There are 80,000 Canadians living with bladder cancer, and many of them are younger than you’d think. Here’s one family’s story about why awareness and early detection are critical in saving lives.
On Nov. 27th, 2020, I lost my husband and father to our three-year-old daughter to metastatic bladder cancer. John was 37. When he was diagnosed 11 months prior with stage III bladder cancer, his urologist told us that he was “one in a million” because healthy, young men don’t get this disease. We learned that John had been misdiagnosed previously because he didn’t fit the typical bladder cancer profile.
I remember crying in the doctor’s office, hearing the treatment plan; chemo, and multiple surgeries within six months. In typical Johnny fashion, he squeezed my hand, and said, “perfect, so I’ll be good to go for my birthday and there to see the Toronto Raptors win a second championship!”
When he started chemotherapy in January 2020, he didn’t complain — he just wanted to close that chapter so he could begin the next. In April, John had his bladder removed and a new one constructed. His recovery was smooth and we celebrated his birthday. By the summer, he was back at work. John was a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. He truly loved what he did, often saying that he didn’t work, he was simply lucky to do what he loved for a living. When John spoke to you, it was as if no one else mattered. He went out of his way to ensure that others around him were happy.
John worked out daily, cycled, and practised yoga. His most favorite thing was to chase after our little girl — they were inseparable from the day she was born. We spent the rest of that summer at the beach, hiking, and taking day trips. It seemed like his cancer could eventually become a memory. Then, the week after Thanksgiving, John felt a sharp pain in his lower back and an MRI showed that cancer had spread to his spine, lymph nodes, and psoas muscle. I’ll never forget the devastated look on his face when he told me the news. Two weeks later, in early November, John lost the use of his legs and underwent emergency surgery. It continued to spread rapidly and he died three weeks later. His loss is immeasurable. John was an incredible father, husband, son, friend, and teacher.