For almost 6 years, I had symptoms that I made excuses for and dismissed. I was enjoying life as a 21 year-old, going out with friends, traveling. When I started having minor bowel issues such as straining and periodic blood in my stool, I figured it was from dehydration and drinking alcohol. But, the symptoms worsened. I saw my doctor who diagnosed me with hemorrhoids, a condition uncommon for someone my age.
My symptoms started to happen more frequently. I was experiencing bleeding that would last for several days and had four minor surgeries to relieve blood clots in my lower colon. During a trip with some friends, the symptoms appeared again, and I had to have surgery onboard the cruise ship.
The symptoms continued for several years, and it wasn’t until I began dating my wife, a hospital nurse, that I started to get answers. She connected me with a new doctor who first scheduled a sigmoidoscopy and then a colonoscopy. What the doctor found were two abnormal tumor growths on my colon wall. The growths were removed and thankfully were pre-cancerous. Had I continued to ignore all the warning signs my body was giving me, they likely would have become cancerous within a matter of years.
I learned a great deal from this experience—the importance of listening to your body, being persistent with your health care provider, especially when symptoms continue, seeking a second opinion, and making health a priority.
Two years later, my long-time primary care doctor was retiring, so I reluctantly made an appointment for a physical exam. I can say now that going to that appointment, and putting into practice everything that I had learned, most likely saved my life.
My doctor felt something on my neck and asked if I had any difficulty swallowing. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms and was feeling good. He still wanted to have it checked and ordered an ultrasound. The test showed three large tumors on my thyroid, and a biopsy showed that all three were cancerous. I had my thyroid removed, and thankfully, because it was caught so early, the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes.
My cancer would have been diagnosed at a much later stage if I had not kept that doctor’s appointment. I always have an annual physical now and keep up with regular colonoscopies. I never ignore symptoms.
- Doctor noticed lump on neck