CRYSTAL LAKE – When Randy Layne noticed blood in his urine, his first thought wasn’t bladder cancer.
In fact, the Crystal Lake resident hadn’t even heard of bladder cancer before doctors diagnosed him with the disease in October 2006. After a successful surgery the following month, Layne was cancer-free, as he’s been ever since.
Layne, 54, is taking his story to Capitol Hill next week to urge lawmakers to increase funding for and awareness of bladder cancer, a disease that advocates say is lacking in research dollars compared with other types of cancers.
“I think for years nobody wanted to talk about [bladder cancer],” Layne said. “I don’t think people were confident talking about it publicly. If it’s cancer below the belt; people don’t want to talk about it.”
This year more than 72,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with bladder cancer, and 15,000 will die from the disease, according to research from the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. Bladder cancer is the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., but ranks 22nd on the list for government funded research.
Bladder cancer is one of the most expensive cancers to treat on a per-patient basis, and nearly $4 billion is spent annually to treat the disease in the U.S., according to the BCAN.
“It’s not a highly funded cancer,” said Joel Lopez, assistant account executive with the BCAN. “If you look at other cancers like breast cancer, they have campaigns going on. There’s a color symbol. There’s a human element people have incorporated into that. It’s highly publicized. Right now we don’t have that support, and we don’t have that awareness.”
The BCAN hopes that Layne, and six others from across the country, on Wednesday can influence policy makers to increase funding for bladder cancer and make next May Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. Wednesday will be the first time advocates for bladder cancer have convened on Capitol Hill, Lopez said.
Since Layne’s surgery, he has donated his free time to the BCAN as an adviser for people diagnosed with bladder cancer. He coaches them through what to expect and gives them something doctors and research pamphlets can’t.
“I tell them that I’ve come through this and I’m fine,” Layne said. “It’s a hard road. The surgery itself is difficult. Recovery time is lengthy. There’s going to be some bumps in the road. But if you do what you’re supposed to do, you should be fine.”
Layne said Wednesday’s visit to Capitol Hill will further give hope to those battling the disease.
“We want to raise the awareness that there’s not sufficient funding given the severity of the disease,” he said. “It’s worthy of more attention and research dollars.”