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Real Stories...

My name is Gary

A lucky day for me was the day I found Fight Bladder Cancer

How did you find out you had bladder cancer?

It was March 2017 when I first passed blood in my urine, and when it happened a second time, and more severely, I went to the doctors to do a urine test, although I thought I was wasting his time as the blood in my urine had stopped. However, it turned out that I had an ‘11/10’ reading and – although the doctor said it could be anything – I needed further tests.

I knew something wasn’t right and headed for Google to do some research. Google is good for many things but not when you have to wait for your results for six days! I hadn’t heard of bladder cancer or thought about it but most things online pointed to bladder cancer.

I had multiple tests but when I had my cystoscopy I could see on the screen that there was a mass and they told me that I had a 6cm tumour which looked fairly aggressive. A few weeks after that I went for an operation and it was confirmed as grade 3 bladder cancer, although fortunately the cancer wasn’t invasive and hadn’t gone through the bladder wall. Luckily since then I haven’t had a tumour return. 

What happened after your diagnosis?

Everything came crashing down. I went from travelling 80,000 business miles that year to not being able to work. I was stuck at home and was starting a fight that was completely unexpected. I swiftly started with BCG treatment which has been a challenging experience.  

The first six treatments were fine and I thought it was going to be easy. I even went on holiday to Mexico half way through my treatments. However, things changed when I got the next set of three. I would start by being quite flu-like and feverish for the first few days, followed by a lot of pain in my stomach and midriff. Then I would go into another flu-like state and every time I went to the toilet I would have to pass lumps. 

This fight really has taken its toll on me. Emotionally I cannot wait to finish the BCG treatment. I suffered from depression in the second year of treatment and have not felt completely myself again. Over the last six months I was going to the toilet six to eight times a night and was really tired as a result of it and couldn’t focus enough to work. Now it’s only twice, which makes such a difference. I have never been so worried about sleep and have been tired all the time. 

A lot of people refer to cancer as a battle but it seems as bit one-sided to me. I didn’t choose this disease but I am not the kind of person who will let anything beat me easily. I am 48 with teenage kids and I have no choice but to keep on top of it and keep going.

How did you feel when the COVID pandemic hit in 2020?

COVID has really worried me. Everything stopped overnight: my treatments were cancelled and there could be a possibility of relapse; my wife and kids were stressed; football – my passion and joy – ground to a halt overnight. I just decided I needed to get it out of my head and I had to keep busy.

So I decided on fundraising for the fabulous work at Fight Bladder Cancer. Spurred on by the fact I’m a very competitive person – when the team told me that the average fundraising goal was under £2,000 I decided immediately that I was going to beat that! I decided to use the stress of Coronavirus to distract me and do everything I could to smash the £2,000 fundraising target. 

I decided on a walking challenge with my dog and called it the 13 days of May – to coincide with my birthday and Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. The plan was to walk 48 miles for my 48 years. I set up all sorts of pages including a Facebook fundraiser, JustGiving page and also created a text donations option. I quietly thought I would be lucky if I hit £1000. However, the response I received was incredible. We got so much media coverage locally it was unreal. I was asked onto BBC 3 Counties Radio twice! I had people in my village who I had never met giving me money and cheering me on. My friends at work shared support as well as my football club. All in all, I ended up walking more than 70 miles and raised £2750 for Fight Bladder Cancer and the fact that we got the money we did was just amazing and just shows the support around you!

“A lucky day for me was the day I found Fight Bladder Cancer”

Is there any advice you would give to patients coping with a similar situation?

Keep busy. Keeping busy has been the priority for me throughout my entire experience. I have been a hard-working man all my life. Not being able to travel with business has been hard, so I have had to find other things to occupy myself – such as starting my own local football team – Real Haynes Football Club – and organising matches and coaching the lads. 

Be organised about your treatment. Keep on top of your treatment schedule. Being organised with your administration, medicines and recommendations is vital. You have to be your own advocate. Be ready to ask questions and answer questions at the end of the phone. It’s important to have a level of accountability for yourself and your treatment and don’t blame others if things don’t happen. As soon as I knew my hospital was back open I was on the phone every day to book my operation. I had been waiting for a TURBT before lockdown and we all know that waiting is the hardest part. 

Surround yourself with love. Have people around who love you and understand what you’re going through. My wife looked after me, my mum helped out and my brother also took me away for a few days to the Isle of Wight to try and have a break away from everything.

Get in touch with Fight Bladder Cancer. It was a lucky day for me when I found Fight Bladder Cancer. The charity has been great for me as I found that there can be so much bad knowledge out there. The knowledge and information I received from them was very helpful and informative, especially on the website. Simple and formal knowledge is so important for patients when you’re first going through the tests and treatments. If I didn’t know an answer to something, I have always been able to ask someone at the charity and get the help I needed.

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