Glen Long, 49 from Blackridge in West Lothian, credits wife Laura with saving his life four years on from his bladder cancer diagnosis.
The father of two told Laura that he’d noticed blood in his pee when he went to the toilet in the middle of the night, leading Laura to make an appointment with his GP practice the next day – something Glen admits he probably would have put off.
That GP appointment in March 2019 led to a series of tests at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, with Glen receiving the diagnosis in June 2019.
Surgery to remove the tumour followed in July 2019, with six weekly sessions of chemotherapy injections into his bladder.
As bladder cancer has a high recurrence rate, Glen was monitored every three months, with further surgery required in 2021 to remove a tumour so small that no further chemotherapy was needed.
Glen is now sharing his experience to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of bladder cancer, explaining how he feels like he’s been given a second chance thanks to both tumours being found at a stage where they could be successfully treated.
Glen, who works as a forklift instructor and storeman, said:
“I remember noticing my pee was dark and when I turned the light on, the toilet was full of blood. I just thought it was an infection and kind of brushed it off, but my wife Laura said it wasn’t normal and I needed to get it checked straight away.
“Even when my GP referred me for an ultrasound I didn’t think anything of it. I was then told I needed a flexible cystoscopy which involved a tiny camera going into my bladder through my urethra which wasn’t the most pleasant, but it wasn’t painful.
“When I came out of that procedure, I was told that the consultant needed to speak to me and that’s when I twigged the news might not be great. The only thing I heard him saying was ‘tumour’ and ‘cancer’. After that I can’t remember a thing, it was like white noise. I genuinely thought it was an infection as I didn’t feel ill or sick, I had no fatigue.
“I told my wife on the way home so she could prepare my daughters. That was probably the hardest part but my focus was making sure they were okay and I did what I needed to do to get through the treatment.
“I remember the surgeon coming to see me after the operation and saying they were able to remove the whole tumour which was such a relief. It was the size of a golf ball but hadn’t gone through the bladder wall, so I consider myself very fortunate I had that symptom and did something about it as things could have gone on a very different path.
“I was back at work after a couple of weeks because I didn’t want to be stuck in the house and just wanted to get on with things as soon as I was able. I can honestly say that my treatment was virtually pain free and I was fortunate to have had no side effects from the chemotherapy.
“When I was told the tumour had returned I felt more confident as I knew they were on top of things and it had been caught early again. My last scan was clear and if the next one in a couple of months is clear, I’ll move to annual scans which will be another step forward.”
Glen, who has recently done awareness talks for the charity Fight Bladder Cancer, shared how his experience has changed things from him. He said:
“I suffer from anxiety but my diagnosis and treatment strangely made me less anxious and more positive. It gave me something to focus on. I don’t tend to worry about things as much any more and have made changes for the better, doing things I would never have done before my diagnosis like climbing munros with pals.
“Me and my wife do loads of good things now. We go out a lot, enjoy time together more and recently had a trip to London to celebrate our silver anniversary.
“I can’t really explain it but I look at things so differently. It’s like a new lease of life. I feel reborn, like I’ve been given another chance. Even though I’m still regularly monitored, I don’t even really think about it now. If people ask me about it, I’ll tell them, but I’m definitely not dwelling on it.
“It’s probably my wife that saved my life. I know I wouldn’t have made that appointment as quickly. I’d have done the usual and thought that it would have been alright, but now I know the importance of early diagnosis.
“You know your body and if something doesn’t feel right for you, make an appointment with your GP practice. If it turns out to be cancer, finding it early is so important and there’s more they can do to treat it. Having that peace of mind is priceless.”