“My stomas are a small price to pay for a second chance at life.”

Laura MacKenzie's story

Laura’s story begins in August 2017, when she passed what she thought was blood but turned out to be faeces in her urine. This was due to a fistula caused by late-stage bladder cancer.

Initially, she was told she had just weeks to live. Fast forwards to 2022, and Laura is clear of cancer and now lives with two permanent stomas. 

“This is a small price for a second chance at life, “she says. 

A few hours after total pelvic exenteration surgery

“When I say my journey began back in 2017, it began then in terms of the steps taken which led to my Bladder Cancer diagnosis. Regarding issues relating to my urinary tract, I had suffered from a very young age with UTIs. In the few years leading up to my diagnosis, they had become more frequent and painful and were treated with antibiotics.

Looking back at photos, with weight loss more than the weight I was actively trying to lose, I think I probably had cancer for a lot longer before it was officially diagnosed.

After initially seeing my GP, I was then referred to a urologist who, after an initial cystoscopy, discovered that my bladder was full of faeces; he assumed I had a bowel related illness and referred me to a colorectal consultant.

My bloods showed multiple issues, and I was admitted to the hospital for investigation, where I received a blood transfusion and a sigmoidoscopy.  At this stage, the possibility of bowel cancer was a real one. Indeed, as the bladder cancer had spread within my pelvic areas extensively, it wasn’t until the pathology results post-surgery that it was 100% confirmed that the origin was the bladder. However, pre-op diagnosis pointed to the bladders as the origin.

After weeks of CT scans, MRI, PET scans, and meetings with various medical professionals and in the intervening times, meetings taking place by my MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team), a few options were considered. Still, due to the aggressiveness of the cancer, options such as chemotherapy to reduce the tumour were quickly ruled out as time was running out. 

On 1st November 2017, I underwent a 12-hour total Pelvic Extenuation Surgery. It is a massively invasive surgery that involves the removal in whole or in part of all the organs in the pelvic area. It is only possible in a small percentage of cases (where the cancer is contained within the pelvis) and brings with its higher risk of mortality than an average operation and a greater risk than most operations of severe postoperative complications; however, it is carried out in most cases as a cure for the cancer, unlike many oncology surgeries.  However, the trade-off is that you are left with two permanent stomas (in my case, a urostomy and a colostomy), but that is a small price to pay for a second chance at life.

Now, 4.5 years on from my operation, and currently (you are only as good as your last scan), I am clear of cancer. This is a remarkable feat, given that post-op, I found out I only had weeks to live at the time of operating.

Today, I live an everyday life working full time and doing all the things I loved before.”

 

How has Fight Bladder Cancer helped you?

"I first heard about FBC when I heard Andrew Winterbottom do a radio interview in early 2018. I looked up the website and was amazed by the detail and range of aspects covered. 

I often used the website as a reference point and joined the Facebook Support Group, where I have always found someone to answer any questions. The Fight Magazine is also a welcome read when it hits my doormat. Not only does it share real-life experiences, but medical information is pitched at a level for all to understand."

 

 

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