It’s Not Leprosy, It’s Cancer

By Sylvia L. Ramsey

Once my cystectomy surgery date was scheduled, I had so many things to take care of that I was overwhelmed at times. The first thing was to tell my boss and coworkers. The office gossip soon spread the word that I had cancer. People asked me if I had breast cancer, and when I said no, it was bladder cancer, they cut the conversations short. I felt like a leper at work because I was avoided. My secretary was the only person who remained beside me all the way.

I really felt isolated and did not understand why. It was as if I had some highly contagious disease. The days at work served as both a blessing and a curse. Work kept me busy, but the isolation added to the stress of what I was facing. I wondered if my coworkers would behave this way when I returned to work, if I could return.

I knew I had to arrange for my care when I came home from the hospital and for my husband’s care while I was in the hospital and until I was able to take over again; he was battling prostate cancer and COPD. I called friends in my hometown, because I needed someone to talk to about my situation. When they heard about my surgery, they volunteered to come from Missouri to Augusta, Georgia, to stay with my husband and me until I could take care of him and myself. I was very grateful because I had no idea what I was going to do.

My youngest son was in the military, stationed in Germany. He put in for emergency leave so he could be home when I had my operation, but he could only stay for a limited time. My eldest son lived locally and did his best to be supportive, but he had his hands full with his job and small children.

 I did my best to get my house prepared for company and for my return home after surgery. I put a small fountain in my bedroom for relaxation. I bought soothing music with sounds of nature. I watched comedy on television. The days passed slowly, and the apprehension increased.

My son in the military arrived the week before my surgery. I told my family I wanted to take a trip to the beach together. We rented a large van and all piled in and spent a great day on the sand. What I did not tell them was that I was afraid it could be the last time we could have such a family outing.

Finally, the day before the surgery arrived. I began my pre-operation preparation. I faced surgery with both relief and fear.

Check back here to read more from Sylvia. Plus, read more of her story on
Living With Bladder Cancer
Two Diagnoses, One Couple, One Day: Could it be Possible?
Lots of Questions and No One to Talk To
Preparing for Surgery and Staying Positive

Learn more about bladder cancer and about Sylvia L. Ramsey, cancer survivor, advocate, author and public speaker, at:,  and

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