It’s not a subject everyone is comfortable talking about – but Brian Williams is willing to speak up to encourage people to live healthier and to help others catch cancer early.
Williams, 71, is a bladder cancer survivor and now speaks on behalf of the Bladder Cancer Canada Awareness Walk, the an event happening Sept. 26. He says the issue tends to be quite personal for some people, not unlike how it was with prostate cancer – until people found the courage to talk about it.
“People generally don’t like to talk about this stuff,” the Sidney resident said, adding that can be disastrous if a problem is left too long.
The first indication that something was wrong was when he found blood in his urine. After a series of tests and an ultrasound exam, a tumor was found.
Williams admitted he was naive about the entire process and didn’t know where to turn or who talk to about the diagnosis of bladder cancer.
“What I liked was that my doctor didn’t trivialize it,” he said. “They took it seriously and they made me feel like I could do this.”
He began treatment right away.
As his doctors told him the extent of the disease, Williams underwent surgeries to try to get rid of the cancer. The first wound up damaging his bladder, which required a six-hour surgery to remove it and replace it with a portion of his intestine. Williams said it’s a relatively common procedure related to bladder cancer.
The recovery, however, was long and tough. He said his body had to re-learn how to pee – by recognizing different signals from his makeshift bladder. It was hard, he admitted, but he did it and now, about nine years later, he’s living his life to the fullest.
“We have some excellent medical services on the Island. I want people who are going through what I did, to know that there are experts here they can talk to.”
Williams counts himself among those experts, although from a very personal point of view. He offers his experience and expertise to other bladder cancer patients on the Island who might be facing the same uncertainty.
“When I went through this, I found there was no support. There was nobody I could go to, like some of the other cancer groups out there.”
After mulling over the idea of starting his own support group, Williams opted instead to go to his doctor and offer his time as a mentor to others. What he can do, he said, is offer advice as best he can.
“I know what I went through and I didn’t know who to call. This is a bit of a payback thing for me.”
Williams also hopes to spread the word about the Awareness Walk. Last year’s event drew a small group of people, but he’s hoping to see that grow this year.
Williams said he’s looking forward to the event, and talking to people who might be in need of support. Since his treatment, he’s rowing regularly and has gotten himself into pretty good shape.
“Bottom line, you can have a full life after bladder cancer,” he said. “You can be as active as you want to be. Just set some goals and it can get you through this.”
The walk takes place Saturday, Sept. 26 at Clover Point Park in Victoria. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 10. It’s about education and awareness, Williams said, noting it’s also a fundraiser with a goal of beating the $5,000 raised in 2014.
For more details about the Walk, visit bccwalk.ca or call 1-866-674-8889.