Priscilla Williams of Zebulon had no symptoms of her bladder cancer until her leg began to swell. When she had experienced burning in her stomach, she switched from soda to water, and thought it was indigestion. But when her leg swelled to nearly double its size, she was concerned.
She underwent an ultrasound at Rex Hospital, and two weeks later a CT. The same day as her CT, a catheter was placed in her kidney to drain it, and the leg swelling subsided. The leg swelling was caused when her malfunctioning bladder caused fluids to collect in her kidney.
She then learned she had bladder cancer and was referred to UNC Lineberger’s GU Oncology Program. Her first question for medical oncologist Paul Godley, MD, PhD, was “what do we do about getting rid of this cancer?”
She has completed three months of chemotherapy and will undergo surgery in December.
She credits Julie White, RN, OCN, a nurse in the infusion clinic, with providing crucial support for her. “She gave me inspiration. When I lost weight because of the chemo, she would say, ‘We can’t have you losing this weight. Try this. Try that.’”
One identifiable risk factor for bladder cancer that Williams hadn’t considered was smoking. “I have smoked for over 40 years,” Williams says. “I remember the first cigarette I smoked almost made me choke. But then each one after that got easier and easier.”
Williams, despite the stress of a cancer diagnosis and rounds of chemotherapy, enrolled in the UNC Nicotine Dependence Program to quit. And she has.
Soon after she quit, she underwent a breath test to monitor the effects of her quitting. When people smoke, they inhale a poisonous gas called carbon monoxide into their lungs. Soon after quitting, Ms. Williams was thrilled to see her carbon monoxide level reduced to that of a non-smoker, clear evidence of the health benefits quitters experience.
“I never thought I would not smoke,” she says. “Both my parents smoked, and I have heard that if your parents smoke, the children are more likely to as well."
“It really isn’t that hard to quit if you have the support you need," she says. “You do have to have will power and want to increase your life.”
“I would recommend this program for anyone. If I had had this program years ago, I would have quit."
“There’s a possibility that the cancer won’t come back if I don’t smoke,” she explains. “I have always said that if I got cancer I wouldn’t quit. We all die of something. But once you’re diagnosed with cancer, everything you said goes right out the window.”
Much of her inspiration comes from her family. Daughter Lucianna Cox, husband, Greg, and their three children, Kyleigh, Stormi and Brennan, live in Pikeville, NC. Her son, Ronnie Cox, wife Sarah, and their sons Tanner and Riley, live in Roanoke, VA.
Williams, who works for Kidde Aerospace in Wilson, hopes to inspire young people to stop smoking. “If I can stop someone from starting to smoke at a young age, I’ll be very glad.”