I’ve previously discussed my many years dealing with bladder issues; the UTIs, kidney stones and bladder stones. None of which are easy things to live with, but never in a million years did I ever think anything really serious would happen to me.
I always thought cancer was something that happened to other people, not me.
In August 2015 I had become aware that occasionally when I pooped there would be blood in the toilet. By the end of August, it was happening at least once a week. I decided to tell my husband and off we went to the GP.
I was given a colonoscopy, with results that came back as normal. Yet the bleeding continued.
I spoke with my GP who said that the results from the colonoscopy showed there was nothing to worry about, so I went on with my life. I became tired. My life became sleeping, with periods of working in between. I was told to lose weight, exercise and to go on a diet as all my symptoms were because I was fat.
I thought I was just run down which was nothing unusual and assumed it was yet another infection, so dutifully dropped a bottle of pee off to my doctors and then waited for the phone call later to tell me a prescription was ready. I was prescribed trimethoprim which saddened me because every single time I had an infection they would prescribe this antibiotic and, after 23 years of taking it on and off, including taking a small dose for 6 months, this antibiotic did not work for me anymore.
After getting the right prescription, I took it straight away and finished the course. This was Christmas 2015. I hoped the infection had gone but suspected it hadn’t as my body felt heavy and everything was an effort. I put this down to the winter months and continued with the festivities.
By January I really didn't feel right and kept saying to my husband that perhaps the GP was right about my weight.
So I overhauled my diet, cut out dairy and gluten, and began to take supplements like apple cider vinegar, turmeric and aged garlic to help with my aches and pains. I lost weight, but it didn't help with the tiredness.
I started to pee blood, so yet another trip to the GP for me. Both the GP and I assumed it was the infection back again, or perhaps it hadn’t fully gone. So I was put on more antibiotics.
I was struggling to work and run the household. I wondered if I was going mad and it was all in my mind.
On the 2nd February 2016 I went to a hospital appointment, armed with a bottle of red pee. I saw a different consultant who had none of my notes, as I had previously been a private patient. I explained that I was due to have an ultrasound at Christmas, at the private hospital, but I’d cancelled it as we didn’t have the funds due to overspending on our private insurance hence why we were back with the NHS.
I was told I wouldn’t be entitled to an ultrasound for another four months. I said I thought I had an infection as my pee was bright red, but I was dismissed and sent on my way.
I carried on peeing blood and, to be honest with you, I had got to the stage where I thought as no one else seemed bothered about me peeing blood - why should I be bothered?
I kept taking the antibiotics and each time I dropped off my bottle of pee, I would write a note asking if it could be anything else. I wondered if it was kidney stones maybe? It didn't feel like an infection anymore.
After my fifth lot of antibiotics I ended up shouting at the GP down the phone saying I didn't want to keep taking antibiotics, I wanted to know what was making me pee bright red blood.
Only to be told “your prescription is at the chemist.” That was my lowest point. I sat and cried as I really didn't feel great, I was beyond exhausted and had really had enough.
The next day my husband made an appointment with the GP and it was by chance that we were seen by a first-year doctor, who went to get advice from another GP. It was then and only then that I was referred for an ultrasound. The ultrasound appointment came through quickly and it was at a local hospital so off we went. To be honest I expected it to show nothing or to show that my right kidney was having problems which would explain the blood in the pee.
On the way out, the radiographer asked If I had an appointment with my doctor, to which I replied no, and he suggested that I make one. I thought this was a little strange as they usually say your doctor will be in touch.
By the time I got home from my ultrasound, one of the GPs called me as he’d seen how many antibiotics I’d had recently and was concerned.
He’d been away since December, so I explained that I had just had an ultrasound and asked if he would be able to see the results on his system. He asked if I was still seeing my private urologist and suggested it would be a good idea if I did. At this point I still didn't realise just how serious this was. I said I would leave it in his hands and felt a little better. I also figured it was probably the blasted right kidney as I was always having a problem with it.
I received a letter about a week later with an appointment for a cystoscopy - where a camera is used to have a look around the bladder.
I’d had a few of them over the years so wasn't nervous and didn't even take the whole letter in. It is only now that I can see it says there is a ‘mass in your bladder’. Maybe this was my minds way of protecting me and keeping me from having huge anxiety.
In between the time I received the letter and the start of April 2016, I had started to pee blood clots. Now THIS frightened the living daylights out of me.
But me being me, not wanting to cause a fuss refused to go to A&E even though my son and husband were telling me to. In my head I was on the system, I was going to have a cystoscopy, so it could all wait until then.
The day came, I worked that morning and went off to hospital at lunchtime. As I walked into the theatre, the specialist nurse came over and put her hands on my shoulders and said, “oh so young”. I had no idea what she was talking about and hopped onto the bed.
The camera was inserted… and there it was… this red, scaly thing that looked a little like a doorknob.
My head was screaming “omg that shouldn’t be there!” I was shocked… and I still had no idea what the hell was going on. They finished taking photos and I got off the bed.
I guess it must have been obvious that I had no idea what was happening as the consultant had to say, “you do realise its most likely cancer?” I’m not sure what happened next as I think I was just freaking out in my head and didn't hear another word he said.
I went back to the changing rooms and put my clothes on wondering how I was going to tell my husband who sat waiting for me.
My mind was racing. I wasn't sure how to react. I didn't want to be a drama queen either.
I sat in the recovery area waiting to be discharged. I asked the nurse if they could get Tim for me but was told that I would be discharged soon so there was no point. Yet minutes later she came back and said they were going to get him.
Tim text me asking how it went? What could I say? I couldn't tell him over text so I replied that it was all over now and I would see him soon. No sooner had he walked in when I shouted out “they have found a tumour and they think its cancer.” I’ve never seen someone turn grey so quickly.
We were ushered into a room. The nurse was telling us that out of all the cancers that bladder cancer was “the best one to have” because they just keep scooping it out if it comes back.
We were stunned, shocked and upset. It was downplayed to us. It wasn't going to be a problem, well it wasn't even a “proper” cancer (!). If only we had known what was to come.
Further information about bladder cancer…
According to Cancer Research UK, bladder cancer is the tenth most common cancer in the UK and is rare in people aged under 40, but that doesn’t mean it should be ruled out as a possibility if symptoms are present. The main symptom is blood in your urine, but other symptoms can include:
- frequent urination
- urgent urination
- pain or a burning sensation when peeing
- unexpected weight loss
- pain in your back, lower tummy or bones
- feeling tired and unwel
Tell your doctor straight away if you have these symptoms. Most people with these symptoms don’t have bladder cancer but it’s important to get checked out. If you’re treated for a bladder infection and the symptoms do not subside after a course of antibiotics, be sure to seek further medical attention. Please visit Cancer Research UK for more details.