Cancer is one of the most common diseases of our age, and yet those who face it rarely know what is about to happen to them beyond the broadest terms. “Cancer up Close” is an open recount of Michele Goncalves’ cancer journey from pre-diagnosis to life after treatment.
We all know when something is wrong. Call it a sixth sense, an inner voice, or whatever you’d like. To me, this is truly a gift from above, but whether we choose to listen or not is up to each one of us.
For over a year, my inner voice was whispering to me that the blood in my stool and growing belly pains needed to be checked out, but honestly, I wasn’t mentally or emotionally prepared to do anything about it.
I had convinced myself that the blood was being caused by hemorrhoids and that everything would settle down and go away.
But the bleeding and the belly pains didn’t go away. As time passed, that whispering voice grew louder until one day I heard a piercing scream and couldn’t ignore my symptoms anymore.
It was early September 2017 and I was packing for a flight to Moscow the next day. I was struggling with extreme fatigue and a pain in my belly, just under my belly button. I felt like I might be getting a urinary tract infection, something I’d never had before. It worried me. I thought about canceling my flight, but it was my last trip for the year so I pushed myself to get through it.
Deep down inside I knew my symptoms could be serious.
By divine “coincidence,” it just so happened I was having my monthly phone consultation that day with my functional medicine doctor from Michigan. When I described my symptoms, the doctor suggested I get some over the counter cranberry pills to see if that would help.
I rushed to my nearest drug store and picked up a box of the brand CranRx, and gulped down two pills. Miraculously, they made me feel notably better within an hour. This gave me enough energy to finish packing.
So off I went to Moscow. During my entire three-week stay I felt awful. I struggled with constant fatigue, non-stop urges to pee, periodic chills, occasional nausea, and a pesky pain in my lower abdomen. Oh yeah, plus I could not really have a proper bowel movement during the entire trip. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to get my work done.
I mentioned some of what was going on to a colleague who was with me, and he (like me) thought it sounded like kidney stones. I have had kidney stones before and the chills, nausea, and pains felt familiar. But I was ignoring the alarm going off—the fact that my bowel movements were almost non-existent. That is definitely not a symptom of kidney stones.
Nevertheless, when I returned from my trip I quickly booked an appointment with a urologist with good reviews on the internet. After an ultrasound and pelvic exam, I was sent in for a CT scan to check for stones. The results came back negative. I was surprised; I thought for sure it was a kidney stone. Sadly, now I’d have to let this idea go.
However, what the CT scan did show as clear as day was that I was seriously constipated. Yet my urologist did not seem to wonder why this was. He just told me to take Miralax (a brand of stool softener) to help me “go.”
Before he left the exam room, my astute auditing skills kicked in. I was reading the copy of the radiology report he gave me and noticed an interesting statement on the last page near the end (of course). It said “Wall thickening noted in the lower rectum. Can’t rule out malignancy. Follow-up recommended.”
When I asked my urologist about this, which he had not brought up in his discussion with me about the results, he said not to worry about it. He suggested I was probably straining from constipation while trying to go to the bathroom and my rectum was just swollen.
Thanks to my now screaming inner voice, I ignored his irresponsible remarks to “not worry about it.” Instead, I took the advice of my functional medicine doctor, who was alarmed by my CT scan and rushed to book an appointment with a gastroenterologist to see what was causing the blockage.
By now, my fear was ballooning inside me from things I’d seen on the internet about my symptoms. I knew the time had come to stop ignoring what my body was telling me. Turns out, this was a very smart move on my part.
Next week I’ll take you into my first colonoscopy experience, and the devastating diagnosis I never expected.
Until then, breathe deep and be kind.
Michele Goncalves is a financial compliance and fraud auditor for a Fortune 500 company by day and a passionate pursuer of holistic and functional medicine knowledge by night. She also writes The Consummate Traveler column for The Epoch Times.