Bladder Cancer Survivor

Photo: Paul - Bladder Cancer Survivor

My name is Paul and I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996 when I was only 34 years old. I was in the Air Force and living in Germany. I worked in a military garage taking care of various vehicles. Back then we didn't use a lot of protective gear, even though we were exposed to all kinds of chemicals in the solvents and cleaning fluids we were using. Today, these things are known to cause cancer.

When I had my first symptom, I was young and active, in shape, and I had never smoked. I was married and had two kids. Life was good and I felt fine. So it was a shock when I went to the bathroom one day to relieve myself and what came out was blood.

It blew my mind. I went straight to the hospital with my adrenaline pumping. I started to rationalize that it must've been something I ate because I didn't have any problems until that day. But that wasn't the case. I had bladder cancer.

“I truly believe without the care I received from my doctor and everyone at Virginia Mason, I wouldn't be here today.”

In 1996, I had surgery and the hope was that it would take care of the problem. It didn't and because of my medical condition, I left the Air Force the next year. My doctor in Germany had connections to the Northwest and told me to see a particular doctor at Virginia Mason when I got home.

I was only back for five days when I found out that my mother's best friend worked for this doctor. The long story short is that I became a patient at Virginia Mason and today can say that I am a 20-year bladder cancer survivor. I truly believe without the care I received from my doctor and everyone at Virginia Mason, I wouldn't be here today. It seems everyone hates going to the doctor, but I don't. I look forward to it because the people at Virginia Mason make it a good experience.

Cancer can happen to anyone, but if you have the right people taking care of you, you don't have to be a victim. My belief is that challenges are good for you since you learn what you are capable of doing. I've found that I'm capable of handling a lot.

To other cancer patients, I would say, "Get healthy, get strong, and develop a positive attitude. Find the right people to take care of you and follow their instructions. Your body can do amazing things and you can get better, even after a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition like cancer."