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People Who’ve Had Cancer Share the Warning Signs That Made Them Go to a Doctor

©Unsplash,National Cancer Institute

If you or anyone in your family has had to deal with cancer in any shape or form, you know that it’s a terrifying ordeal and it affects all of your friends and loved ones.

And that’s why early cancer screenings and self checks are so important.

But even with those advantages, it’s still important to be educated about what to look for on your body just in case something catches your eye or something just doesn’t feel right and needs to be checked out.

Here’s what AskReddit users had to say about the things they first noticed that made them go to the doctor.

1. What a story.

“I was in a drum line in middle school and we used to do this thing with the drum sticks to sting one and other.

This kid got me real good on my shoulder blade, and it caused an irritated growth. Doctor told us that it wouldn’t go away on its own and would have to be removed. While in surgery to have it biopsy, my mom pointed out another bump on my back, and asked the surgeon if it was the same thing, he replied no, and that it was fine.

My mom insisted, asking him to remove it just incase so we wouldn’t have to come back and he did. The second biopsy got infected and I had to go on antibiotics, unknown at the time, the antibiotic prescribed to me I was allergic to which did not have a good result.

Got a call back for a results appointment that just happened to be on my 14th birthday. The surgeon never looked at me or said happy birthday, he just read the results and said sorry before leaving, it was scale 4 malignant melanoma.”

2. Mammogram.

“I was diagnosed at 43. For two years my gynecologist insisted that I get a mammogram as part of turning 40. I am very small chested so I thought it was a complete waste of time.

In February 2013 I promised my doctor that I would get a mammogram before my next annual appointment. I was diagnosed in February 2014. Stage 2 breast cancer. There was absolutely no signs or indication.

No family history. All the way up to the pathology results from the biopsy, I thought it was all a complete waste of time and money. The results came back positive.”

3. Blood everywhere.

“I was four. We were visiting my grandmother at work (Target). I still distinctly remember playing with the little dots on a Sprite bottle.

I had to potty. So my mom took me to the bathroom. I peed, and stood up. While she was helping fasten my pants, I looked at the toilet.

It was full of blood.

We rushed to the hospital. Turns out I had Wilm’s Tumor. A tumor the size of a large grapefruit had ruptured my right kidney and I was internally hemorrhaging. I was rushed to surgery.”

4. Awful.

“Brother started forgetting words even while looking at object, could not say them. Could write them or even describe all parts of object but not name like shoe laces.

Soon lost peripheral vision even before he could get to his primary doctor. All that within just 3 weeks.

Diagnosed with glioblastoma in February and died in June.”

5. Dry skin.

“Dry patch of skin on my forehead wouldn’t stop scabbing and then bleeding. Decided that was because I couldn’t stop picking it. Ignored it for 5 years because I’m 1) That afraid of doctors and 2) That incredibly stupid.

Decided to leave it alone for ten days and let it heal. It didn’t. Finally got sick of worrying about it being basal cell carcinoma and went and got diagnosed. Basal cell carcinoma. It was dealt with pretty easily but don’t be like me.”

6. Pay attention.

“Cervix cancer. A couple of times during s*x blood would just randomly pour out of me. Nowhere near my time of month and no pain. Turns out that is one of the warning signs.

Three surgeries later I have had my cervix (the mouth og the uterus) removed completely, bit by bit. They tried taking only what they had to, as lack of a cervix makes impregnation and carrying to term harder, but it kept reappearing.

I Hope it’s done now.”

7. Limping.

“I was four, I didn’t want to be a bother to anyone so I tried as best as possible to hide the pain in my leg.

My pre-k teacher noticed I was limping and told my parents about it. I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and had my left leg amputated through the knee.

This October will be 16 years since I ended treatment!”

8. A single lump.

“One lump on my underarm, no other symptoms.

Had a biopsy and scans and then was diagnosed with hodgkins lymphoma stage 2B. Turns out i had half a dozen tumors inside me but close together. Had chemo and radio, in remission within 3 months, stopped treatment within 6.

Life was on pause for a year. Been cancer free for a year now.”

9. Fatigue.

“I was 8 when I got Leukemia (21 now), the first unusual thing was that I was constantly tired. I’d just come home and lie down on the couch and wouldn’t have energy for anything. My mom was just alarmed as I was a lively child but she first brushed it off as school and autumn moods exhausting me.

And then I started getting red spots on my skin. Not breakouts, just red dots appearing right under my skin.

First on my face, then on my neck, eventually they spread down to my chest. It happened within days and thankfully my mom called my grandmother, who’s a cardiologist, and who ordered my parents to take me to a doctor.

