A Return to Normal Life After Bladder Cancer

Hugh Bennett
His bladder cancer behind him, Hugh Bennett feels “truly blessed.”

Former television engineer Hugh Bennett lived a healthy, active life and felt great, except for the fact he was having difficulty passing urine. He’d also noticed a spot of blood in his urine. His primary care physician, John Peng, MD, of Virginia Mason Lynnwood Medical Center, ordered a CT scan to determine the cause. Dr. Peng called Hugh that evening and told him he was concerned about a spot on his bladder that might be cancer.

Hugh then saw urologist John Corman, MD, who examined Hugh’s bladder and found a very large tumor. Following the biopsy confirming the tumor was malignant, he recommended surgery to remove the bladder, which would be followed by reconstruction surgery to create a new way for urine to leave Hugh’s body.

Urologist Alvaro Lucioni, MD, performed a reconstruction procedure called urinary diversion. There are several types of urinary diversion. Selection of an option is determined by the patient’s preference, the health of the patient’s kidneys and intestines, and if it is the right operation to take care of the bladder cancer. The option selected for Hugh was to create a neobladder fashioned from his intestine. Dr. Lucioni created a urinary reservoir or storage pouch. The pouch was then connected to the urethra. “One benefit of the neobladder is that it is inside the body so urine can pass out of the body normally,” says Dr. Lucioni. “A challenge is that there is no longer the urge to urinate, so Hugh needed to learn to urinate on a consistent schedule.”

“I admit, I was freaking out,” Hugh recalls. “The thought of having my bladder removed and learning to live with a new one was very frightening. I didn’t know what my life would be like.”

Hugh says the support received from the medical team helped him and his wife, Lynne, get through this difficult time. “Both Dr. Corman and Dr. Lucioni took the time to thoroughly explain my treatment options and listen to my concerns, as well as ease my emotional distress as I came to terms with my condition.”

Another team resource is Theresa Lehan-Anderson, RN. “We’ll be forever grateful for the never-ending support and care Theresa provided. Whether in the home, clinic, hospital or during calls to our home, there was always a tremendous reduction in our stress levels after she patiently answered our questions,” Hugh says. “She gave us the confidence we needed to get through this.”

“We’re extremely grateful to have such a great medical team as our life-after-bladder-cancer treatment continues. Thanks to the people at Virginia Mason and to my wife. I have been truly blessed.”