People With Cancer Reveal When They First Realized Something Was Wrong
Cancer can present itself in a variety of ways, and sometimes, it presents no symptoms at all. The moral of the story? Don't ignore abnormalities in your body, and never try to "tough it out."
HippoLips asked, People who have/had cancer, how did you know something was wrong?
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
As someone who has suffered from ulcerative colitis, this is too real.
My doctor had me get a colonoscopy because of blood in my stool. He thought it might be an ulcer caused by some medication; turned out to be a tumor. Turned out to be a very large stage 1 instead of the stage 2-3 they originally thought. I lucked out big time. I was under fifty, hardly a typical age for it to happen.
Catching it early is the key.
I went for a general checkup because I was concerned about some red spots on my arms. The doctor almost didn't believe anything was wrong until the results from the blood work came back. The spots were petechiae from low platelets and my white blood cells were through the roof. I have leukemia. Actually, I'm in remission now.
Never ignore lumps or chronic fatigue. They are sign something is very, very wrong.
I was super tired all the time, like sleep 18 hours a day and hardly able to keep my eyes open the other 6. Then I noticed a lump on the side of my neck. Turned out to be Hodgkin's lymphoma, I have my 2nd chemo on Wednesday.
Well this is terrifying.
I had a headache that didn't go away for an entire week, I kept vomiting, and I was having weird episodes, which were later diagnosed as seizures. It was a brain tumor.
Sarcoma consists of cancerous growths in connective tissue.
My daughter at 12 was complaining that her knee was sore. We chalked it up to growing pains. Then one evening she stood up from her chair and fell, again complaining that her knee was very sore. She had a tumor on her left femur - osteogenic sarcoma. Eight months of chemo followed, along with knee replacement surgery. She's been cancer free for nearly 16 years now.
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is the more common type of lymphoma, and has a relatively high survival rate.
I'd been feeling run down and kind of tired, but I put that off to having family in town staying with me. After they'd left I didn't recover quite as quickly as I normally would, thought I was catching a cold. I met up with my typical Sunday night dinner group and while I was sitting in the restaurant I started getting chills. So I went to my car, grabbed a sweatshirt and sat in the sun. It was probably 80 degrees and I was shivering, teeth chattering and chilled to the bone. I went home and bundled up and fell asleep on my couch. When I woke up I was burning up, temperature 104.3. Not good.
Called my bff (she's an ER nurse) and she put me in touch with one of her docs. He wrote me a prescription for an antiviral. I started taking it and it didn't help. I was getting weaker and weaker, barely had an appetite and coughing so bad my bladder would leak.
After a week I went to urgent care. They put me on an antibiotic and diagnosed me with a lung infection. The antibiotics didn't help. After a week of cold sweats, no appetite, weakness and a fever that wouldn't go away I went to the ER. They admitted me and kept me in the hospital to try and diagnose my illness. After 8 days and numerous tests they had my fever under control but not the reason for my sickness. I was home when the hematologist called me and told me I have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and it's in my bone marrow.
I just had my second round of chemo last week. Things went pretty well and I didn't get too sick afterward. Today I shaved my head because my hair was falling out fast and in handfuls. I have a good prognosis and the cancer I have is very treatable. I hope those of you out there who are dealing with cancer are doing okay, hugs to you all.???????
Cancer is often misdiagnosed or overlooked in children.
I started my first period when I was 12 and it didn't stop for three months but my doctor just continued to say it was because it was my first period. Then I suddenly looked like I was six months pregnant but they still kept saying I was fine. It's only when my mum shouted at them that they sent me for more tests and discovered my stomach was swollen because it was releasing fluid to protect itself from something abnormal. That turned out to be a tumor in my left ovary, which was the size of a grapefruit. They caught it just in time before it spread and I had six months of intensive chemotherapy after surgery. I've just celebrated my 10 year anniversary of being in remission which is awesome! I still keep an eye on my periods though xD
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia occurs when bone marrow produces too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
It took me a really long time before I thought anything was wrong. Over the course of 6 weeks, I went from being able to run a 7-minute mile to having to sit down on a bench to rest halfway through walking home from school (less than a mile). I asked the running subreddit, and they said it was probably just a lung infection or something else treatable with antibiotics. Red spots (petechiae) popped up on my upper arms and calves. At 130 pounds, I felt like I was carrying an extra two hundred pounds with me when I tried to climb stairs. When I finally convinced myself to go to the doctor, they drew some blood, saw the white blood cell count and instantly referred me to a hospital when they saw the enormous white blood cell count. At this point I still wasn't concerned, thinking it would all turn out to be something else, that it couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't be cancer. When I got admitted to the hospital, I was thinking how I would be out of there by morning. It didn't really hit me until I had been there for almost a week and knew the exact type (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) before I actually even started to worry.
Doctors estimate that 3 percent of all cancers are a result of Lynch Syndrome.
