Christine Clay

1947 – 2003
Columbus, Ohio

Chris and grandson Anthony

Chris and her husband Scott

Loving wife of 36 years, mother of two, passed at the tender age of 55 years due to metastatic bladder cancer.

Mom first noticed blood in her urine in the summer of 1999, around the same time that the media coverage was on JFK Junior’s plane crash. Concerned after a few days it hadn’t gone away, so she went to her local family doctor to find the cause. Up to this point Mom was a healthy, active, non-smoker, with absolutely no medical conditions to speak of. The local doctor gave her an antibiotic and hoped it would clear up. It did in fact clear up for a short while, but came right back. I contacted a local Columbus Hospital for her and made an appointment. Tests revealed a small group of polyps were growing inside her bladder, but they were contained solely in her bladder. The doctor "scoped" the polyps, which was an outpatient procedure, and told us to come back in 3 months for another checkup. Mom’s "pink pee" had gone away, so we thought all was well. 3 months later more polyps had returned, so the doctor performed intravesical chemotherapy a single time, along with another "scope". I would like to point out that the doctor was saying things such as "If there’s a type of cancer to have, it’s bladder cancer…it’s very treatable with high success rates".

Mom was told to come back 3 months later for another checkup. Spring of 2001. Mom’s third trip in, and her bladder was clean. Nothing was found, so the "Doc" told her to come back in 6 months. Fall 2001. The "pink pee" returned, so she went back again to the doctor. This time the news was bad; a tumor had invaded the "wall" of her bladder, and the doctor would try again to "scope" out the tumor, but at this point he highly recommended her getting her bladder removed. After the procedure he felt he didn’t get all of the tumor, and told us of a new procedure they were doing at another larger state hospital in which a "neobladder" could be made. Mom scheduled the appointment immediately (her CAT results showed nothing else other than the areas in her bladder) in November. Her new hospital said they were TOO BOOKED UP and she wouldn’t be able to get in until March, which was 3.5 months later. Mom continually called the hospital to try an get a sooner appointment, and finally one opened up for Feb 16, 2002.

Feb 2002 – Mom had a full hysterectomy and her bladder removed, and very unfortunately the cancer was found in 3 of her pelvic lymph nodes, which the doctor removed. A neobladder was not possible due to the spread of the cancer. WE ALL FEEL that had she been able to get in sooner appointment-wise this wouldn’t have happened. Bladder cancer is very serious, and we feel we were given a false sense of complacency by her first doctor’s words.

April 2002 – Mom started chemo, and her first rounds were cisplatin and gemcidabine. The treatments weren’t too bad of her at first; they were in 2-3 week cycles depending on her blood count. When the count was too low, she was offered Nupigen in order to bring her counts back up, but Mom had an adverse reaction to it. Her heart raced and she felt really strange, so the doctor told her to stop taking it.

June 2002- 4 months post-op, and her results from her CAT came back clean. The cancer was in remission, and couldn’t be found anywhere on the CAT. Mom continued chemo until late August/early September 2002, even though at this point the accumulated side-effects were taking a huge toll on her strength.

October/November 2002- Mom’s back started hurting mildly, and went in for another CAT. The cancer was back, and had spread to remote lymph nodes near her aorta. Doctor’s said there was no way to remove the swollen nodes operably; only chemo had a chance of shrinking them. Doctors wanted her to start a 2nd round of chemo ASAP.

December 30, 2002 – Mom wanted to give herself and her family Thanksgiving and Christmas with her, so she waited until after the New Year for the 2nd round of chemo. By New Year’s her back was in incredible pain, and a CAT from December 30 showed 3 spots on her liver. Mom could hardly walk at this time because of the pain in her back, and the doctors put her on morphine. Morphine helped somewhat with the pain, but her hips were aching and her legs were swollen. Also the pain medication slowed down her digestive system, so using the bathroom "to poop" was a challenge for her. Days would go by with no bowel movement.

January 17, 2003 – Mom tried her 2nd round of chemo, this time it was a Taxol/Carboplatin mixture, which took about 4 hours to administer. I drove her home from the treatment and that was the first day Mom and I ever discussed what life could be like if she wasn’t around, which she brought up. It made me very sad, but she was very realistic about what was going on. I feel I should point out Mom never complained about any of this; getting cancer, having the treatment, feeling bad, nothing. She was a true "warrior" if there ever was one, and wanted to live more than anything.

January 24-Feb 9 2003 – After the 2nd round of chemo, Mom’s condition worsened drastically every day. Several emergency room visits were made because of the pressure on her rib cage; the doctors now said her liver was swollen to 2x size due to cancer. The pain in her back was unbearable and she upped her dosage of Morphine. This was getting very rough, because we all felt helpless. Very helpless. Dad called and set up an appointment to go to another facility in Lisle, Illinois (Cancer Treatment centers of
America) and they flew over on Feb 10.

Feb 10- The Doctors and staff were very nice, and we genuine got a feeling that they would do anything to help us. We all wished we’d have gone there much sooner. They performed procedures that the state run hospital wouldn’t have; they did a kidney dialysis among other things. There were a couple of good days in the last week in which Mom was up eating and talking, but for the most part she was so medicated and sick she was incoherent. I made 2 trips over to see her, and the last time her and I spoke was Monday Feb 17. I did get to tell her how much I loved her and how she was the world’s greatest mother.

She was very happy to have others to discuss options with on this group, and if she were here she’d have 2 things to say to all of you;

1. Don’t give up, ever, and good luck! Sometimes things are the way they are just because.

2. Please don’t take having blood in your urine lightly; if you have repeated problems get that bladder out of you ASAP. Even if you are unable to get a "neobladder", life is very managable with "the bag" and you get used to it quickly. Please don’t underestimate how quickly this cancer can spread, no matter how high the success rate is for those who catch it early. Mom caught it early, but still couldn’t shake it.

Mom passed away peacefully on Sunday morning, February 23rd, 2003. She was two weeks from her 36th wedding anniversary, and one month shy of 56 years of age. She is survived by 12 loving brothers and sisters, a 29 year old son (Shawn) and loving daughter (Molly – 32), a extremely devoted and loving husband since ’67 (Scott) and her only grandson, Anthony.

Shawn Clay