Tamasin’s story – Bladder Cancer Awareness Month

During the month of May Mater commemorates Bladder Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness for the disease which is the ninth most common cancer worldwide.

Mater patient Tamasin Stuart was diagnosed with bladder cancer in March 2017. Tamasin’s world changed forever as her doctors in Toowoomba notified her of a tumour in her bladder which needed to be removed.

Four weeks later, Tamasin – who lives in Stanthorpe – was referred to Mater Hospital Brisbane where she was told she would need to receive chemotherapy.

“By mid-June I started chemo and there were no words to describe it. It just takes over your whole body,” said Tamasin.

Unfortunately for Tamasin, bladder cancer wasn’t the only medical condition for which she was being treated. Barely two weeks into her chemotherapy, Tamasin was also diagnosed with shingles.

“It was another bad day when I was diagnosed with shingles. It was itchy and painful but I was given a dose of antibiotics to treat the shingles. Mater were great and made sure they maintained contact with my oncology registrar based in Toowoomba. ”

“During this period my seven year old daughter Molly stayed with my mum back in Stanthorpe as I was contagious. I hated her not being with me as I know that it was hard on her too.”

When Tamasin was able to recommence chemotherapy, she spent weeks enduring the side effects of the treatment and nearly gave up chemotherapy altogether.

“I was approaching my last round of chemotherapy and was with a friend in the ward when I mentioned that I wouldn’t be coming back. One of the chemo nurses overheard our conversation and talked me around to returning the next day. As a single mum, I was doing it for my daughter, Molly.”

Following three months of chemotherapy, Tamasin had a radical cystectomy and hysterectomy and spent two weeks in hospital.

“The doctors said that they are 85 per cent sure that they have removed all the cancer however it’s always in your mind that it will come back. I am very lucky though considering I had such a hard time with complications when I was first going through treatment.”

For Tamasin, Bladder Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to highlight the importance around further research into the disease.

“We all hope that at some stage they can cure all cancers but it would be interesting to identify what is triggering the disease; is it what we are eating or something we did years ago?”

Tamasin recently returned to Mater Hospital Brisbane to have her final operation and will head back to Stanthorpe where she will receive regular check-ups to monitor her progress.

Each year 500,000 people around the world are diagnosed with bladder cancer and it has the highest recurrence rate of all known cancers.

Main causes of bladder cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Chemical exposure through work
  • Previous radiation therapy to the pelvis

Main symptoms of bladder cancer include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Changes to urination including but not limited to increased need to urinate, pain or burning when urinating, urgency to urinate and trouble passing urine or weak stream
  • Lower back pain

Treatment varies dependant on the stage of bladder cancer and can include:

  • Removal of the bladder (Radical cystectomy) and formation of a new internal bladder (neobladder) or urostomy stoma
  • Regular Transurethral Resections of the bladder cancer under general anaesthetic
  • Immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatment directly into the bladder
  • Radiotherapy treatment to the bladder
  • Systemic chemotherapy would only be given in conjunction with other treatments including surgery or radiotherapy.

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