I had colon cancer at age 25. I really started to notice how long it would take to clean up when I was at work. I had the feeling of an elephant sitting on my chest. It usually takes me an hour to clean up and go home but my oxygen levels were so depleted I could only tolerate 5 minutes of exertion before I had to rest. I held off for a month with going to the doctor because I didn't have any insurance at the time. My blood counts were all jacked up, red/white blood cells and iron counts were so bad to this day they have no idea how I was walking/talking and not in a coma. I also lost a ton of weight, I usually hover around 285 and was down almost 100 pounds., but I didn't really think anything of it since I lost the weight over a couple months and was exercising, dieting, and working a second physical labor job so I just figured in 3 months I had lost some weight. I didn't realize how drastic the weight loss was until I was at the hospital. I started the second job in August and never went into the hospital until January. I didn't have any major complications until December and had to wait until January for my insurance to kick in.
Luckily for me, a colonoscopy revealed the issue and the caught it before it spread to my lymph nodes.
25 is really young for colon cancer, and I was youngest in my doctor's career to be diagnosed with it. Turns out I have Lynch Syndrome which genetically predisposes me to develop cancers at a younger age and puts me at a higher risk of getting another cancer.
I turn 30 next Monday and thankfully have not had any recurring issues for this.
When body dysmorphia works in your favor...
Fortunately, my teenage insecurities probably saved my life- I was in a store trying on a swimsuit and was basically staring at myself in the mirror thinking how awful I thought I looked (not uncommon for 16-year-old girls, unfortunately) and I noticed a few very, very dark spots on my back and arms. It looked like I had sharpied on dots in some places, it was really weird but I think it was because of the awful fluorescent lighting that they looked so pronounced. I knew my family had a history of very serious skin cancer, but I'd never been tanning and always wore sunblock so I thought there was no way. My dad made me go in for a skin check just to be safe, and it turns out I had multiple malignant melanomas of varying stages on my arm and both upper and lower back. Luckily even the worst of them were caught early enough that I was just left with some badass scars from the biopsies and subsequent tissue removal, but I still think if I hadn't gone to H&M that day how much worse it could have been.
Talk about a lucky break...
I was walking the dogs and I suddenly felt a sharp pain on the left side in between my ribs and simultaneously on my left shoulder. After almost a month of misdiagnoses, I went from healthy 16 ?????-?year-old to stage 4 histiocytic sarcoma, a rare form of lymphoma and given 2 months to live. I am now 20 years old and in remission.
"Toughing it out" is the worst decision one can make.
In the early stage (1-3 months prior) I started to become more and more lethargic & weak in general; at the time I thought I was just lazy and falling out of shape. I lost the energy to do most basic things but never thought it was totally out of the norm. Food also became uninteresting and I generally lost my appetite (normally I'm a big eater/foodie.) As a side sleeper, I noticed my arm would fall asleep during the night semi-frequently (I'd wake up and couldn't feel it at all, it freaked me out at the time.) I also started having some pretty decent night sweats (while feeling freezing cold) and picked up a persistent toothache that didn't go away.
The final straw was when I went to the dentist to get my wisdom teeth removed due to that toothache. After the surgery, my body basically crashed (couldn't heal itself.) I started to get weaker much more rapidly, my skin got very pale, and my lips basically lost most of their color. 2 days later, I fully passed out for the first time in my life.
Now this will seem crazy, but I'm the type of person who never goes to the doctor for anything, I always just "tough it out." Even after all this stuff happened, I still didn't go in to get checked. But finally after 2-3 weeks of this and basically "rapidly dying," my wife begged me to go in to find out what was going on. They took my blood for some tests and within an hour the doc called saying my counts were insanely low and told me to go to the E.R. immediately (I even questioned the doctor over the phone "are you sure this is necessary?")
Found out if I didn't come in that day, I would have probably died within a few days. That night in the E.R. is when shit hit the fan; My pores were literally leaking blood as I had no platelets (blood cells that help clot your blood) and needed about 6 blood transfusions. So at 28 y/o, that's when I got the bomb dropped on me that I had Leukemia.
And thus began my interesting, humbling, and life-changing road to recovery.
Cancer can be tricky, especially when there are no inflammatory markers, which generally indicate the body is fighting something.
My stage 3b colon cancer was detected in 2008 during a colonoscopy. The tumor was in a polyp that was large enough to have existed for 10 years. It was my first colonoscopy at age 62. Before that, my doctor had specified fecal smears, which showed no problems. My regular blood tests had not shown any problems. I think they monitor for excess protein in the blood. I had 30 cm (11") of upper colon removed and underwent chemo for 6 months. I was in the hospital for about 5 days and outpatient during the chemo treatment. I lost a little of my hair; my hair is thick and I attribute that to my few native American genes. I have some loss of feeling in my fingers and feet from the chemo and my sleep clock if a bit off. I am a veteran so the VA paid for everything. My case was unique because I was symptom-free including having no protein markers in my blood. Because of this, my tissue sample was kept, with my permission, and my case was included in a study on non-inflammatory cancer. I have been cancer free for 7 years.
