Frank’s Story: “We are not alone in this battle.”

It was the Spring of 2023 when Frank Boyer received the devastating diagnosis of bladder cancer. Despite his initial shock, surrounded by loved ones and guided by his medical team, he embarked on a journey of resilience and determination. Here is his story:

“You have cancer,” those are words I certainly did not expect to hear after having a fairly common exploratory procedure last Spring. My doctor had cautioned me that on the off chance the result was signs of cancer, it would likely be in a very early stage. I had no risk factors, was in great health, and lived a very active lifestyle. Yet, in April 2023, to everyone’s surprise, I learned that I had been diagnosed with high-grade, stage four, locally advanced bladder cancer. And so began my life changing journey at the age of 74 to beat cancer.

Despite this grim news, I quickly discovered that I was blessed with an incredible network of family and friends. They reminded me that I was not alone in this journey and that I was surrounded by love. Their support, combined with my deep faith, inspired me to proceed with the optimism and determination to win this battle. 

My first step was to research and gain access to the very best urologist and oncologist that I could find. I was blessed to discover Dr. Woldu, my brilliant urologist and surgeon at UT Southwestern who also has a sub-specialty fellowship in oncology, and the amazing Dr. Suzanne Cole, my oncologist and the Medical Director at University Hospital Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Richardson, TX. I met Dr. Woldu and Dr. Cole in the Spring of 2023. 

We should all be blessed with such a kind, caring, and competent team of doctors. 

With my medical team established, Drs. Cole and Woldu coordinated to craft the best plan for beating this disease. It called for four rounds of intensive chemotherapy, each beginning with a day and a half of infusions of four drugs followed by radical robotic surgery to remove my bladder and prostate. The anticancer drug treatment was an OP dose-dense MVAC, with split dose Cisplatin every 14 days. The four drugs were Methotrexate, Vinblastine, Doxorubicin and Cisplatin. I completed all four cycles of these medications which gave me the best chance of becoming cancer-free.

As scary as this sounds, I was ready for whatever was ahead. When I went through chemo in June of 2023, my five adult kids each took turns joining my wonderful wife of 53 years and me for a treatment cycle. I was lucky. I had no pain or negative reactions during the infusion periods. In fact, we were the loudest and most joyous people in the oncology center, laughing hysterically as we went through old photos together to distract us all from the weight of the medication flowing through my veins. I was also deeply touched by the kindest, most caring, professional nurses, aides, and technicians during each cycle. The teamwork was incredible.

While under the care of Dr. Cole, I discovered that she treats the whole person. She arranged sessions for me with a nutritionist, social worker, and psychologist. Dr. Cole establishes a wonderful connection with her patients and is honest about the seriousness of this disease and the potential outcomes. She shows remarkable compassion, empathy, professionalism, and honesty and assures her patients that they are not alone in their journey. She is dedicated to the well-being of her patients. Her effects are also felt throughout the cancer center, where her staff follows her lead and shows the same commitment to the well-being of their patients. Any cancer patient would be blessed to be in the care of Dr. Cole. 

The robotic surgery to remove my bladder and prostate was the next step. Dr. Woldu performed the surgery on August 22, 2023. The surgery lasted nearly eight hours. I was nervous, but optimistic it would be highly successful. A week after the surgery, I was overwhelmed with joy to hear that the pathology report had confirmed that I was cancer-free. I have had almost no pain following the surgery and have made a remarkable recovery. I have a stoma and an external bag but have learned to manage it well and accept it as a new way of life. 

It is now an ongoing process to adjust to my bladder-free life and the accompanying stoma. I continue to cope with the various side effects (i.e. lymphedema and neuropathy) from my treatment but once again, Dr. Cole has taken the lead in setting me up for treatment by other highly skilled doctors, nurses, and therapists to manage these side effects. The treatments were at the lymphedema lab located in the University Hospital Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the main Dallas campus of UT Southwestern Medical Center.  

Day by day, things seem to be getting better. In the past month, I have biked, hiked, gone cross-country skiing, and played tennis and golf. I am determined to return to my active ways. 

I discovered BCAN at the very beginning of my journey after both Dr. Woldu and Dr. Cole suggested that I look into it. It is an excellent resource for bladder cancer patients. My amazing daughter, Katie Boyer, the youngest of our five children, was the first to research it. She was very impressed with BCAN. I followed her lead and found it to be a great resource. BCAN even set up a call with another stage four bladder cancer survivor which provided inspiration that I can be cured of this extremely serious disease.

Subsequently, Katie established the Boyer Team that will be participating in the BCAN Walk in Austin, TX on May 18, 2024. 

I can’t say enough how fortunate I feel to be on the other side of this journey. Today, I am in the cancer survivorship program. I still have a long road ahead to be considered “cured,” but my outlook for survival has improved tremendously. The thought of cancer being a life-ending condition is tough to deal with, but I have found that living in the moment and focusing on each day as a gift has helped me cope with the mental challenges of being a cancer patient. Most importantly, I am blessed to continue to have my family, friends, my faith, and the amazing medical team. Now that I have my health back, I am continuing to work every day to rebuild my strength.

I hope that by sharing my story, it will provide a sense of hope for other cancer patients. We are not alone in this battle and there is HOPE even for those of us with advanced stages of bladder cancer.