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Shining a light - literally - on bladder cancer

The Philadelphia sports community and the region lost a giant of a man with the passing of Ed Snider, co-founder and chairman of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, a business success, a teammate and most importantly a family man.

I didn't know him personally, but when I read that he died of bladder cancer; I couldn't help but think of him as an unfortunate fraternity brother.

It was eight years ago this past St. Patrick's Day that I discovered the signs of what turned out to be my bladder cancer. After two surgical procedures, immunotherapy and frequent checkups, I remain cancer free.

This may sound like a good story about beating cancer; and it is. But it's also a horror story.

I still shudder at the thought that my one and only sign of trouble was a bloody urination, at work, on that fateful St. Paddy's Day.

If that urination had come during a sleepy middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom, I doubt I would have noticed it. Like a lot of guys in their 50s, I'd become adept at using the toilet in the dark, flushing and getting back to bed.

But that morning at work, I was so alarmed by the amount of blood I saw, I immediately contacted a urologist. After having numerous tests, scans and scopes, surgery was scheduled six weeks later.

You can understand why my mantra has become, "NEVER PEE IN THE DARK!"

Other symptoms of bladder cancer are frequent urination, lower back pain and pain while urinating. I never experienced, or at least never recognized, these symptoms, which can be attributed to a lot of different things.

When caught early, bladder cancer is very treatable and manageable. That's why I believe catching my cancer early is why my treatment was successful. But it is also the most likely form of cancer to recur, which also adds a lot of anxiety to the mix.

In the United States about 73,000 people will be newly diagnosed with bladder cancer and about 15,000 will die from it each year. Smokers are twice as likely to get bladder cancer as non-smokers. While men are more likely to develop bladder cancer then women, women tend to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage, leading to less desirable outcomes. Others at higher risk include those who work in the petro-chemical industry, hairdressers who frequently apply hair dyes, firefighters and painters.

Yet there also are many people who never smoked and work in a "clean" environment that have developed bladder cancer. So everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms and understand that early detection is the key to successful outcomes.

If the passing of Mr. Snider shines a spotlight on bladder cancer, bringing this "below the belt" disease closer to the forefront, lives will be saved and Mr. Snider's legacy will carry on well beyond hockey.

Dan Adams lives in Linwood, N.J, where he and his wife of nearly 38 years raised three children. Dan is committed to raising awareness of bladder cancer and supporting those who are newly diagnosed. This guest column appears on "Diagnosis: Cancer" through our partnership with Inspire, an Arlington, Va.,  company that builds and manages condition-specific online support communities for over 750,000 patients and caregivers.

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