Using every tool at his disposal to beat bladder cancer

'For me, that was my faith, my family and the support I received from my care team.'

By: Ashley Schwab .

Dennis Zeto, who battled bladder cancer
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When Dennis Zeto went in to his local walk-in clinic, he expected a simple treatment for a bladder infection. Instead, he experienced a more involved journey leading to a bladder cancer diagnosis.

“You always hear these stories of people finally retiring and then bad things happening,” Zeto says. “I had just sold my business -– I was a stockbroker for 23 years -– and I was helping transition my clients over. After that, I was going to be totally retired. But, one day I went to the bathroom, and I felt a little pain and saw a little blood, so I thought I must have a urinary tract infection.”

Zeto went to his local Sanford Bemidji Walk-in Clinic in northern Minnesota. The nurse practitioner he saw prescribed him antibiotics, but she also wanted to run additional tests to determine what was causing blood in his urine. And, this determination helped Zeto discover his more serious diagnosis.

She set him up to get an ultrasound, and when that was inconclusive, she had him get a CAT scan with infusion. After those results didn’t indicate anything, she referred Zeto to John Kosko, M.D., a Sanford Health urologist. Dr. Kosko completed a cystoscopy on Zeto, which is a procedure allowing the doctor to examine the bladder from the inside.

“The doctor told me, ‘You see that area that looks like cauliflower. That is not supposed to be there. That, my friend, is a tumor. You have cancer.’ And it really hits you when your doctor tells you that you have cancer. I constantly thank my care team for their persistence. Fortunately for me, the tumor was very small and treatable,” Zeto says.

He had an outpatient surgery. During his surgery, his care team also flooded his bladder with a single chemotherapy treatment.

“They were very supporting, very reassuring. After the surgery, the team called twice to see how I was doing and make sure everything was fine,” Zeto says.

A week later, Dr. Kosko rechecked that Zeto was clear. He advised him that as a follow up, Zeto would need to complete a cystoscopy every three months. If everything remained clear of bladder cancer after two years, he could switch to a cystoscopy every six months for the rest of his life.

“When you are fighting something like cancer, you need to use every tool you have. I knew my doctor and care team at Sanford Health would use every tool available. And I had to use every tool I had at my disposal. For me, that was my faith, my family and the support I received from my care team,” says Dennis.

“I think my treatment has gone so well because my team caught my cancer and removed it right away. The sooner you can diagnose cancers, the earliest stages you can treat them, the more curable they are,” he says. “You learn from every battle you fight. Despite being diagnosed with cancer, the experience at Sanford Health was very good. I am very grateful for my care.”

Zeto is still completing a checkup every three months, and each has been clear.