Other doctors could’ve said it was a skin allergy breakout (I suffered from skin allergies before that) but this one noticed the signs, ordered extensive blood tests and then got me transferred to the haematology hospital within an hour.

I still remember how I tried to be brave when they were taking my blood and how proud I was that I was calm through that whole evening.

And that was the start of over a year of hospital life.

If my mom hadn’t called my grandmother, If she then wouldn’t order my parents to take me to the hospital, if that doctor then would dismiss the signs (which are not at all common with leukaemia) I would’ve been gone within a week, maybe two. If I came there days, hours later, I would’ve been beyond saving.

But in the end, 8/9yo me was happy to be allowed to spend whole days in bed playing the Sims 2 and that’s what I choose to remember from that time.

I’d also like to say that my parants are amazing people who made sure to spend every moment they could with me, all the while working to support us (not all the meds etc were available through the local NHS) and they made this hard time so much easier for me.”

10. Terrible.

“My brother, age 24, had a pain in his lower back so went to the chiropractor. Didn’t help so he went to a real doctor.

“Cancerous tumor is blocking the spinal cord, you have less than a year to live.”

Anyway, my brother lived three years more but the last one was in bed.”

11. All in the eyes.

“My eyes were doing something… really weird. Bright flashes all over my field of vision, but generally only when I was moving from darkness into light (i.e. right when I woke up).

I went to the eye doctor, they said probably macular degeneration, not much they can do, so I just sort of lived with it and went on with life, feeling 100% fine otherwise.

Thankfully I had a regular blood test from my doctor a few months later. Results came back so bad they said it had to be a mistake because “if these numbers were real you’d be literally unable to stand up, practically dead, and obviously you’re not.”

So they chucked the results (“don’t worry, these mistakes happen all the time!”) and ran another blood test. They called me up with results, said they were even worse than the first, and told me to run, not walk, to a hematologist. Didn’t take them long after that to figure out I had a rare form of leukemia.

My white blood cell counts were literally off the charts, making my blood super thick (“like potato soup”, my doc explained), and that was creating undue pressure in the blood vessels in my eyes (hence the flashing).

Four years later I’ve still got leukemia but its mostly under control thanks to some relatively new miracle drugs (thanks, Science!) Oh, and my eyes are mostly back to normal, though it did seem to screw up my vision a little bit so now I have to wear glasses.”

12. A weird feeling.

“This might sound really really strange, but I felt “high” all the time. Like I was detached from reality.

Hard to put into words. Went in, found a tumor, hodgkins & non-hodgkins at the same time.”

13. Seizures.

“I started having seizures.

At first they were small ones–a random smell and really strong deja vu, and then I started having tonic clonic seizures a year later.

The one nice thing is that among growths in the brain, it is the slower growing ones that are more likely to cause seizures so at least there’s that.”

14. Go get checked.

“This question hits too close to home for me. I am currently fighting stage IV rectal cancer that spread to my liver. I am a late 50’s male that was too stupid and arrogant to go get checked or have a colonoscopy when the doctors said I should.

I thought I knew my body better than they did. That naive attitude will probably end up costing me my life. My family is what forced me to finally act, but unfortunately, too late.

I have had digestive problems my entire life. Born with a faulty pyloric valve. Lousy eating habits, bad choices, lack of caring, have finally caught up with me. Everything has a price and the bill eventually comes due. I am paying now.

Three years ago, in addition to my normal struggles, I started seeing red blood on the toilet paper when I went to the bathroom. Not all the time so I kind of ignored it. It eventually started happening more often. I did not tell anyone or go to a doctor. I just ignored it. My family kept pushing me to get it checked. I finally relented.

In January 2019, I had a colonoscopy. When I woke up, the first words out of the doctor’s mouth were, “I found something very concerning. This is not good.” 4 polyps. He removed 3 but the fourth was too large and too close to my anus. He took a bunch of biopsies.

They all came back negative. Whew, or so I thought. It was recommended that I have it removed surgically so in March, I had surgery and had it taken out. The surgeon wanted to remove the lymph nodes as well (it is the only way to be sure) but I said no because that meant a colostomy.

I was not ready for that. The biopsy from the surgery came back in late March 2019. Cancer. The dreaded C word. I was shocked but not surprised. I had brought this on myself. In some way, I deserved it.

Again, the surgeon recommended removing everything to be sure. I said no. The chances were not great but not zero so I opted for chemo and radiation to see if that would get it. 5 weeks of daily chemo and radiation in May 2019. That was tough and it took a pretty big toll on me but I made it through.