Carcinoid tumors grow very slowly, and most often originate in the digestive tract or lungs.
Kept getting pneumonia, like very frequently 2-3 times a year for about 3 years. Had many chest X-rays and CT scans that turned up nothing. Eventually, I had camera scope my lungs and found out I had a tumor blocking the bronchial tube to my upper left lobe. It caused bacteria to continually give me pneumonia because that portion of my lung was more or less partially collapsed and essentially doing nothing. Turns out it was a carcinoid tumor which I guess isn't technically cancer but its classified as it. Had a little more than half of my lung removed and my lymph nodes and now I feel great.
Never ever ever ignore gut issues.
I've had issues with my stomach and acid reflux for as long as I can remember. For 2 and a half years every month or so, I would get an excruciating stomach ache that felt like my entire abdomen was on fire followed by a day of feeling like I had gotten punched several times in the stomach or had done hundreds of sit-ups. A couple doctors would run tests, but never found much of anything. I've been scoped from both ends more times than I'd care to count. Finally, during a cat scan, or whatever it's called where they send you through the donut, they found my appendix was swollen. They rushed me over to surgery and took it out. It exploded after they had gotten it out, and the surgeon decided it didn't look right. So they did some labs and called me back in for a follow up before I had healed. They found that I had appendiceal carcinoma (sp?) and they had taken some images of "goo" that was strewn throughout my abdomen. What I was led to understand the was that was an early sign of it spreading, and due to what they had found in my appendix, I had to have another surgery. Unfortunately, they had to slice me open from my belly button down, before taking my secum (sp?) and six inches of my large intestine. They also took out most of my inwards and scrubbed the goo off. Took me a long time to recover, and left me with a bought of body dysmorphia that led to depression and unfortunately weight gain.
You're never too young to get cancer.
I'm 27, found a lump in my boob and went to my GP and a month later was having a mastectomy. I'm currently having chemo and on cycle 2/6.
So ladies, check them boobies cos age means nothing!
If it looks like a bite but doesn't go away...
Found a small red bite/spot on my back, felt itchy. Took a picture and kept an eye on it for a few weeks, it changed shape, and sort of collapsed into itself; turns out I had skin cancer, had it removed and have a check-up every 5 years.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the more difficult cancers to diagnose and treat. It killed Apple founder Steve Jobs in 2011.
My dad got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three days ago. He has been feeling bad the last year, worse the last 6 months. He has been seeing a doctor from the start. Apparently, it's a bitch to notice.
What he has been suffering from is loose stool, dramatic weight loss (from 80kg to 55kg in a year) muscle loss, difficulties to walk due to muscle loss and pain in his neck.
Other symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be yellow skin, yellow eyes.
Just a warning to people who might experience these kinds of things, get it checked before it's too late... :(
Cancer often presents no symptoms, so pay attention to ANY abnormalities. This guy got lucky.
I didn't and that's the scary thing!
I was a fit and healthy 28-year-old guy, went to the gym three times a week, played and trained for football twice a week all whilst eating relatively healthy. Cancer wasn't really on my radar.
Fortunately one day in the shower I felt a slight lump but truthfully didn't think it was cancer. I google diagnosed a harness epidydmal cyst but thought I'd better get it checked out. I waited a while for an appointment and eventually got it checked out. Dr agreed with my diagnosis but offered me an ultrasound scan for peace of mind, I agreed
A few months later my scan comes around, there's me sitting there fully expecting the all clear ( I was still a healthy young and active guy still with no other worrying symptoms) then Wham! Sorry Mr. Tallyblade but you have testicular cancer, was not expecting that!
By chance, I'd caught it early which made the treatment a whole lot easier. Thankfully I've been all clear for three years and I'm now expecting the arrival of Tallyblade Jnr
Guys, check yourself before you wreck yo self
You can always rely on Mom to hold you accountable.
Not me, my stepbrother, he's 20 now but 19 at the time:
Was walking funny, kept having to hold on to things, was really out of breath walking from one side of the room to another. Acting generally dozy, eyesight had deteriorated quickly over a few months.
He also had the shakes - now this is the key symptom, as my stepmom has a neurological disorder triggered by too many anti-depressants, which has caused her to shake. She was panicking that she'd passed something on to him and forced him to go to the doctors. He wouldn't have gone otherwise, as he's been mothered to the point of being essentially 10 years old, he has absolutely no self-awareness.
CAT scan one day, 24 hours later called straight back into the hospital, had so much fluid in his brain that they needed to insert a stent that day. Found a brain tumor that had been causing it at the top of his spine. He went through two rounds of chemo and one of radiotherapy, wasn't sick, the only ill effects were losing his hair and feeling tired all the time. Now in remission, has almost been cancer-free for a year. The whole treatment lasted maybe 5 months? Good work on the doctors!