Dave’s Story: My Journey With Bladder Cancer

This article is for those who are about to embark on this journey, or those working with patients dealing with bladder cancer. Why read it? Simple. Knowledge is power. In this case, knowing what may lie ahead when your body has become the home for cancer cells is important. Hopefully, this will only be a temporary residence for these nasty dwellers. Thanks to the treatments available today, they can be evicted. Knowing the methods and what to expect during this battle, may relieve some of the anxiety you may experience.

What do you know, I have bladder cancer! So much for escaping the “Big C.”

Thanks to my internist, who discovered blood in my urine in a blood test and immediately arranged an

Dave Wolffe, a bladder cancer patient
Dave Wolffe, a bladder cancer patient.

appointment with a urologist, this disease was discovered early. The earlier it is detected, the better chance of eliminating cancer from the bladder entirely. Lucky me! I guess finding these little fellas in my bladder this way, wasn’t such a bad thing. For others, this disease comes with other symptoms, often more frightening and painful.

Regardless of the way it was found, having cancer is scary. No doubt, an understatement. The thought of having this disease is certainly not something easy to take. It is a reality that no one wants to face. However, looking at the brighter side, and yes, there is a positive side, bladder cancer isn’t usually fatal, and is treatable. These facts brought me a great degree of comfort.

My main concern and fear was that I would immediately have my bladder removed. My doctor explained that he would be, at first, taking a more conservative, less invasive approach. He explained that mitomycin would be used to combat my cancer. This drug would be injected through a catheter to reach my bladder directly.

Lidocaine was used to numb my penis when the catheter was inserted. Since the mitomycin was administered directly into the bladder and not through the blood, (as with many chemotherapy drugs), the chance of side effects is minimized. This was a source of relief and wouldn’t represent another challenge. The treatment would take place once a week, over a period of six weeks. The doctor would examine me six weeks after the treatment with a cystoscope to see if the medication had done its job.

After my cystoscopy, the doctor found more cancer cells in my bladder. B.C.G., a stronger medication, would be administered the same non-invasive way as the mitomycin. The same process was followed as with the mitomycin. Unfortunately, this medication did not provide the desired result. Keep in mind, B.C.G. may be effective for you. It was in the case for my good friend.

In some cases as with me, further treatment was necessary. My physician gave me two other drugs, gemcitabine (gemzar) and cisplatin. The treatment process was the same as it had been with the other two rounds of medication. The main difference was that the gemzar was administered with a catheter that had to remain in my penis for ninety minutes. After that time, the cisplatin was then administered. Again, these drugs failed to effectively remove the cancer cells from my body. The three previous attempts to eradicate this disease were not successful FOR ME.  Each of us is unique, and so are the methods used to treat this cancer.

I had several other options. (1) do nothing, (2) have a neo-bladder constructed, or (3) surgery. I chose to have surgery. During the recovery and rehabilitation period, fatigue is an issue. Initially, I tried to do too much, too soon. Don’t try to push yourself, you might become frustrated. In fact, it may extend your recovery time.

Changing and preventing your ostomy pouch from leaking is a major source of adjustment to life after surgery. I was repeatedly shown how to change it both in the hospital and in the rehabilitation facility. It takes time, patience, and a willingness to deal with challenges that can arise with this device. There are several additional devices that can help to securely fasten your pouch. Your medical supplier, ostomy nurse or doctor can be helpful to obtain these.

I have learned a lot and have made adjustments in my life. You can reach this point as well.

Yes, this is something you never expected.

Yes, there are adjustments you will need to make.

Yes, this process takes time.

Yes, this will become another routine part of your life.

Feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have. Dave Wolffe,  peacefulyouth422@yahoo.com.