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New Sense of Self

When cancer comes crashing into your life, you quickly learn the startling statistics:

  • Bladder cancer usually occurs in people over 55 
  • It’s the fourth most common cancer in men, but it's less common in women 
  • There will be approximately 81,400 new cases of bladder cancer in the U.S. this year

As a mother of three girls who is physically active, rarely sick and doesn’t smoke, I never imagined five years ago I’d be among the population affected by bladder cancer, especially at age 41. 

One afternoon in the spring of 2015, I noticed a small amount of blood in my urine, and just couldn’t ignore the instinct to get it checked. I had no idea this symptom is often the first of bladder issues, so you can imagine my surprise when an ultrasound in the emergency room showed a tumor in my bladder. 

After traveling to different appointments over the next few weeks in search of a diagnosis, I received the news I didn’t want to hear. Not only did I have bladder cancer, but it was also aggressive.

I was shocked and overwhelmed. One minute, I’m a healthy mom of beautiful girls, and the next minute, I’m a cancer patient with a sense of urgency like never before.

Thankfully, I had a plan and followed up with Cancer Treatment Centers of America Atlanta, as they were a source of knowledge and comfort in the initial days following my alarming emergency room visit. My mind was set on integrative care and I quickly determined CTCA was the right place for me.

My treatment included surgery to remove the tumor, but I was told that a tiny amount of the tumor remained in my bladder wall. My urologist, Dr. Scott Shelfo, explained my medical situation and treatment options. Since the tumor was in the wall of my bladder, I had a high likelihood of recurrence. I decided to proceed with removal of my bladder, followed by reconstructive surgery to create a “neo-bladder” using part of my small intestine. Given my age and the life I wanted to live, I felt this was the right approach. 

The surgical procedure to create a neo-bladder left me with no problems and I’m blessed to say my body works just as it did before my diagnosis. My husband and I recently celebrated 15 years of marriage, and I rediscovered the physical and emotional healing power of yoga. 

All I wanted was to have a normal life again. CTCA gave me that gift. I encourage any woman to be her own best advocate. If you feel something is off with your body, listen to your instincts. I’m so thankful I did.

Alpharetta resident Jennifer Balzano is a wife, mother and yoga teacher at Duluth Yoga. To find out more about bladder cancer, its symptoms and more, visit