by Debra Youngblood
At the age of 39, I began having increasing pain in my abdomen, in the right lower quadrant. It was excruciating at times, and eventually caused me to adjust my gait to accommodate the pain. I had been taking 4 to 8 OTC ibuprofen for pain, and had consulted 2 doctors who told me it was probably IBS. As the pain increased, I also developed severe constipation. This again was attributed to IBS, and I was told to increase my fiber intake.
I had been seeing a psychiatrist, and told her perhaps the medication I was taking was causing the pain. She began a new drug therapy, but the pain continued. I finally agreed to enter the hospital on the psychiatric ward to "rest and get away from the stress". Being on the psych ward is like being in prison. I hated it, and whether the change in medication affected me or just being trapped in an environment that was severely controlled, I don't know which, but I began having crying spells.
One morning, as the doctor came in to do her morning rounds, she noticed the way I was walking. After questioning me, she called in a vascular surgeon and a gastroenterologist to evaluate the pain I was having. After doing tests, they discovered I had an inflamed appendix, and decided I had something called "chronic appendicitis". I was scheduled for surgery, and the surgery lasted longer than expected, according to my friend who was there in the waiting room. Coming out of anesthesia, I remember the doctor talking about a mass, but it didn't register. During my appendectomy, the doctor lengthened the incision and did a bowel resection, so I did not have to have a permanent or temporary colostomy.
Later I was told that I most likely had colon cancer, Dukes stage IIb, and I eventually underwent chemotherapy for six months.
What is amazing to me is that because of my age, 39, the physicians I saw did not anticipate I would have colon cancer.
I am now 57, and have had no recurrence of cancer to date. I have had, however, countless colonoscopies, and had at least one precancerous polyp removed.
Probably the most important information I wish to add is that many times physician's can misdiagnose symptoms. If you do not feel you are getting the right treatment, get a second opinion. In my case, it was a psychiatrist who finally helped me get the treatment I needed, and I will always be thankful to her for saving my life.