When Your Body Talks, Listen

Bladder cancer survivor credits The University of Kansas Cancer Center – Lee’s Summit

Listen to your body – particularly when the message is loud and clear. That’s the lesson Judy Swezy shares when recounting her journey with stage III bladder cancer.

Swezy, of Independence, Missouri, was diagnosed in August 2014. But, according to both Swezy and physicians at The University of Kansas Cancer Center – Lee’s Summit, her body was likely trying to tell her something was wrong much earlier.

For three years prior to her diagnosis, Swezy said her urine had an unusual odor and she had frequent bladder infections. Although she was not in pain, she grew increasingly frustrated when physicians told her it was nothing more than bladder infections.

“I knew what I was experiencing wasn’t right,” said Swezy, 75. “But I couldn’t get anyone to take me seriously.”

Multidisciplinary care

When pain finally set in, Swezy went to the emergency room at a local hospital. Later, she was referred to urologic cancer surgeon Jeffrey Holzbeierlein, MD. Holzbeierlein diagnosed Swezy, whose tumor was the size of a softball, with stage III bladder cancer.

Taking a multidisciplinary team approach, Dr. Holzbeierlein worked in tandem with medical oncologist Lakshmi Chintala, MD, to oversee Swezy’s treatment.

“Dr. Holzbeierlein looked me straight in the eye, and the first thing he said to me is that he could cure me,” Swezy said. “From then on, my family and I have been big fans of the hospital and cancer center.”

Swezy received four cycles of chemotherapy, but after three her tumor had been reduced from the size of a softball to the size of a large marble. She was then cleared for surgery with Dr. Holzbeierlein.

Cancer-free at last

Months after surgery to remove the tumor, Dr. Holzbeierlein told Swezy she was cancer-free. Dr. Holzbeierlein had to remove a portion of Swezy's bowel to create the stoma for her urostomy, which manages the discharge of urine.

Swezy said she has a new appreciation for the hospital and cancer center. In fact, when her son-in-law recently needed medical attention, she insisted that he go to The University of Kansas Hospital.

Swezy still has regular exams and said she is amazed by the quick attention she receives from the staff. Always mindful of the possibility of recurrence, Swezy recently called Dr. Holzbeierlein’s nurse when something didn’t feel right. The staff got Swezy in immediately to address the problem and allay her concerns.

“We love the hospital and cancer center. It takes a special breed to care for people with cancer and they have a lot of quality people at KU,” Swezy said. “I think they give 150 percent all the time.”

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