Two summers ago, just before embarking on a visit to her native South Africa, Sally Dansey noticed blood in her urine, accompanied by painful urination.
Her doctor diagnosed the 57-year-old Dansey with a urinary tract infection. After many rounds of antibiotics, the painful symptoms weren’t going away and Dansey, a trained nurse, knew something else was wrong.
Upon her return to her Thousand Oaks, CA, home in September, Dansey followed the advice of her husband, an oncologist, and booked an appointment with UCLA Urology.
After a routine round of tests, Dansey received the news she had feared: She had bladder cancer. Dr. Ja-Hong Kim, a UCLA urologist, discovered the tumors and removed them, then gave Dansey BCG, a vaccine-like drug designed to direct the immune system to kill the remaining bladder cancer cells.
Unfortunately, the drug did not produce the desired effect. Dr. Mark S. Litwin, professor and chair of UCLA Urology, recommended that Dansey have a radical cystectomy – removal of her bladder – followed by replacement with a new bladder designed out of a portion of her intestines.
Dansey’s initial response was a combination of shock and dismay. “Take the whole thing out?” she asked. Dr. Litwin suggested she meet with a radiation oncologist and medical oncologist to weigh the alternatives, including her odds of survival if she opted for radiation or chemotherapy to treat the aggressive cancer.
After doing so, Dansey opted to have Drs. Litwin and Kim perform the cystectomy and bladder reconstruction last February. Today, the cancer that had been living in the walls of her bladder is no longer a threat.
The new bladder took some getting used to, Dansey says, but that was a small price to pay for the resumption of a normal, healthy life.