Quick update: Several of you asked about a bald shot so here it is. Today I went to see my mom and enjoyed flying down the highway in my little convertible with my bald head rocking out to Michelle Malone (one of my favorites). Kickin’ cancer’s ass and having fun whilst doing so. I am finally in what I’ll call the new normal. I’ve strung together a lot of emergency-free days and am feeling really good most of the time. YAY!
Listen to your gut
I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s several years ago, and I have an elderly mother who had back surgery last year. Those of us who are fortune enough to have parents who live into their 80’s and beyond are familiar with doctors and usually become quite comfortable taking a key role in healthcare discussions and decisions. You learn that sometimes you have to push doctors when you know something isn’t right. I was reminded of that in my own journey to this diagnosis.
I first went to a doctor back in the May time-frame because I was having what I thought was a bladder infection. They did a urinalysis and it came back negative so they just said I was having bladder spasms. I also complained of being constipated at the time. In June I started coughing and had some bloating and called to see my doctor. She wasn’t available for several days so I saw a different doctor. I told him of the bladder spasms, cough, pain in my side, and some discomfort and bloating. He pretty much blew me off – my lungs sounded fine and I was probably just constipated from taking iron. He sent me on my way. THAT is where I should have stopped this madness. I should have listened to my gut (no pun intended). I knew something was wrong. At the beginning of July, I called my doctor again who couldn’t see me until after the 4th weekend, so I hung up and went to the clinic down the road (a Piedmont Wellstar clinic). This is the first place that I thought really listened to me. They x-rayed my chest, saw fluid on my lungs and diagnosed me with pneumonia. I see how they got there although we know now that wasn’t the case. I did complain of the bloating that was happening, but they addressed what they saw and sent me on my way.
I finished that 5 day round of antibiotics and steroids, and 2 days later, I was worse, so we took a trip to the emergency room at Northside exactly one week after the trip to the clinic. Again I complained about the bladder, the bloating, and stomach pain I was having, in addition to the cough. I did tell them of the pneumonia diagnosis the week before. They x-rayed my chest, saw fluid, said it was pneumonia and sent me home with a new antibiotic and more steroids. That was July 10th. On July 28th, I was clearly not well with a very distended stomach and pain so we went to the clinic who immediately said, yeah we don’t mess with stomach pain. They sent me to Northside with a note requesting a CT scan for a possible bowel obstruction and they instructed me to complain only of my stomach pain and to REALLY play it up to be seen quickly. I did, and that’s what happened.
Ironically, the doctor who came to tell me the bad news about my CT scan that night was the very doctor who had diagnosed me with pneumonia 2 weeks earlier. She said she still believed I had had pneumonia then, but she’s wrong and she knew it. When I was being wheeled out of the ER on the way to my room, we passed her in the hallway – she didn’t make eye contact. She knew she missed it. I don’t know that 2 weeks would have made any difference in the staging – I seriously doubt it considering my condition at the time. But would it have mattered back in May? Perhaps. This is how ovarian cancer presents – often misdiagnosed as gastrointestinal issues. The fluid in my lungs was a result of all the pressure on my organs and the buildup of cancerous fluid that just backed up into my lungs. It wasn’t pneumonia. Had I pushed more on the bloating and discomfort, would this have been diagnosed sooner? Maybe. Did they ignore me because they saw a fat chic on the table and thought, well she’s fat and she looks fat? I suspect that had something to do with it unfortunately. In the end, it is what it is and I hold no ill will against any of them. I know I am right where I am supposed to be with the doctors who care about me and are working together with my fantastic support network to bring about my perfect healing.
But the message is clear – you know your body, stand firm, and listen to your gut. I know I will.