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When to Speak Up!

By Anonymous
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When it comes to most cancers, early detection is the name of the game. It saves lives, right?

But what about when your symptoms are vague and even your doctor thinks it is probably nothing terribly serious? Should you push hard to rule out the worst?

The following two women would say absolutely yes.

Jennifer Huang, a middle school librarian from the Seattle area, was 37 weeks pregnant with her second child. The baby was doing great and gaining weight. But she was anemic, losing weight, and had pain on her right side. She had been anemic for awhile and pregnant women often have stomach groans and grumbles. But her doctor agreed she should come in and be checked. An ultrasound showed it was a ruptured appendix. Not good, but the baby, Jonah, was fine. Huang went into surgery. It was supposed to be brief. It wasn’t.

Within a few days they induced delivery of the baby. Soon after Huang and the family were taking happy photos of Jonah. The surgeon came in with bad news. During the surgery they discovered advanced colon cancer. Huang would have to start on aggressive chemo. Joy turned to sadness.

It’s been more than five years now and Huang is doing well, although she had most of her liver removed to cut out cancer that had spread. Fortunately the liver is the one organ that can grow back. It has and she has the chance of living a long time. But she wonders, were there signs she and her doctor missed? Could the colon cancer have been discovered earlier and cured with early intervention? You can imagine, Huang is a big proponent of knowing your body and speaking up aggressively if you have any concerns.

Another patient with peritoneal cancer related to ovarian cancer, Stephanie Donich, also from the Seattle area, also urges people to follow-up aggressively with concerns. Donich knew there had been a lot of cancer in her family and early deaths because of it. She tested positive for the breast and ovarian cancer gene and had her ovaries removed because of it. She had frequent monitoring.

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This woman is a school librarian not a medical professional. In your article you write that she and her doctor were in denial..... they hesitated to check for cancer....... Would a pregnant school librarian think to ask her doctor to check or order him to check for cancer? As I read your interesting article it seemed to me a physician has diagnostic tools available plus his/her education in the field of medicine. I'm certain this woman has a wonderful grasp on organization of a library. These are two very different fields.

September 12, 2010 - 8:54am
EmpowHER Guest

This is so true! My Mother also needed to get three opinions (not about cancer) but about a burning sensation in her legs. Great story to be educated about questioning since we tend to take the word of our treating physicians.

September 11, 2010 - 9:06am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.