided he was not going to have radiation or chemo at that time. The couple wanted the best chance of potentially having kids before going any further with his treatment. “Bladder cancer ended up being a blessing in disguise for us. Because of my doctor’s connections, we got right in to see a fertility specialist that otherwise had a 2-year waiting list. It’s been four years and now we’ve got three wonderful children. I had to get bladder cancer to move down the path to having these children and building a great family.”
“I don’t have family and friends that have bladder cancer, at least that I knew about. The internet led us to BCAN. I realized we needed to start increasing awareness in the greater Omaha area because it’s not something that people know about or talk about.”
When initially diagnosed, Jeff didn’t receive specific information about bladder cancer. There were no support groups nearby.
“When I first learned about the AmpUp! Walk/Run that sparked my interest in trying to get awareness out. I decided, let’s give this a try.”
Jeff knew it was going to be small at first, probably just family and friends. Then he met Chad Bauer, our BCAN Omaha Chapter vice president. Over that next year, Jeff learned about the different things he and the Chapter could do. Jeff focused on training to become a speaker about bladder cancer. He took the opportunity to attend the BCAN 2016 Bladder Cancer Think Tank in Denver, where he learned about the latest research for diagnosis and treatments to improve the quality of life for bladder cancer patients.
“Now that we’re a BCAN Chapter, we make sure that all of our events are on social media. We provide updates to anyone who’s out there on what we’re doing, and how the events have gone. We want people to know we’re having success and thank our sponsors for different events. We want to let them know that what they donated went to a good cause and their contributions went a long way.”If having a 3-year-old and twin one-year-old children wasn’t enough to keep this Dad busy, Jeff noted “we’ve done two walks as an official chapter now. We recently had our first spaghetti fundraiser and auction for bladder cancer to raise awareness. We were able to raise $3,000 and had about 100 people come out for spaghetti. I think that was a great success for us. Now we’re looking at what can we do to make it bigger and better next year. We’re going to be a community sponsored organization one night at an Omaha Storm Chasers game about a month before our Walk in 2017. They are the local affiliate of the Kansas City Royals baseball team. They do a radio promo for it, as part of their community efforts. We can get some additional excitement and exposure for AmpUp! I made an advertisement on their Facebook page and website. We’re hoping to get the media more involved in what we’re doing.”
An avid tweeter, Jeff likes to share “Any unique stories that we find out there about bladder cancer, things that BCAN’s posting, or inspiring posts about bladder cancer. We try to share those as much as possible on Twitter and Facebook. Just making sure we’re stretching out the message as far as we can to get the most impact out of it. We are trying to make it become a ‘thing that the news media can’t ignore’. We hope to eventually get them onboard to produce stories to get the word out about bladder cancer.”
When asked what advice he would share to help others raise awareness about bladder cancer; Jeff had some specific ideas. “I think one of the biggest things that we can do as we approach bladder cancer awareness month (coming up this May), is setting up a walk. Even if it starts small, that’s okay. That’s the one thing I’ve learned. I’ve learned not to be afraid if there are five people. If one of those people previously didn’t know about it, or someone in the community you have the AmpUp! event has never have heard about it; that’s one extra person that now knows about bladder cancer and can tell other people about the signs and symptoms.”
Attending local health fairs is another way that Jeff and the Omaha Chapter raised awareness last year. “You can get a booth and tell people about bladder cancer. [Contact BCAN if you plan to participate in a health fair in your community, we can send you information to hand out!] Or learn what resources the urologists and oncologists in your local area have. Some of them may have local support groups. People can also reach out to their doctors to let them know that BCAN has materials they can give to newly diagnosed patients. Bladder cancer survivors can make sure no one else has the ‘Hey, I had no clue about any of that when I was diagnosed’ experience. Finding someone who’s gone through it [contact BCAN’s Survivor 2 Survivor program], or at least having a resource that has the medical information necessary can help somebody get through those first weeks and month.” Thank you for all you do for BCAN Jeff!