Bladder cancer survivor shares how new technology helped her heal

Published: Jun. 5, 2017 at 3:51 PM EDT
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Nearly 80,000 new cases of bladder cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year.

But when a young newlywed faced this disease, she had barely heard of it. Now, new technology is helping save lives.

It was a fairytale romance for Mary Beth Ballard and Chris Murray. But a year into the marriage, the couple faced a nightmare when Mary Beth noticed blood in her urine.

“For a few months it would come and go and I didn't really know what was going on,” Mary Beth explained.

In 2014, she was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

“I was 28 years old at the time," said Mary Beth. "It’s very shocking and unexpected.”

Urologic surgeon Kristen Scarpato says bladder cancer usually affects older patients.

“Typically men age 65 and older," explained Dr. Scarpato. "And in fact, she's one of the youngest patients we’ve ever treated here.”

After her first cancer surgery, Mary Beth went to Vanderbilt University for a second opinion. That’s where they used blue light cystoscopy with fluorescent technology that makes cancer cells light up, to check her bladder.

“It allows you to see lesions that are flat and not otherwise obvious more clearly,” said Dr. Scarpato.

It turned out more than half of her bladder was covered in tumors.

After another surgery and immunotherapy to target any remaining cancer cells, she received great news.

“I've been cancer free for 2 and a half years,” said Mary Beth.

Mary Beth and her husband, Chris are now expecting their first child. Chris says their difficult journey has taught them a very valuable lesson.

“Kind of showed us what's important in life,” he said.

Mary Beth partnered with Vanderbilt University to start the first bladder cancer walk in Nashville.

She also went to Capitol Hill to advocate for May to become Bladder Cancer Awareness Month.