Living with Cancer > Shared Experiences > Viewpoints
Each year in this country about 9,000 people develop bladder cancer. It is more common in men than in women. The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine, known as haematuria. Unfortunately, this symptom is often dismissed because there are many reasons other than bladder cancer that can cause blood in the urine, such as a bladder infection or kidney stones. That is why it so important that every person who experiences haematuria contact their doctor. Here is Sossa Athappilly’s story – Karen Giles
In December, 2000 my wife, Sossa, and I were enjoying a family vacation in India when she experienced blood in her urine. She had similar haematuria a month earlier but dismissed it, as many women do, as a symptom of menopause. Luckily for Sossa, our cousin, Dr. Augustine, was visiting the family and we mentioned the symptom to him. He immediately made arrangements for Sossa to be seen at one of the best hospitals in the area, Kerala, Amala Cancer Center. She was examined by an urologist, an oncologist, and gynecologist and all the necessary lab tests were performed. The next day we were given the results – Grade B, Stage 2 bladder cancer. Sossa had malignant tissue at the juncture of the bladder and the right ureter. We made the decision to immediately return to the United States to seek opinions on what would be the best course of treatment.
We arrived back in Kalamazoo on December 23. Sossa’s brother, Dr. Sebastian, had made appointments for Sossa to receive opinions from Dr. Bour in Kalamazoo and Dr. Montie at the University of Michigan.
On December 28, Dr. Bour conducted a cystoscopy which reconfirmed the results found in the tests performed in India. There was also an indication that the cancer cells had invaded the bladder muscle. Dr. Bour recommended a radical cystectomy and placement of an external pouch. Sossa and I decided to wait to make a treatment decision until after their appointment with Dr. Montie.
On January 11, Sossa and I made the trip from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor. Our cousin, Dr. Pathadan, had highly recommended Dr. Montie and we were anxious to hear his opinion. Dr. Montie met with Sossa and explained the options he felt were available to her. Sossa, and I immediately felt great confidence in Dr. Montie and knew that we decided to go with what he recommended as her best option.
Together with Dr. Montie, Sossa and I decided to have the neobladder procedure, as well as removal of her ovaries and uterus. On January 26, 2001 the waiting was over and her surgery was performed. After 2 weeks in the hospital, she was able to come home.
Sossa did have some complications after the initial surgery and Dr. Montie suggested a second procedure to rectify a right ureter constriction. On November 29, 2001, Sossa was once again in the capable hands of Dr. Montie. The surgery took an unexpected turn when the right ileac artery ruptured, but a cardiovascular surgeon was called in immediately and the problem was corrected during the operation. This, we believe, is possible only at centers such as U of M.
On January 25, 2002, a CT scan showed that everything was normal and working as planned. Four years after her neobladder surgery Sossa is still doing great. She never uses a catheter and is pain-free. She averages seven hours of sleep per night with no interruption. I told Dr. Montie how I wished to have an uninterrupted sleep as Sossa has and Dr. Montie replied, ‘I can fix you too’. I told Dr. Montie, if it comes to that, no other person than you will be my first choice.
Not discounting the value of treatment at U of M, I would like to add an integral part of our experience during this critical time of Sossa’s procedures. All of us in the family and a host of many other people, friends and relatives, prayed for Sossa’s recovery ardently. We truly believe that her deep faith in Jesus Christ, led her through this challenging time, with serenity and hope.
Sossa and all of us in our family are extremely grateful to Dr. Montie for his extraordinary expertise in the neo bladder procedure and his wonderful patient dealings, his nurse practitioner Nancy Rodriguez-Galano, and the entire University of Michigan Medical Center for the wonderful care and support they have given to Sossa before, during, and after surgery.
Dr. Kuriakose Athappilly is a Professor at Western Michigan University. If you would like to know more about Sossa’s success story, please contact:
return to top