“We’re aware of other cancers and diabetes, but we’re not aware of bladder cancer. It’s almost like it’s a taboo subject.”

Hi, my name is Tracy. I work as a team leader in a health insurance company. In my spare time I love photography, taking pictures of anything that catches my eye, especially nature ... plants, flowers and that kind of thing. I’m not quite a tree hugger but I could be!

Had you heard of bladder cancer before?

Nope. I knew about breast cancer and I knew about lung cancer but I didn’t know anything about bladder cancer.

What were your symptoms?

I had almost a year of having blood in my urine. I had lower back pain and a lot of other pains which I now know are associated with bladder cancer. Of course, at the time, I didn’t have a clue. The problem is you see I have had urinary tract infections (UTIs) for pretty much my whole life. I just got used to having antibiotics. But with this I felt there was something more wrong because of the constant blood. The urine tests showed up an infection so I was just given antibiotics, but they weren’t clearing it up.

What was your initial diagnosis?

They confirmed I had a tumour in my bladder. I was a Grade 3 pT2, and they discovered the cancer had spread through my bladder and out into my pelvic wall.

What has your treatment been?

Having already had a hysterectomy some years ago I went into surgery for them to remove my bladder. I have had a Mainz ll surgery which means they made a pouch out of my bowel. The surgery was okay and I felt I made good progress. I had some chemo after surgery which left me feeling pretty low and I picked up a pretty bad infection too, so was unable to complete the full course.

After I finished my first lot of chemo I had a CT scan with showed up a grainy image on the left hand side of my body in my pelvic area. They weren’t sure what it was so they did a PET scan and what they’ve actually found is three new tumours, all within my pelvis, so I’m now having another course of chemo. I have to have six sessions at three weekly intervals ... it’s my third one next week. I think what they’re going to do after that is do another CT scan and see how it’s going. Touch wood it’s going to be okay.

How has it changed your life?

Physically, I think I’m okay. Funnily enough I coped with it more at the beginning. I do get times now where all of a sudden it becomes very overwhelming. I’ve been decorating and doing bits and bobs and I was back at work in three months. I do get tired though, but I’ve got to know my body a lot more and I know when I need to rest.

I’m quite a private person so I don’t cry in front of other people or anything. I remember when I was first told it was cancer, and I can only liken it to being what I imagine it feels like to be hit in the face with a frying pan. I thought I would never get through it and it was the end of the world. The more I went backwards and forwards to the hospital the more I decided that I could do this. I looked around me and saw younger people going through the same thing and I decided I needed to be positive. In the beginning my family were strong and I was upset and then it changed, and I became the strong one.

Why is this campaign important to you?

Because people need to be aware. Not just the general public but it’s awareness for GPs and practice nurses too. We’re aware of other cancers and diabetes, but we’re not aware of bladder cancer. Its almost like it’s a taboo subject … and it’s time to tackle it head on. I don’t like to generalise about GPs, and we’re so lucky to have the NHS in this country, but maybe GPS don’t have the information they need … they still don’t think women are so affected by this disease. If someone is weeing blood and in constant pain they need to be investigated beyond having a UTI. Education, education, education.

Are you going to beat it?

Yes, of course I am. It could always be lurking but I have got a very positive attitude.

Tracy

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