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Surviving Bladder Cancer with a Community of Support

Taking a team-based, personalized approach helped Pat Wagner persevere through a rare cancer diagnosis, treatment and remission.

We never expect the unexpected until it happens to us. This is the experience Pat Wagner had when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer in her early 70s.

When Wagner first noticed blood in her urine, she knew it was time to visit the doctor. “I had no pain, but I went to the hospital anyway,” she recalls. “They referred me to a urologist, who, after a series of tests, told me I had a tumor in my bladder.”

Battling a Rare Cancer

Wagner’s particular type of bladder cancer was rare. “Most commonly, bladder cancer is found in the lining cells or gland cells of the bladder, and it can be due to chronic irritation of the bladder,” explains medical oncologist Dr. Ana Maria Lopez. “But Ms. Wagner’s cancer was a neuroendocrine type of bladder cancer—it is rare, aggressive and grows rapidly.”

Taking a Team-Based Approach

As a result of the tumor’s aggressiveness, Wagner’s team of healthcare professionals initially recommended bladder removal. But when she expressed her concerns about this surgical approach, the team regrouped. “Shared decision-making is often a give and take,” says Dr. Lopez. “It’s always important to listen to the patient.” The team came up with a plan that everyone supported: Wagner underwent treatment that included chemotherapy and radiation therapy upfront.

After her treatment, Wagner was able to keep her bladder. “Thank God for them all. I did not want my bladder to be taken out,” says Wagner.

“As a team, we were able to find a path our patient was comfortable with,” affirms Dr. Lopez. “If it didn’t work, we would always be able to adjust the treatment plan.”

Patient Pat Wagner walking out of the hospital with flowers and balloons

Pat Wagner

With the help of her oncologists and the support of her daughters, Wagner persevered through chemotherapy and radiation, and she has been cancer-free for three years. In addition to imaging, she has been followed closely by her urology team for any signs of recurring cancer. “Ms. Wagner’s case was a demonstration of the power of teamwork—both among her family members and her care providers,” says Dr. Lopez.

The Importance of Advocating for Your Health

Dr. Lopez expresses the importance of visiting your doctor any time something feels wrong. “If you experience a symptom like blood in your urine, that’s a warning sign,” she explains. “It’s never something to be ignored or taken lightly. Visit your doctor—if there’s nothing wrong, you’ll go home knowing that everything is okay.” Because of her vigilance, along with the support of her care team and family, Wagner was able to get back to enjoying a normal life.

Wagner encourages those experiencing a cancer diagnosis to “stay strong and fight.” Dr. Lopez adds, “From the moment you’re diagnosed with cancer, you’re a survivor.”

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Patient Perspectives