Sharing Your Cancer Diagnosis
- Journalist Bob Schieffer, 86, was reluctant to share his bladder cancer diagnosis until he learned the impact he could have on others in similar situations.
- Bladder cancer develops when cells that make up the urinary bladder start to grow and eventually develop into tumors. Smoking is a leading risk factor for this disease.
- Schieffer's reluctance to share his cancer diagnosis publicly is a decision many cancer warriors face on their journeys to recovery.
- Some people battling a disease or cancer are open to sharing their experiences as much as they can while others prefer to keep it to themselves. SurvivorNet experts say both approaches and everything in between are valid.
- Meanwhile, experts recommend continuing to work if you can, as Schieffer did. This helps create a sense of normalcy and encourages contact with others.
As a host of the long-running news talk show “Face the Nation, veteran journalist Bob Schieffer, 86, was used to discussing important topics with viewers. But when it came to his bladder cancer diagnosis, he was a little embarrassed to talk about it. When he did, though, his openness helped other people recognize their own cancer symptoms and get diagnoses something that changed his perspective a journalist and cancer survivor.
"I was very reluctant to speak out about it," Schieffer said to Coping Magazine.Read More
On Mother’s Day in 2008, Bob Schieffer recalled some wisdom from mom: “If I ask you to remember something your mother told you, what’s the first thing to come to your mind? Here’s what I would remember: ‘It’s better to get to the airport too early than too late.'” pic.twitter.com/jutP82pWZrFace The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 14, 2023
In 2003, Schieffer was diagnosed with grade 3 bladder cancer.
"Men especially are reluctant to talk about what I call 'below-the-belt' diseases," Schieffer said explaining his reluctance to speak openly about his cancer.
Schieffer credits his late friend and former White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordon for encouraging him to raise awareness about the disease.
"’You have a platform, and you have no idea how much influence you will have on people and how much you can help them,’" Schieffer recalled Jordon telling him.
After Schieffer publicly shared his cancer journey, he said he saw the impact it was having on people also living with a health condition.
"Because of my talking about it, they went to the doctor and were diagnosed, and their cancer was treated. It really brought home to me how important it is when we have these diseases to not be afraid to talk about them," Schieffer said.
Understanding Bladder Cancer
About 82,290 new cases of bladder cancer" are expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Bladder cancer is the sixth-most common type of cancer overall in the United States, though it is the fourth-most common for men.
Your bladder is a hollow, muscular, balloon-shaped organ that expands as it fills with urine. The bladder is an essential part of your urinary system, which also includes two kidneys, two ureters, and the urethra.
Bladder cancer develops when cells that make up the urinary bladder start to grow and eventually develop into tumors.
Smoking is a leading risk factor for this disease, with smokers being three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than non-smokers.
Schieffer has said he was a heavy smoker early in his career. Although he quit smoking in 1974, he blames the habit for his bladder cancer diagnosis.
"I can't tell people enough, and I know they get tired of hearing it, but the fact of the matter is, if you will not smoke, you will live a longer life," Schieffer said.
Symptoms of bladder cancer may include:
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Flank pain (around the sides of your body)
- Blood in Urine
Blood in his urine was one of the first symptoms Schieffer experienced.
How Is Bladder Cancer Treated?
Schieffer explained his bladder cancer was found early and his doctors were able to remove it without further issue. He went on to say he's been declared cancer free.
Bladder cancer can be treated in a variety of ways, but your doctor will consider several factors to determine the best treatment. Where the cancer is inside your body and if it has spread are some factors doctors look at before finalizing your treatment plan.
Expert Bladder Cancer Resources
Surgery for bladder cancer often offers the best chance for a cure. There are various surgical options depending on the location of your bladder cancer.
For patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, treatment will most likely consist of transurethral resection of visible bladder tumor (TURBT). During this procedure, the surgeon gently inserts a surgical instrument containing a camera into the urethra and pushes it upward until it reaches the bladder.
Once at the bladder, the instrument is used to remove all the tumors that the surgeon can see on camera. Most patients can leave the hospital the same day, but some may need to stay longer, depending on how much tissue had to be removed.
If the surgeon and pathologist determine that more tissue needs removal, additional surgery may be performed four to six weeks later.
Depending on the aggressiveness of your tumor, cystoscopy will be required to check the area once a year, or as frequently as every few months for the first few years after treatment. This is combined with routine imaging of the urinary tract.
Chemotherapy is usually recommended before cystectomy, or the full or partial removal of the bladder. Giving chemotherapy prior, or "neoadjuvantly," has been shown in large trials to improve survival in bladder cancer.
WATCH: What Are The Surgical Options To Treat Bladder Cancer?
To Share or Not to Share Your Cancer Diagnosis?
Schieffer's reluctance to share his cancer diagnosis is completely normal.
Some people battling a disease or cancer are open to sharing their experiences as much as they can, while others prefer to keep it to themselves or close loved ones. SurvivorNet experts say both approaches, and everything in between, are valid.
"Patients who have just been diagnosed with cancer sometimes wonder how they are going to handle the diagnosis of the cancer in social situations," psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik explains.
"How much information they should share and with whom they should share the information â€¦ everybody is different," Plutchik added.
Dr. Plutchik explains, "There is no one right way to handle this diagnosis. People should do what feels right to them."
A cancer journey can last months to years, which means cancer warriors may be experiencing a lot of uncertainty until they fully understand where their health stands. This uncertainty can influence when a cancer patient is ready to share their diagnosis, Dr. Plutchik further explained.
Dr. Plutchik stresses that those close to a person going through cancer should be respectful of their wishes when it comes to disclosing their diagnosis and seeking support.
Working During Cancer
Although Schieffer was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2003, he continued working as a journalist until 2015. His lengthy career spanning 46 years highlights the love he had for his job. Working after a cancer diagnosis is also a decision many cancer warriors face: to go back to work or not.
Some people can continue to work during cancer treatment and some may need to take some time away. The reality is it depends on the person, their cancer, and the treatment.
Doctors and social workers within the oncology field tell SurvivorNet that they recommend working during cancer treatment if you can. Work creates a sense of normalcy in a person's life.
Not only does it provide a needed source of income, but it also reminds you that you have a life apart from cancer.
A work life also encourages regular contact with others. Sometimes cancer can make you feel isolated and lonely, and being around people can be a great comfort.
Still, whatever path you choose is best for you, it is valid.