Laura’s Bladder Cancer Journey

With it being Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share with you my bladder cancer journey.

My name is Laura MacKenzie, I am 45 years old, and I live on the west coast of Scotland with my husband Iain, who has been by my side for every step of my bladder cancer journey.

bladder cancer

My journey

My journey began back in August 2017, when I started passing what I thought was blood in my urine. Having suffered from UTIs for years and I had been having to pee more in the week or so previous, I put it down to another UTI. It was a Friday night, and I couldn’t do anything until the doctor’s surgery opened on the Monday.

By Monday morning, I knew it was something different. Something much more alarming and scarier. I realised in fact, that it wasn’t blood but faeces in my urine. I found out later in my diagnosis process, that this was due to a fistula between my bladder and bowel, caused by the cancerous tumour.

I saw my GP that Monday morning and that’s that’s where I started my bladder cancer journey, although of course at this point, I didn’t realise that it was cancer.

I was sent to a urologist who carried out a cystoscopy. He couldn’t really see anything as my bladder was full of faeces.

He sent me to see a colorectal consultant as it was initially thought to be a bowel related issue of some sort. He did some initial blood works etc and told me to return the following day. The next day he told me almost every reading was too low or too high and I need urgent hospital treatment.

I was admitted to my local hospital where they tried to stabilise all my vitals. I stayed for 3 nights, during which time I was given a blood transfusion and had a sigmoidoscopy. I was told they suspected it was cancer ahead of the sigmoidoscopy and best-case scenario I would need some radiotherapy and worse case scenario, I would have to see a senior specialist in Glasgow and major surgery was likely to be necessary.

Cancer diagnosis 

In September, I had an appointment with the colorectal consultant who had carried out the sigmoidoscopy. She confirmed I had cancer. It was suspected to have originated in the bladder but at this stage this was not clear and the origin wasn’t confirmed until my post-operative pathology results were available.

In the end, I had to go to Glasgow to see the specialist.  My cancer was invasive, and my tumour had spread out of the bladder to the pelvic area.

Different options were considered but, in the end, it was decided that time was not on my side, so the decision was made to go straight to surgery.

In October I was hospitalised and had two nephrostomies fitted as my kidneys were performing poorly. This is where urine is diverted straight from your kidneys to collection bags, what was going to my first insight to life with a bag.

In November, I underwent a lifesaving total pelvic exenteration surgery (surgery to remove your bladder, bowel, and your reproductive and pelvic organs). This is a massively invasive surgery and can only be done in a very limited number of cases where the cancer has not spread out with the pelvic area and there is a good chance of a cure. It carries double the mortality rates of an average operation.

I got through the surgery well and 17 days later, I left the hospital to start the real recovery. I also had to come to terms with and started learning how to live with two stoma bags, a colostomy and a urostomy.

Four and a half years later, I live a good life. I have adjusted well to living with two stomas. I work full-time. I am a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and a friend. I am also a passionate advocate for stomas and fellow ostomates and well as raising awareness of bladder cancer.

Laura @2bagsforlife