Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst represents Central Watford and Oxhey and is the Liberal Democrat group leader on Hertfordshire County Council. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer last October.

“You need an operation.”- I suppose that was the initial shock when I was told on October 24 I had bladder cancer.

Three operations and a six-week course of Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) treatment, with visits to all three of the West Herts Trust hospitals, has shown me, as if I did not already know, how professional and hardworking our NHS staff are.

The initial check-up and diagnosis was quick, just a few days after going to the GP having had blood in my urine.

At an evening appointment at Hemel Hospital a camera was inserted (you can guess where!). It was “a bladder tumour of some 10cms” (a bit large!). Yes, cancer but until it was removed and tested they would not know what sort or if it had spread too far.

CT and ultra sounds scans followed and a helpful chat with a consultant and a Macmillan nurse.

An operation on November 19 removed the main tumour. Even the long wait until the operation was made bearable by the surgeon telling four of us of delays: “There is a delay so we are keeping the fit and young ones till last!”

Due to an issue many years ago with a ‘general’ I was given an epidural. It was a surreal experience being awake and watching the operation and not feeling anything. It looked like a potato peeler and sucker. The only down side was not being able to walk until the next morning and having to be turned over by nurses during chemotherapy treatment.

While it was a disappointment to be told later that another operation was required as the cancer was Grade 3 high growth and could spread, the experience - this time at St Albans - was good, despite having a ‘stent’ in to help protect my kidney function. Following its removal I started my first six weeks of BCG treatment in March.

Yes, BCG is what most of us had as children as a TB jab but for some reason this immunotherapy works on bladder cancers - the consultant said it acts as a “weed killer”. The TB into the bladder triggers the immune system there; nobody seems to know why but it does.

So every Tuesday I was dealt with by a lovely lady called Margaret who put me at ease and always saw me on time. It was the usual method of injection into the bladder via the penis. I was contagious with TB for a few hours afterwards and had to rest but it went well with no noticeable after effects.

However, to be on the safe side I needed a third operation to check it all was called for. This time it was on a Saturday and I was second on the list. Again I could not fault anything, including the chat with the surgeon who said it was looking good but they needed to do a further biopsy to be sure.

All being well I will be back on the BCG treatment in three months’ time and this could carry on for up to three years with, yes, more scans and tests. I now accept that is part of my life but the NHS has done a great job and caught it early enough!

So why did I get it and what tells you that you have a problem?

I am told that one in three smokers get it, but I’ve never smoked, although of course until the smoking ban I was the subject of passive smoking. The telltale sign is blood in your urine, which I probably ignored for a few weeks like most men until it was far too red! So if you see any just go to your GP, don’t risk it and wait!

What were my best and worst experiences in hospital?

I never liked hospitals but the food in both Watford and St Albans was fine - mind you I didn’t feel like much the second time. The support staff with meals, teas and biscuits were always friendly and caring. But why are we always woken up at 6am?

I always believe in treating staff with respect - they are always busy so don’t complain if you are not seen or want them to put the TV on, etc - they have someone more ill to see to. I was mortified to be badly sick the second time and had to be bed washed but they took it in their stride.

I had to feel for them when you hear two patients say “no I am not giving up smoking” after having surgery that in one case ensured they could walk and save a leg. I do wonder whether if you are not going to change a lifestyle that is causing a health issue you should really get free care.

Can you help yourself stay well?

Clearly, yes. If you spot something, go to the GP or ring NHS direct. But keep fit - I have recovered well from the operations. There is some pain now and then but I do lots of walking - a Lib Dem delivery thing! - and go to the gym three to four times a week, including boxing with a trainer.

I am told I am fit for my age and that helps massively with recovery – indeed, as my family and friends know, getting me to rest is an issue. But having a supportive family and friends is always a great comfort.