This time last year, bladder cancer was not a phrase that had ever crossed my lips. I knew it existed, but thought it was one of those rare cancers that few people get. I couldn't have been more wrong. Bladder cancer is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Surprised? So was I.
According to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, more than 70,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with bladder cancer last year, and more than 14,000 died from it. Because bladder cancer has a recurrence rate of 50-80%, it requires life-long surveillance. The cost of keeping this disease at bay makes it the most expensive cancer to treat on a per patient basis. Nearly $3 billion is spent in the US alone each year on treatment of bladder cancer.
By the time my younger brother, Steve, was diagnosed late last year, he had been having symptoms for months: blood in his urine, frequent urinary tract infections, frequent urination, painful urination, back aches, abdominal pain and weight loss. If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, call your doctor for referral to a urologist immediately.
As with most cancers, early detection may save not only your life, but preserve your quality of life. Mayo Clinic is a trustworthy website for health information. Click here to see their page on bladder cancer symptoms.
The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network is sponsoring the first National Bladder Cancer Awareness Day on July 17 to heighten public awareness of this disease. Research dollars have been disproportionately lacking for this cancer, which has surely contributed to the relatively slow progress of treatment alternatives over the past twenty years.
National Bladder Cancer Awareness Day events are being held all over the country not only to raise awareness, but to celebrate with survivors, their families and friends, to remember the lost, and to share inspiration and encouragement.
To find a National Bladder Cancer Awareness Day event near you, contact BCAN at BCday@bcan.org or 888-901-BCAN.
Personal update: As many of you know, Steve was diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive bladder cancer and had surgery to remove his bladder on February 23. The neobladder that was crafted for him developed a rare complication which caused an enteric fistula. Steve has spent most of the last 3 1/2 months in the hospital because of this. Yesterday, June 14, he underwent successful surgery to remove the neobladder, repair the fistula, and craft an ileal conduit. We are hopeful and guardedly optimistic that Steve will be able to recover now, to regain some of the 35 pounds he has lost in the last few months, and to once again hike, garden, eat (real food, not TPN), and enjoy sunsets on the beach.
Our whole family is enormously grateful to readers of my blog, other friends, and especially the BCAN On-Line Support Community for your prayers, resources, visits (thank you, Al), and other expressions of support. The BCAN On-Line Support Community has been there to help me in trying to learn about this awful disease and to offer support to Steve since the first day I went to the site looking for information. You can read my journals and the community's responses on the BCAN web site. My "handle" is Pinewoodswriter.