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Real Stories...

My name is Dave

"I feel that I’m lucky that my bladder was removed before the cancer spread."

I was born on 27 October 1946 and have been married for the last 42 years to my lovely, supportive wife, Lynn. I have two grown-up girls (Rachel & Rebecca),  and two grandchildren. My youngest daughter moved to Australia in 2008, 1 year before cancer hit myself and my wife. I’m a quiet sort of a man, going about my business and getting on with whatever life throws at me. I retired 1 year early and really enjoy where I am in life (sounds strange saying that). I have  volunteered for Lifelites since 2001, volunteering at Demelza Hospice Care for Children in their IT department, but resigned in 2014. I now run a military website about the parachute regiment.

How did bladder cancer come into your life?

I was diagnosed in October 2009, aged 64. At the time I had no idea of what was about to happen to me. I was a licensed London taxi driver for 36 years just going about my daily life. About 4 months earlier I started to have problems with my wee, my GP gave me antibiotics (and then more antibiotics), I then had problems emptying my bladder and ended up in A&E three times to have a catheter fitted to drain the urine. Clearly further tests were required. I had an appointment with Dr Paul Reddy at the NHS Maidstone Hospital, Kent. He informed me that I had bladder cancer and recommended having it removed ASAP. Within 4 weeks it was gone. The first question I was asked by everyone? “Did I smoke?” 

Like many others I started smoking about 14 years of age … I packed up smoking when I was 20. I was extremely fit in my twenties having served in the parachute regiment” for a number of years. Sadly, driving a London taxi and breathing in those diesel fumes didn’t help. In my view it was diesel fumes and tnot drinking enough water that did the damage.

Both my wife and I were treated in the same hospital (Maidstone) at the same time, me for bladder cancer and my wife for endometrial cancer … in a strange way it’s bought us even closer together because we really do know what it’s like to be treated with cancer and the mind games that it plays in our heads. Since my operation in November 2009 we have been lucky enough to visit our daughter in Australia and her family three times. Travelling with a stoma bag is not a problem – on the plus side you get extra luggage allowance!

A quick word about our sex life – for me sexual function (erectile dysfunction) was lost. I did try injections but it wasn’t for us, my wife had radiotherapy which left her sore … simple solution more cuddles and holding hands. Now 6 years on I can tell you I often have a tear or two when talking about my cancer.

What was the initial cancer diagnosis?

Bladder Grade = T3 / T4 on CT scan … Invading at least the superficial muscle although undoubtedly going into deep muscle as well. A hydronephrotic right kidney leading to an additional diagnosis a year later of chronic Stage 4 kidney disease.

What life changes have you made now you are affected by bladder cancer? 

I now know every toilet in town, I have a disabled toilet key and usually carry a small bag in the car with spare underwear / trousers / and spare stoma bags and cleaning stuff … if I'm going away for the weekend I always take a waterproof sheet to put on the bed (better safe than sorry). The one embarrassing moment I did have was when having treatment in the dentist chair and halfway through … my bag leaked … big time, thankfully the dentist was very understanding, the lesson I learnt from that was … every chance you get, empty your bag!

What positives can you share about your experience?

However you say it, it’s a major thing that happens to you when “you have bladder cancer”, those first 2 – 3 days in HDU can be really stressful … but … things move really fast. Before you know it you are out of bed walking around the ward and learning how to look after yourself, and then you are on your way home. Easy to say, but you must stay positive for those family members around you.

How has Fight Bladder Cancer helped you?

The driving force behind the Fight Bladder Cancer charity, their website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Andrew Winterbottom has put together a team which includes active consultants / urologists. He also campaigns our charity on a national scale. You really must see the Fight Bladder Cancer Confidential Forum in action to really appreciate what each member does … Why do we do it? … Because we have been there, our battles are your battles.

What advice would you give someone who has just been diagnosed? 

Join Facebook and ask to join the Fight Bladder Cancer support group as soon as you can, or get a relative to help you [Knowledge is Strength]. Have a party and stay positive, that, like me, you will be cancer free … and that, my Bladder Buddies, sums it up … CANCER FREE.

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