Health Beat

Health Beat: Blue light saves young bladder cancer patient

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It was a fairytale romance for Mary Beth Ballard and Chris Murray, but a year into their 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," Ballard said.

In 2014, Ballard was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

"I was 28 years old at the time. It's very shocking and unexpected," Ballard explained.

Dr. Kristen Scarpato, an assistant professor of urologic surgery at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said bladder cancer usually affects older patients.

"Typically, men age 65 and older, and in fact, she's one of the youngest patients we've ever treated here," Scarpato stated.

After her first cancer surgery, Ballard went to Vanderbilt University for a second opinion. That's where they used blue light cystoscopy with Cysview, which uses fluorescent technology to make cancer cells light up, to check her bladder.

"It allows you to see lesions that are flat and not otherwise obvious more clearly," Scarpato explained.

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

"It was really tough." Ballard said.

After another surgery and immunotherapy to target any remaining cancer cells, there's great news.

"I've been cancer-free for two-and-a-half years," Ballard explained.

And now more amazing news. The couple is expecting their first child. Murray said their difficult journey has taught them a very valuable lesson.

"Kind of showed us what's important in life," Murray said.

Ballard 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.

For more information about bladder cancer symptoms and treatment, visit the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network's website.

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