Experiencing bladder cancer: James Millard’s story

James, 63, a non-smoker for the last 20 years, had spent Sunday having lunch and red wine with friends, prior to flying the next day to the United States on business.

“At first I thought that maybe the reason my pee had turned a much darker colour was because of the red wine I had drunk the day before. I called my doctor, however, and before my flight I was able to get some tests set up.”

Upon James’ return home, he was referred to Mr Ken Anson, a consultant urologist and former TUF scholar. After further tests James was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

“The odd thing is that I did not feel ill in the slightest. They had caught the disease relatively early; I had a Grade 2, non-invasive cancer so I wasn’t in a position where I was in a lot of discomfort. The most unpleasant thing was waiting for the news, as opposed to the news that actually arrived.”

His cancer diagnosis still affected his work life, however. “To everyone I saw at work, I wasn’t ill. I didn’t look unwell and it wasn’t obvious I had anything wrong with me at all, even though I was receiving chemotherapy at the time. But it did affect my future plans at work. For example, I had an exhibition to attend in June of last year, and I had to tell people that I’d only be there if I was still feeling well enough, and they’d look at me as if to say ‘Well, why wouldn’t you be?’ It was in that way that the cancer affected me most.”

For James, it was the relationships with his family and his consultant that made the whole process easier to contend with.

“I had a really good relationship with Mr Anson. He was always available to talk to me and to give me advice when I needed it. But my wife was very helpful to me too. When I went for appointments it was really helpful to have her there to listen to what Mr Anson was saying. When you are being provided with so much important information it is difficult to remember it all. Having someone else there to pick it up for you is really valuable.”

Going through the experience has inspired James to spread awareness of urology health as far and wide as he possibly can. “Before my diagnosis I had never considered my urological health at all, not for one second. But now having had bladder cancer, I have been telling everyone I know that blood in your pee, however small, is not normal and you need to be checked out.

“I am 63 years old and this is the prime age to be affected by these kind of conditions but we often don’t pay attention because life gets in the way. It worries me that people might ignore small symptoms and convince themselves that they are unimportant, but this is the best time to be checked as early intervention is the key. I am so glad that I went to my doctor.”

What James now wants is for everyone to be as conscious as they can of their symptoms and the risk factors, the greatest of which is smoking.

“I don’t really worry about bladder cancer now that I’ve been treated. I go for regular check-ups and I am very aware that it can happen to anyone, especially if you’re a smoker. I’m just really grateful that I got it checked out early so that it could be treated quickly. If I can inspire other people to do the same, then I will feel as if in some way I might have helped.”


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