Just days before his 59th birthday, John Hottinger found specks of blood in his urine.
At the insurance agency where he worked, Hottinger confided in a friend and colleague, who helped him book an appointment with an internist. After undergoing tests, Hottinger received an ominous phone call from the doctor, who told him to come back in and bring his wife. The news was not good: Hottinger had grade 4 bladder cancer. The tumor was in an unusual location, where the bladder joins the kidney. Hottinger still had a lot more living to do: His youngest daughter was in middle school, his son in high school.
He would need his bladder removed. Hottinger’s wife, Betty, began doing research. She found Dr. Mark S. Litwin, professor and chair of UCLA Urology and an expert in neobladder surgery, which uses a section of the patient’s intestines to construct a new bladder.
Without the neobladder, bladder-removal surgery would necessitate having urine draining into a bag hanging outside of Hottinger’s body. He knew he didn’t want to live with that the rest of his life.
Hottinger made the trek from his San Luis Obispo, CA, home to UCLA, where Dr. Litwin – whom Hottinger calls ‘an artist,’ designed him a new bladder. It was the right choice. Hottinger knows other men his age who were hit with a similar diagnosis; those who chose not to have their bladder removed have since died.
Sure, he had to go through surgery and retrain himself to urinate out of a new bladder. Carbonated drinks can be a pain. But these inconveniences pale next to the benefits.
“I’m completely back to normal and living life as if it never happened,” Hottinger says. There is no bag hanging on the side of his body that must be emptied.
Now 67, Hottinger is eight years cancer-free.