Bladder Cancer Survivor
- Diagnosed with bladder cancer at age 58
- Treated with intensive chemotherapy followed by surgery to remove his bladder (cystectomy), prostate, and 26 lymph nodes
- A neobladder was created, reconstructing bowel tissue to act as a new bladder
Cancer usually comes on unexpectedly. For Richard Hunter, it was practically overnight. He woke up one day and saw blood in his urine. He was 58 at the time.
“I went to the doctor to get checked out and was very surprised when I was told I had bladder cancer,” Hunter says.
A welder and fabricator for Spectrum Glass in Woodinville, Hunter doesn’t know if his cancer came from the materials he works with or because he smokes periodically. “But once diagnosed, all I could do was take it on and take care of it,” he says.
Choosing SCCA for Treatment
Once considered a risk taker in his younger days, even practicing the art of sky diving, Hunter knew that precise therapy was required for him to beat his disease. He sought several opinions from medical, radiation, and surgical oncologists regarding the best treatments to cure him of his cancer, which led him to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the investigative treatment opportunities there. At SCCA, Hunter met medical oncologist, Dr. Evan Yu.
“If every patient could see people like Dr. Yu and his clinical nurse coordinator, Hannah Holladay, they’d be a lot better off,” Hunter says of his care team at SCCA.
Dr. Yu prescribed aggressive therapy for Hunter’s cancer: a dose-intensified chemotherapy regimen given two times a week every other week for two months. After that, Dr. William Ellis, urologic surgeon at UW Medical Center, removed Hunter’s bladder (cystectomy), prostate, and 26 lymph nodes (six were slightly affected by the cancer). Dr. Ellis then created a neo bladder, reconstructing bowel tissue to act as a new bladder.
“I had maybe a five percent chance of survival at that point,” Hunter recalls, because of the aggressive nature of his disease and the spread to the lymph nodes. “But I took the attitude that it was what it was and I had to just deal with it. I never asked, ‘why me,’” he says. There is no history of cancer in Hunter’s family.
Every three months for the first two years after treatment, Hunter had a CT scan (computed tomography) to make sure the cancer hadn’t recurred. As time went on, Hunter’s odds of recurrence diminished.
“I beat the 18-month point, which is as standard point for recurrence if you’re going to have one,” Hunter says. “My survival chance jumps up even higher after two years! And after five years, I’ll be considered cured. I know I’m going to make it to five years, too.”
Looking forward to hopefully retiring in about six years, Hunter says having cancer changed his outlook on life. “I don’t sweat the small stuff as much—I’m just glad to be here. These are the bonus days.”