When 2014 began, I was a single woman living in Sydney, Australia. My work as a barrister dominated my life and lifestyle, as I determinedly built a business and a career. But life has a tendency not to pay attention to the blueprints we draw up. By the end of 2015, I was a married woman living in New York. Being a barrister was no longer possible, and I found myself building not just a new life but a new sense of self.
Then, in 2017, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was Stage I, High Grade – which meant it was aggressive but contained within the lining of the bladder. The diagnosis took everyone by surprise. The average age at diagnosis is 73, and two thirds of those it affects are men. My new life, having barely taken root, was newly fragile.
But life had not finished with its surprises. In early 2018, I found out the cancer had metastasized. It spread first to my lungs, my lymph nodes, and my skin. It soon spread to my liver and bones. I started chemotherapy. And then started this blog.
The vast majority of Stage IV bladder cancer patients will not make it to 5 years. Chemotherapy, even when it works, does not lead to a lasting response for most. It tends to come back, quickly. New immunotherapy drugs and other clinical trials provide more hope than ever before, but these still only work for a minority of patients.
The odds are not in my favor. But there is hope. And there is life to keep living as meaningfully as possible.