Medical professionals misdiagnosed a 30-year-old Indianapolis woman, complaining of inexplicable weight loss, blood in her stools and excessive diarrhea, like irritable bowel syndrome. Months later, after coming to her defense, health specialists were shocked to discover that she did, in fact, have cancer.
It was in 2019 when Ashley Teague said she first noticed she was losing weight but paid little attention to it as she was recovering from a tough year, with a significant loss, and had put on a few pounds. .
At one point, the 6-foot-1 mother-of-two, freelance photographer and sometimes bouncer, weighed as much as 275 pounds, but those pounds began to melt away quickly, and she was fine with weight loss assistance.
Teague said in an interview with the Insider, “I was like, ‘OK cool.’ I didn’t even care to say, ‘Hey, your schedule is horrible, you barely sleep, you eat like shit.’ »
However, in 2020 the weight loss continued, but was made worse by severe pain in her side and a condition that allowed everything she ate to pass through her, causing her to suffer from diarrhea up to seven times. per day.
She said she knew something was wrong, but when she went to see her nurse practitioner and told her what was going on, she was told she had IBS and was told prescribed medication.
A month later, she returned to the doctor’s office and shared that in addition to the other symptoms, she now had blood in her stool.
The office did their blood work. When he came back and appeared to be normal, the nurse told him she “looked healthy”.
Despite her appearance, she always maintained that something was wrong and requested a colonoscopy. This request was refused, the nurse allegedly telling him: “We do not give colonoscopies to patients under the age of 48.”
After six to seven months of pressure for the procedure, she spoke to doctors about her mother and father’s health issues – which changed everything.
In November 2020, Teague told the medical team that her mother was a kidney and breast cancer survivor and lived with Lynch Syndrome.
According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, this gives her a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation, and because she is female, she has a 40-60% lifetime risk of developing colon cancer. Still, her CT scans didn’t pick up any issues and she said she was “still ignored”.
In the second week of December 2020, she told them, her father recently discovered he had cancerous polyps and had them removed from his colon, prompting doctors to expedite his colonoscopy.
“Suddenly everyone was jostling, ‘We have to program you, we have to program you,'” Teague recalled.
She wrote: “After 6 months of complaining and being refused just because I looked healthy and because my blood was undetectable of any disease, I was finally on the right track to making sense of it all. the changes my body had gone through in the last year.”
She received the results of her December 2020 procedure and it revealed that it was not her ‘eating spicy foods’ or digestive issues she was suffering from. Teague was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“I remember my world just stopped,” she said. “I didn’t hear anything, it was just quiet and cold.”
During her surgery to remove the cancer, doctors had to cut four and a half feet from her five-foot colon and combine the last six inches to her small intestine.
Now she can’t eat more than one or two meals a day. She also has to go to the toilet several times a day, passing loose stools. Teague is grateful. The alternative is much worse than its current state. She said, “I’m going to replace that with having to change colostomy bags every day. »
Since then, Teague has undergone genetic testing and was told that she has Lynch Syndrome like her mother.
Now she is a statistic and accounts for 1 in 300 people worldwide with the condition.
Dr. Matthew Yurgelun, director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Lynch Syndrome Center, says many people are “woefully underdiagnosed” with the genetic condition that predisposes to colon cancer.
In fact, in Teague’s case, not only was she late diagnosed with the syndrome and originally misdiagnosed regarding her illness, but her cancer stage was also misdiagnosed. Her doctors initially said, based on the size of the tumor in her colon, that she had stage 4 cancer, but she was later told the cancer was aggressive stage 2/early stage 3.
In fact, if Teague had been tested six years prior when her mother was diagnosed, doctors might have caught cancer sooner and her colon might have been saved.
Teague is now on the road to recovery.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her with her bills, her medications and her children’s genetic testing. Since its inception, it has raised almost $7,500 on the $10,000 goal.
She also provided an update for those following her journey.
Teague shared that her doctors believe she contracted gastritis during her colectomy.
“[I] Got my upper and lower GI scan results back from 10/10/22,” she wrote. “Nothing too concerning showed up in the lower GI, but I was moved to yearly lower GIs (colonoscopy).”
“My upper GI however revealed that I had gastritis. For those unfamiliar with gastritis, it is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Although gastritis is not life threatening , it caused some discomfort in my stomach,” she explained.
This small setback is frustrating, she is already focused on what to do to improve her quality of life. First thing: change your diet.
She also said she would continue her work.
“I’m grateful to still be here advocating for other Lynch syndrome and colorectal cancer patients,” