Blood in your urine is not normal, although it can indicate a number of things from an infection to cancer.
Still, as Charlie Humphries will tell you, sometimes you may hesitate to take action, hoping the problem will go away on its own.
“Believe me, I wanted to find any way I could to not have to do anything about it,” says the 76-year-old bladder cancer survivor.
“If you see blood in your urine, don’t hesitate to do something about it,” Charlie says. “I wish I would have gotten it checked out sooner.”
Up until a few years ago, Charlie led a normal, active life. He and his wife Sally live in the Philadelphia suburbs. They have two children and four grandchildren. Charlie worked part-time for an organization that provides transportation for those who are unable to transport themselves.
In his spare time, he played tennis and golf regularly. And he enjoyed walks in his neighborhood as well as gardening.
That all came to a startling halt a few years ago, after Charlie decided he could no longer ignore the blood he’d detected in his urine. He experienced no pain, discomfort or loss of appetite, but decided it was time to make an appointment with his primary care physician.
Believing that the situation was more serious than a bladder infection, his primary care physician referred Charlie see a urologist who ordered a biopsy.
The results of the biopsy taken during a cystoscopy procedure, stunned Charlie and his family.
He had Stage II bladder cancer.
A close friend referred Charlie to medical oncologist Jean Hoffman-Censits, MD, a clinician and researcher with expertise in bladder cancer in the Department of Medical Oncology, Solid Tumor Division, and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.
On the day of Charlie’s appointment with Dr. Hoffman-Censits, he also met with Jefferson urologist, Edouard Trabulsi, MD.
After a second cystoscopy, Charlie’s team of physicians from the Multidisciplinary Genitourinary Oncology Center at Jefferson determined his course of treatment. They recommended four months of chemotherapy followed by the removal of Charlie’s bladder.
Following chemotherapy, Charlie’s successful bladder removal surgery took place at the end of July.
Charlie explains that it was about nine months before he was able to get back to his normal activities. However, he says he is feeling great now and has resumed his part-time career and daily exercise.
“Although it was definitely a long recovery process, I am now back to my normal routine … I am able to do anything I want,” exclaims Charlie.
For two years after his surgery, Charlie saw Drs. Hoffman-Censits and Trabulsi every three months for a check-up but he is now able to see them at six-month intervals.
Charlie says he’s grateful to his Jefferson physicians for their excellent and compassionate care during a truly challenging phase in his life. He says his experience at Jefferson was definitely a positive one.
As a survivor, Charlie hopes to help other bladder cancer patients. He explains the need for patients to truly understand what they are going to go through when faced with the loss of their bladder.
“You really need to feel committed that whatever you need to deal with, you’ll be able to get through and have the life you once had…and I have so far.”
Even though bladder cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States, with more than 73,000 new cases found each year, it gets little attention.
Charlie wants to help change that. He is participating with Dr. Hoffman-Censits and the rest of Team Jefferson in the Walk for Bladder Cancer as part of Bladder Cancer Awareness Day on Saturday, May 4th.
The walk is sponsored by the first national advocacy organization dedicated to advancing bladder cancer research, support and education, the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN).
This is an organization that is dear to Charlie’s heart as he embarks on his own journey to spread awareness and be a support for other patients.