Max returned home from the hospital a couple of weeks post surgery. On the mend, he slowly resumed some of his old activities. We both were euphoric. Light-hearted and hopeful. I planned the trip we had postponed because of his troubles. But all that was behind us. Finding no cancer, the doctor had time to remove the putrified part of Max’s small intestine that had been causing him all the problems. He was gradually becoming pain free and mobile
One month later, the bleeding began. He urinated blood, which stained his clothes and clotted, causing intense pain and pressure in his bladder. You’ve probably had times when you weren’t able to find a restroom to urinate. Think of how miserable that was. Now multiply that by 10.
So, we started our march to the emergency room…actually more than a march, more like a revolving door. In and out we went. Max would be catheterized, his bladder emptied and then he would be sent on his way. A few days later, he would be back in with the same complaint. After a number of trips to nearby hospitals, we drove down to UCSD hoping his doctors would be alerted to the situation. Extremely anemic and weak from blood loss, he had to be hospitalized, but he was soon released with a diagnosis of ‘radiation cystitis,’ placed on expensive medication and left to his own recognizance. And back he went again and again.
The more times we cycled through the ER, the more obvious the gaping holes in the medical system became. When the Oncologist finally discovered the tumor on Max’s bladder it was almost a relief to know what was going on. The Urologist performed a cystoscopy, only to learn a 5cm tumor had eaten into the bladder lining. There was no denying the seriousness of Max’s condition. Our hope crumbled. Our joy drained out along with Max’s life blood. Inside of him was a raging fire that could no longer be contained.
Then I recalled the trip to the ER only a week before Max’s last surgery. That was the first time he had bled from his bladder. He had been diagnosed with a Urinary Tract Infection, but there was a post script on the report: Possible recurrence of cancer in the bladder. With that in mind, I ordered Max’s recent medical files. What I discovered blew me away. During surgery they had biopsied his spine. They had biopsied his intestines. They had biopsied his liver. But they had never biopsied his bladder. When I confronted the surgeon about this all she could tell me was, ‘his bladder looked too healthy.’
Unfortunately, it wasn’t.