After going to the toilet and noticing blood in his urine, Mark received a bladder cancer diagnosis that has had a big impact on his lifestyle. The support he received from Cancer Council SA throughout his diagnosis and treatment inspired him to become a Cancer Connect volunteer, to support other men going through a similar cancer experience.
“One night, I went to the toilet, and I was urinating blood. So, the next morning I went to my GP who sent me to see a specialist. The diagnosis was bladder cancer. The doctor said, ‘if we don’t take your bladder out, you’ll be dead within two to five years’,” Mark says.
Sometimes bladder cancer doesn’t have many symptoms and is found when a urine test is done for another reason. But most people with bladder cancer will experience symptoms like Mark did. Symptoms of bladder cancer can include blood in the urine, changes in bladder habits or pain while urinating.
Mark had the surgery to remove his bladder in 2015, and now self-catheterising and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a part of his everyday life. Unfortunately, this meant leaving his work in construction mining – which involved working away from home for periods of time.
“It was just more difficult on a day-to-day basis to manage self-catheterising while working 12-hour shifts, compared to working a 9-5 job when you’re home at night and have weekends off. It’s just a better lifestyle,” Mark says.
“Some of these job sites where I was working had no hot water, so when you’d clean your hands to go catheterise, you may not be getting the bacteria off your hands. I thought I was going to be okay but in the long run it wasn’t.”
During his cancer experience, Mark started to experience low mood which is a common emotional experience following a cancer diagnosis. When he couldn’t shake the feelings, he reached out to Cancer Council SA for help.
“When I was diagnosed, it was the same year my mother died and then I started to think about what would happen if I died,” Mark says.
“I had the black dog on my shoulder, and I just couldn’t get myself out of it. I perceive myself as quite a positive person, and I just couldn’t shake that off me. My wife was a tower of strength and I leant on her for support, while also speaking to a Cancer Council SA Counsellor a couple of times to help work through things.”
The support Mark received from Cancer Council SA inspired him to want to give something back. When he found out about the Cancer Connect Program, he jumped at the chance to volunteer.
Cancer Connect is a free and confidential telephone support service that connects people impacted by cancer and carers with a trained volunteer who has recovered physically and emotionally from their own cancer experience.
Since joining the program two years ago, Mark has connected with eight other men who are going through bladder cancer to listen and provide support during their cancer experience.
“You can’t do this all on your own and sometimes people that are really close to you, like your family, just don’t understand,” Mark says.
“I find out from them first about what they’re experiencing and then I give them my take on it or tell them about my experiences that are relevant or similar to what they’re experiencing. If I can share something that helps with what they’re going through, that’s what I want to do.”
If you’re interested in speaking to someone about your cancer experience who has had a similar diagnosis or treatment, or who shares a similar age or lifestyle to you, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to register your interest for the Cancer Connect program.