The August scans looked promising. My CEA level (the colon cancer tumor marker) was dropping fast. My doctors were optimistic and telling me good things. My November scans looked just as good. I was told I was in remission and they would monitor me for the next 2 years. Wow. Dodged a bullet, so I thought.

Right after Thanksgiving, I get a call from my oncologist, my CEA level has increased again and they aren’t sure why. I need to get checked again. I wait it out through the holidays.

In February 2020, I have a CT scan and a PET scan. I then have an EUA (exam under anesthesia) to check the original tumor. Not only is the original tumor back but the cancer has spread to my liver. 3 lesions.

I went from being in remission to stage IV in less than 3 months. You talk about whiplash. My head was spinning. The hardest part was talking to my family about what was going on and what comes next.

In April I started on infused chemotherapy, FOLFOX + Avastin. 4 hours of infusion followed by 36 hours of a pump worn at home. I did this every 2 weeks, 4 times, covering an 8 week span. I was told to pause after that so I could deal with my liver.

Time to up the ante. I got into MD Anderson to see the experts. I have a huge team of doctors and specialists trying to help me survive. Even though I was told by my local oncologist last year that radiation was a one-time thing and I had my life-time dosage, MDA doesn’t see it that way. They have a more specialized approach so in June, I went through a second round of radiation and chemo.

Twice a day for 13 days at the end of June. That was hell and the following 2 weeks were just as bad trying to recover. I was honestly missing the infused chemo.

Oh, and towards the end of the radiation, I paused the final treatment so I could have a procedure done on my liver to zap the 3 lesions. Then I finished the final radiation treatment the next day. My local oncologist called me “ballsy” for putting my self through that. In some ways, I felt like I deserved to suffer.

I have slowly recovered from all of that and I am about to start back up on the infused chemo. I have 8 more rounds that have to be completed over the next 16 weeks. I have been hoping that by some miracle, this would cure my cancer.

My doctors give me a less than 10 percent chance. All of this treatment is just slowing the spread of the cancer. As they have all been telling me for over a year, my only real chance is to remove the original tumor with surgery. I am almost assuredly facing a permanent colostomy at the end of all of this. If I had listened to my doctors last year and had that done, I might have saved some of this suffering and be cancer free. Or perhaps not. I will never know.

In the meantime, I will continue to fight it. I will deal with the terrible side effects from the treatments. The constant running to the bathroom. The sh*tting myself time and again. The pain and irritation. The embarrassment. The humiliation. The sadness of knowing what I have and am putting my family through. I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of letting my family down.

All because I was too stupid to listen to the people that know more than me.

Trust me on this one people. Pay attention. Get checked early. Get checked often. Don’t be me.”

15. Only a teenager.

“I was 17, getting ready for spring break back in 2010. Was making plans with my boyfriend on the phone because we were going to take his brothers to the zoo in a different city.

Literally in seconds there’s this big translucent blind spot in my eye that is orange. I can see dark shapes behind it but it’s super blurry.

I figured I would just go to the eye doctor before I left the next day, but my sister (who actually works for the cancer center in my city) told me that I should go to the hospital because anything weird with your vision can be super serious.

After 36 hours of Emergency waits, driving to specialists, they finally admitted me to the eye ward for a bacterial infection. Then they took my blood for a routine blood test.

Within an hour or so (as I was getting ready to sleep) a doctor and nurse come in. The nurse has a box of tissues. The doctor told me my “blood is leukemic” to which I asked “okay, can I treat that?” He was extremely unclear on what was happening, I was 17, my family had already left, and I had no idea about any cancers.

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and started chemo that night after being transferred to a different hospital. They did a bone marrow biopsy the next morning and then sent it to a genetic lab in another province.

When the test results came back they changed my diagnosis to Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in the Blast Phase Crisis (final stage) that was caused by the Philadelphia Chromosome – where chromosomes 9 and 22 switch places and causes a mutation in my red blood cells.

Told me I was the youngest person in the world with it, as CML usually takes a very long time to progress and the final stage doesn’t show until around 65 years of age.

That change in diagnosis changed my timeline. They had originally said 6 months to a year untreated, but now it was 1-3 months if I didn’t get a stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant.

All this because I had blood clots happening all over my body because of the abnormalities of my red blood cell shapes – and the one in my eye presented itself in my vision since the vessels are so small.”

Have you or has a member of your family gone through cancer treatment?

If so, tell us about your experiences in the comments.

We’d love to hear from you and we hope all of you are staying safe and healthy out there!