Marilu Henner, author, Dancing with the Stars contestant, and your cool sister from the TV show, Taxi, sounds exactly like Marilu Henner on the phone. She’s funny, fast-talking, and gets straight to the point. I would be thrilled to talk to her about anything she wanted to discuss, even bladder cancer.
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Actually, make that especially bladder cancer. Bladder Cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the world so it’s more common than you might think. The risk also increases as we age, with 90% of all bladder cancers occurring after the age of 55. So, it’s quite possible that you or a loved one may have to deal with this cancer at some point.
Marilu Henner’s Experience with Bladder Cancer
That’s what happened to Marilu. In 2003, she reconnected with a college classmate, Michael Brown, and they knew right away they were meant to be together. (That’s something I can definitely relate to!) On a vacation together early in their relationship, she noticed blood in the toilet and asked him about it, something many people would be hesitant to do. She was horrified to discover that he’d been having this problem for two years. He had indeed seen his doctor. His doctor thought it was no big deal; maybe a reaction to stress.
As she chronicles in her book, Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer, Marilu begged Michael to get tested by his doctor and he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. However, even then, his journey wasn’t complete. Michael was told to return in five months for a follow-up and if necessary, his doctor would operate.
Horrified yet again, Marilu asked him to get a second opinion. As it turns out, Michael’s cancer was more invasive than originally diagnosed and already spreading into other organs. Waiting five months for a follow-up could have been deadly. After consulting with several doctors, Michael and Marilu determined the treatment that was right for them. This treatment included both conventional medicine and lifestyle changes and Michael has now been in remission for over 13 years.
May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month
As May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, Marilu has partnered with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network to help raise awareness about bladder cancer and how to be an effective caregiver for someone with this disease. I was delighted that the organization reached out to me to help spread their message and enjoyed the chance to talk with Marilu about her own story and her tips for caregivers.
Tips for Caregivers
When I asked Marilu for some tips for caregivers, her advice was practical and empowering. “Write down questions, take notes, and ask the follow-up questions.” As Marilu pointed out, it’s incredibly difficult for the person who’s been diagnosed with the disease to focus objectively enough to truly process the information the doctor is delivering. As the caregiver, that’s your job.
Marilu also pointed out how important it is to remember to not forget yourself when a loved one is going through bladder cancer treatment. “Dress warmly! Wear comfortable shoes so you can walk around when your loved one is having a procedure. Take care of yourself. Drink lots of water; that’s important for you and for the patient. Don’t be denied, be supplied,” she said.
And finally, “If you’re not getting answers from your doctor, get another doctor! Too many people have died trying to be nice to their doctor.” Amen, sister.
Bladder Cancer Warning Signs
If you’re having any of the following symptoms, please make an appointment with your doctor:
- Blood in the urine. A change in the color of your urine to a pale yellow-red can be a sign of blood in the urine.
- Changes in urination. These can include frequent urination, pain during urination and an urgent feeling of “needing to go”.
- Lower back pain.
For More Information about Bladder Cancer:
- Bladder Cancer Awareness Network
- Bladder Cancer Basics for the Newly Diagnosed
- Bladder Cancer: Get the Facts
- Bladder Cancer Discussion Guide