Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A cautionary tale

I recently received a letter from a fellow who fought in the Vietnam War. He survived many battles over seas and now is fighting bladder cancer.

"I first had low grade tumors; stage 0 back in 1998-99. The last one showed up around 2000 then nothing until last March. The ones in March were still low grade stage 0 but one was pretty big. They put me on BCG weekly chemo, right in the bladder through a catheter. The follow-up in mid Aug showed more tumors but the new ones were high grade and stage 1, not good. Now I'm on a 6 week course of BCG with Interferon. At the end of November I'll have a CT scan. Depending on what the scan shows I'll have a biopsy of the bladder in mid December and go on from there."

"I've talked to a friend who had neo bladder surgery in April and is in pretty good shape now. A younger guy I worked with also has the same thing I do but he's only 46 and has never smoked. I smoked for 23 years starting in Viet Nam in 1970. There has also been talk of an Agent Orange connection at the VA. I was in the most heavily sprayed area of the country. Who knows what caused this. Right now it doesn't matter. "

I Asked him how he first noticed the cancer. 

"I was working under the kitchen sink one evening while on my back. I got the urge to tip a kidney and when I did I noticed it looked awful, not blood but brown. It just didn't look normal. I went to urgent care clinic at the hospital. The old doc who checked me out thought it was kidney stones and sent me home with a funnel to capture any that remained. I had no pain at the time. "

"Weeks or months later a drop of blood showed up and I was sent to my urologist. He wanted to do a cystoscope exam which I resisted. He said it may have been stones but needed to make sure it wasn't cancer. I told him I'd wait. Dumb move. "

"I came back months later with more blood and did the cystoscope exam where he found a tumor. I had it removed in the hospital and went home with a catheter for 5 days. The pathology report came back, low grade-stage 0. Smaller ones showed up at now and then and were zapped at the doctors office with a machine I called the welder. I did regular follow-ups until 2007 with no tumors and then quit going. Another dumb move. "

"I think all men should get a yearly exam starting at age 45 whether they have symptoms or not. I think they'd catch them while they are still very treatable."

I second that!

Good luck and keep me posted.