Should you be happy knowing you have cancer, that there may be a treatment that will work for you, after you’ve already resigned yourself to the facts that had been presented to you? That is a hard note to sing about. The roller-coaster ride never gets easier. I have known too many people diagnosed with debilitating illness, and any news only brings more fears and anxiety, to add to the list of how we are supposed to feel. We are supposed to laugh in the face of danger, and carry on as though, what we go through is nothing. The conflicts of our emotions are not only real, but assist, or hinder our wellness. How are we to act, knowing almost all is lost?
It started in October, 2011, when I peed a blood clot. It happened two or three times over the course of a few days. Peeing a blood clot when you are a guy feels weird. It feels like an obstruction, and the dam suddenly breaks open. I don’t know what a woman feels when she pees, or if she would notice it.
Actually I’m sure she would notice it, but would probably figure it was getting close to ” that time of the month “. Guys don’t have that to deal with, usually. So I felt a mild obstruction, then the dam broke loose and I was looking at a dark, nearly black blood clot. It slowly sank into the toilet bowl without breaking up, or changing the color of the urine.
I considered what I saw for a moment with a hint of mild panic, and made a mental note of the strange occurrence. It happened again a couple of days later, almost in the same way, and I knew something wasn’t quite right. I tried to do a self diagnosis, without enough facts, and the only thing I found on the web was maybe I had bruised my kidney or some such.
I had been eating aspirin for about 10 years, at the rate of no more than 10 a day at 500 milligrams each, so I decided to quit the aspirin regimen for a few days. The aspirin was for chronic pain in my joints ( knees mostly ). I don’t do pharmaceuticals, as I believe they’re bad for us, so aspirin was to take the place of an anti-inflammatory, and to help keep pain down to a minimum.
I didn’t have another episode like that for about three months. I was taking the aspirin again, and had been for quite some time. I had only quit the aspirin for a few days, and not having that blood clot in the pee problem happen again immediately, I had thought it was just a fluke. I guess it wasn’t, in hindsight.
So it had happened again in January of 2012, only a brief episode and mysteriously vanished again. I figured it must have been because I had started eating aspirin at my usual doses again. So once again I quit taking aspirin for a few weeks, and everything seemed to go back to normal.
In March it happened again. Just as before, and I repeated the steps I had taken previously, so the symptoms abated, again. I knew aspirin was a thinning agent in the blood stream, so I lived with the pain in my joints for about 6 months, before resorting to aspirin again. The pain in my joints was constant, and every heartbeat could be felt in my knees. Even now I can’t really describe it.
Because of massive cartilage and ligament damage, my knees ached constantly. Every step is an agonizing ordeal, as the joints separate when I lift my feet to walk, and don’t always reconnect properly as I step upon them again. That happens about every third step, and the pain is excruciating. It always feels like bone hitting bone, with no cushion between them.
So once again I resorted to the aspirin, and around November, I peed a couple of blood clots again. That time they were even bigger, and more frequent. I knew If I stopped taking aspirin, the problem would go away. So I pretended everything was fine and endured the constant pain for a while longer.
By January I was getting tired of the throbbing in my knees, so I started taking aspirin again. I kept my dosage down to three, or maybe six aspirin a day, and it helped with the pain. I thought such a small dosage would be okay, and it seemed to be fine.
About mid February the symptoms returned with a fierceness, I would never have thought possible. This time it wasn’t only a blood clot or two. It was as though a log jam had given way. I peed blood. At first it was a purple black color, but as days passed, my pee was starting to be a bright crimson in color, and it happened every time I peed.
I mostly kept this information to my self, as I didn’t want to worry my wife. I also realized it wasn’t just a bruised kidney or some other lame thing. I put up with that for about a month, but found myself getting weaker and having trouble doing the simplest chores. I would have to kneel down, to get more blood flow up to my head.
I could hear my heart beating in my ears, and it sounded just like a train running across the trestle, near where we lived. A chore that usually took ten minutes to do, was taking a half hour, and I had to get low often. I knew I was in trouble, and was going to have to see a doctor.
Near the end of March, I knew I was in trouble so I mentioned to my wife I needed to go see a doctor. She knew I wasn’t kidding. A man doesn’t say he has to go see a doctor, unless something is seriously wrong. We found my old doctor was still practicing in town, and I made an appointment.
He did a quick exam, and we discussed what my symptoms were, and I gave him a blood sample, and a bright red urine sample. Those were sent off to the lab at the local hospital that morning. That was a Friday morning. Apparently, he was called before the end of the day, and told I needed to get in there for a blood transfusion. His receptionist tried to call, maybe, but I never got the message.
A week later I called him to see if he had received any information on my problem. He was shocked that I hadn’t been notified, as it was urgent for me to get to the hospital immediately for a transfusion. I called the hospital, and they set it up for me to be there at seven the next morning. That took all day, Saturday, and I was given three units of fresh blood.
The new blood was so I could endure a month of testing and diagnosis, to determine what my problem was. The tests included x-rays, ultra-sound, a complete physical, and a trip to Coeur D’Alane Idaho to the urologist. I was informed I was at an age, that this doctor would be my new best friend. I had thought I was being kidded, but even the urologist assured me that this would be the case, as I would be seeing him lots.
By mid May I received my prognosis, cancer! Cancer of the bladder, and it was probably caused by tobacco use. After smoking pretty much non-stop for over 40 years, bladder cancer was probably be the primary cause. And a word to all, I was told once something like this happened, it generally continues. Even after surgery, and a year and a half of being cancer free, I will have to be concerned with this as cancer cells would still be present in my system.
The tumor had attached itself to the bladder wall, feeding on a blood vessel. It was slowly dripping blood into the bladder. I saw that on the ultra-sound, and every time it dripped, it would pulse red, keeping time with my heartbeat, as though my heart was a metronome. The picture of it was truly impressive. It looked like a miniature coral garden, like you see on a National Geographic special.
This is a picture of that type of cancer cells / tumor I was shown via a scope put up my manly parts. This image is from Google Images via biome.biomedcentral.com