Not-So-Fun Activities Of The Last Two Weeks

My husband had his first treatment for bladder cancer yesterday. This is his third primary cancer and, of course, he has asked, “Where next?”

Two biopsies were performed, but neither got enough muscle wall tissue to rule out the spread of the cancer there. It was a transitional papillary tumor at the top of the bladder which makes it more difficult to get a “good” muscle wall sample. Location, location, location.

His options were to assume that the cancer had not spread to the muscle wall or to assume that it had. After talking it over with his doctor, he chose to assume it had not. Removal of the bladder is still an option, but hopefully it won’t have to be done.

What is fascinating to me is the treatment when the assumption is that the tumor has not spread to the muscle wall. It consists not of chemotherapy, but of immunotherapy. In a nutshell, BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin), a tuberculosis vaccine is inserted into the bladder to “call” the immune system to battle the cancer.

See: Bladder cancer, Treatment and Drugs, Mayo Clinic. Also, NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines. Registration is required, but it’s free.

Because the biopsies were inconclusive, my husband was faced with the choice of trying the immunotherapy or with surgical removal of his bladder. Surgical removal is sort of a guaranteed cure, but it is also a drastic cure. My husband chose the less drastic, but less certain treatment.

We shall see.

9 thoughts on “Not-So-Fun Activities Of The Last Two Weeks

  1. So sorry to read of your trials. You are in my thoughts.

    Thank you for weighing in with some good personal information on your experience with military health care. I posed a few questions back for you. i came up through the old CHAMPUS program which I understand from old timers, was a lot more liberal in its coverage. I have only the experience of retired vets on Tri-Care and I’ve heard them say it’s not a patch on the old CHAMPUS. But again, that was back in the day when places like Walter Reed were state-of-the-art.

    Please feel free to add anything else to the discussion or email me. I’m interested in finding more about people’s current experiences.

  2. My cousin is dealing with this cancer – and with the same treatment. (I do wonder how they discovered that the TB bacteria would help with this cancer – but my cousin has been doing this for a while – diagnosed five yrs ago when I was overwhelmed with newborn twins.) From what I understand, my cousin is doing well with this protocol.

    Good luck!

  3. I’m glad that your cousin has had success with this treatment. This is our plan also, and his success is encouraging.

    What I simply don’t understand is how newborn twins could overwhelm anyone. (That’s a joke, btw.)

  4. Donna,

    I saw a comment over at Ambiance that you had been having some difficulties lately so I came over to see what’s up. Sorry to hear about the bladder cancer, but I can add my voice to those who know success stories. My mother was diagnosed with this in the summer of 2007. She went through the BCG treatment and that worked for awhile.

    I don’t know what you’ve read or been told, but this will keep coming back. It will come back more frequently if one keeps up certain bad habits. mom won’t stop smoking, for example, so she her doctor keeps finding more tumors. Currently Mom is going through a second round of BCG treatments, and will continue the once-every-three-months checkups afterwards. It’s cancer, which is bad, but highly managable if caught early and treated well. I wish you guys the best of luck.

    (I also know two others that had bladder cancer, and their stories roughly track my mother’s. So your personal sample space of successfully treated patients has now expanded by three.)

  5. Thanks for the encouragement. He had his last treatment this week, goes back in a month for a check-up. The treatments were a lot easier than we thought they would be. He didn’t have any of the listed possible side effects.

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