Kimberly N.

Bladder Cancer - Stage 2

Kimberly Nankivell

The personal contact and the way I was treated by my care team, and by everyone at City of Hope, was like nothing I had experienced before. When I go there, everyone knows my name and smiles abound. It felt different and special. I tell others that City of Hope is my happy place.

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results. 

I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, and I have moved around quite a bit. In 2012, my wife, Jana, and I moved to our present home in Prescott Valley, Arizona. We had both just finished getting our PhDs and completed tenure at Purdue University in Northwest Indiana. I had obtained my PhD in information technology. Although we loved teaching, the warm weather was calling us and we knew we wanted to move south. My wife received a full-time position at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and I was able to teach part-time at the same university.   

In the spring of 2014, I was offered a position to teach full-time that following fall. I was really excited for the opportunity. However, I began experiencing many urinary infections before I could start the position. I saw my primary care doctor, and I would be treated for the issue, but the infections continued to recur. My wife suggested that I see an oncologist, and after a series of tests, it was quickly determined that I had bladder cancer. I don’t remember much about this time because I was in a state of shock. I panicked and kind of shut down.

The initial treatment recommendation was to remove my bladder, and I would have a colostomy bag. I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted. My wife and I began looking for other treatment centers. We called several but felt they weren’t the right fit. Finally, my wife saw a commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA)* and called the phone number in the ad. She spoke to someone who really eased our concerns. CTCA® would handle all the steps necessary for getting a second opinion. The representative at CTCA was so patient and kind, we decided that we wanted to at least go for the initial evaluation to check it out at the center in Zion, Illinois.

My happy place

From the start, Jana and I were impressed by how fast we were able to get information, results and appointments. At CTCA, everything is under one roof, and we didn’t have to spend a lot of time waiting and wondering. We were able to get my test results quickly. When we had questions, we got responses quickly. We just felt like we were in the right place, right from the start.

By the end of my evaluation, Jana and I had decided that CTCA was the right place for me. I started treatment right away and worked with my medical oncologist to develop a schedule that worked with my job responsibilities. I would teach on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Between classes, I would go to the local hospital to have my blood drawn and then have it sent to CTCA. Wednesday afternoon, after I had finished my last class of the day, I would drive to Phoenix and catch the last flight to Chicago. Thursday, I would get another blood draw and occasionally a CT scan. In the afternoon, I would receive chemotherapy. As soon as I was finished with the chemotherapy, I would head back to the Chicago airport and catch the last flight back to Phoenix. I would arrive home late that night so I could teach on Friday. It was complicated and exhausting at times, but I made that sacrifice because I trusted in the capabilities of the CTCA doctors and clinicians. I had very few side effects and felt I had enough energy to keep up with this routine.

The personal contact and the way I was treated by my care team, and by everyone at CTCA, was like nothing I had experienced before. When I go there, everyone knows my name and smiles abound. It felt different and special. I tell others that CTCA is my happy place.

In December 2014, during winter break, I had surgery. My doctors removed my bladder, prostate and some lymph nodes and constructed a new bladder with neobladder reconstruction. As I understand it, during the procedure, my surgeon used a piece of my intestine to create a new bladder that allowed me to urinate voluntarily and maintain continence. This meant that I didn’t need a colostomy bag, which I dreaded. I was scheduled to stay in the hospital through Christmas, but the surgery was so successful that I was allowed to return home for Christmas. What a wonderful Christmas gift it was.

The recovery went well, and I used supportive care therapies like nutrition and naturopathic support to help alleviate symptoms I encountered.

Living life to the fullest

While I was going through treatment, everyone at CTCA, from the clinicians and employees to the other patients, were all so kind. I am thankful that I was able to be in a positive and uplifting environment to make my cancer journey better. I currently have no evidence of disease, and I go back to CTCA every six months for check-ups. I feel pretty normal.

I am retired now, and I am busier than ever, especially with my kids and grandkids. I love spending time with them. I also refurbish model trains, travel and play plenty of golf. Jana and I have begun building our dream home. This takes a lot of planning, designing and researching. I have somehow convinced Jana that it would a great addition to run train tracks throughout the house to reflect my model train hobby. We got certified to scuba dive, so we can go out diving on our next vacation. Jana and I have three golden doodles, and we are working on training them to be therapy dogs, so we can give back to others. I make the most of every second, minute, hour and day.

Facing a cancer diagnosis was hard—there’s no way around that. But I couldn’t be more pleased with the way my journey has transpired. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody to receive a cancer diagnosis, but if you have to get treatment, I recommend considering CTCA.

* Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, working together to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care. Because this patient testimonial was written and published before CTCA® and City of Hope joined forces, mentions of legacy CTCA locations have not been updated in the interest of maintaining the patient’s original voice and story details.