Pamela’s Story About Her Daddy

I remember when my mother turned to me and broke the news. Daddy has cancer.

This news stung like news had never stung before. It was the news that my father could not bring himself to tell me. It was the news that ultimately turned our home into a hospital-like environment—filled with a foreign array of medications, informational pamphlets, medical devices, and antiseptics—and our lives into a roller coaster of emotions—including sadness, confusion, and only occasional exhausted laughter.

As described in my sister’s story, my father was diagnosed with Stage IV bladder cancer in June 2012. Over the next two years, my father traveled for multiple opinions and bravely endured BCG treatments, chemotherapy, radiation, and eventually a radical cystectomy, a complete removal of his bladder and creation of a neobladder.

Without time to blink, my mother (not known for her strong stomach) promptly stepped in to be everything my father needed her to be – a 24/7 nurse, an emotional support counselor, and most importantly, a best friend. My sister and I, feeling somewhat helpless, listened to our father’s direction to continue our college coursework, internships, and full-time jobs without missing a beat. We wanted to help more than anything in the world, but no matter how much we scoured scientific literature on bladder cancer and no matter how many hours we spent on the phone debating treatment options, we could not find an answer.

With each additional treatment came an additional glimmer of hope, but the conglomeration of potent treatments for late stage bladder cancer was not suitable for the human body to endure. My father’s surgery ruined his kidney function and his reliance on tubes resulted in infection and drastic weight loss. Simultaneously, the cancer continued to metastasize throughout his body.

I remembered when my mother turned to me and broke the news. Daddy died six weeks after my college graduation.

There is no way to sugarcoat it once you witness it firsthand. Stage IV bladder cancer is downright ugly. And at first, it can be downright lonely. The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) is a thriving organization, serving a multitude of functions, but I would like to pay special recognition to the community that BCAN has developed to bring awareness to this under-recognized disease. BCAN is the reason that people like me have a platform to tell their difficult stories. BCAN is the reason that bladder cancer no longer feels quite so lonely.

Although I do not have the opportunity to write a survivor story, I am appreciative of a space to tell a fighter story. My father always encouraged me to use my voice for a purpose. My family did not get the story ending that we had hoped for and this is not a story I want to tell, but these are the kinds of stories that need to be told. We are the voices of the fighters.