December 20, 2000
This story was originally written as a letter to another patient of Dr. Mark Schoenberg, our surgeon for our common bladder cancer and successful neo-bladder replacement
I too had a successful bladder replacement (neo-bladder) performed by Mark Schoenberg, M.D, Director of Urologic Oncology, Associate Professor of Urology & Oncology at the Brady Urological Institute, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Md. I will try to relate some of my experiences. First let me congratulate you on passing your five-year mark; I am celebrating my five-month mark, having had my cancerous bladder, prostate and surrounding lymph nodes removed on July 10, 2000. But my story precedes that date by four years.
I began to notice at first infrequent urinary track infections and consumed copious amounts of cranberry juice to “cure” them. By 1997, the infections began to appear more frequently and I saw a local urologist who put me on a drug called Flomax. Several tests were performed over the next two years and by 1998 I noticed the more frequent urges to urinate. I have always enjoyed brisk walking and had been walking five miles a day for quite some time (my wife and I completed the 1997 Flora London Marathon, 26.3 miles through London, England), but now I was stopping once or twice a mile to relieve myself. By 1999, it worsened. I began to be incontinent.
In July 1999 I gasped in fear as my urine flowed pure red. We sped to the emergency room of a local hospital and were sent home with some medication and told to look for further symptoms. About a week later, my wife and I were just sitting down at a movie theater when I had the urge to pee again. The bowl of the men’s room urinal turned brilliant red and we rushed out of the theater and back to the hospital. I remember the look on the nurse’s face when I was told to fill up a plastic cup for her…. they instantly ushered me into an examining room. The urologist on call, Dr. G., was summoned and arrived about a half an hour later just as the young intern and an assistant were struggling to insert a catheter and could not get past my swollen prostate. The pain was unbearable. Dr. G. saw all this and pushed the other two out of the way and with his skilled surgical hands completed the task rapidly. After a long discussion of symptoms and blood tests, etc., Dr. G. advised that I undergo a TUR (Trans-Urethral Resection) operation the following morning to examine the interior of the bladder. He warned that the prostate would likely have to be shaved back away from the urethra in order to permit his instruments a better view of the bladder. The partially swollen prostate and resulting pressure could have been the source of the bleeding. However, as a consequence of this shaving, I would never again be able to ejaculate semen, it would dissolve into my urine and be removed with later urinating. This is still a strange phenomenon.