Lionel’s Story: Early Detection Saved My Life

A few days before a scheduled hip replacement, Lionel received an unexpected call following a routine preoperative scan.

“An hour later, I got a call saying, ‘I’m so sorry, we’ve had to cancel your hip surgery,’” Lionel recalls. “’We found cancer in your bladder.’”

Lionel, a Victoria resident since 1988, has always enjoyed an active lifestyle. He was a bull rider in his teenage years, and later a bodybuilding champion—he met his wife Colette on-stage as they were crowned Mr. and Mrs. Saskatchewan.

Leading up to his diagnosis three years ago, Lionel was an avid golfer at the Bear Mountain Resort and woke up at 5 a.m. each day to exercise alongside his wife.

“I had no symptoms, no bleeding, no pain,” says Lionel. “I was informed that this type of cancer was very aggressive.”

Lionel was quickly referred to Dr. Iain McAuley, a urologist with Island Health. Within two weeks of Lionel’s diagnosis of Stage I bladder cancer, Dr. McAuley performed surgery on Lionel at Royal Jubilee Hospital to remove the cancerous tumour using one of the hospital’s surgical scopes. Such scopes allow for a minimally invasive surgery to be performed on a patient who is put under general anesthesia, usually on an outpatient basis. Lionel was discharged the same day.

Through the Emerge Stronger Campaign, donations to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation will help fund 12 new rigid utereroscopes at Victoria General and Royal Jubilee Hospitals. These updated tools will be used daily for the diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving the urinary tract, including the ureter and bladder.

“The state-of-the-art equipment is key,” says Lionel. “My healing process was so much quicker than it could have been.”

Though he is an optimist by nature, Lionel says there were moments when his mind wandered towards worst-case scenarios. When Dr. McAuley identified another cancerous tumor in Lionel’s ureter last fall  using one of the hospital’s ureteroscopes, he felt dejected—but knew he was in good hands.

“I didn’t have much fear the second time around,” Lionel shares. “Dr. McAuley lets you know you’re not alone, that you’re going through this journey with him. He makes you feel at ease from start to finish.”

In December, Dr. McAuley successfully removed Lionel’s second tumor with a minimally invasive surgical approach that was also performed using one of the hospital’s ureteroscopes.

“Finding the cancer as quickly as we did was a blessing,” says Lionel. “If it weren’t for early detection, I wouldn’t have known I had cancer until it was probably too late.”

As this story is being written, Lionel is preparing to undergo additional cancer treatment while maintaining a positive outlook and trying to find a sense of normalcy in his life. These days, he’s happily returned to golf and is back to the gym with this wife. He will likely continue to see Dr. McAuley regularly.

“The word cancer is a very ugly word. And it’s something you hear about with others—you never expect to hear that word for yourself.”

Although Lionel has spent a lot of time at Royal Jubilee Hospital over the past three years, he is grateful for the care he received and the equipment that was available when he needed it most.

“Your donation today will do more than buy this new equipment,” says Lionel. “You never know when you could need this equipment yourself. The better the equipment is, the better our system becomes—and the more people we can save.”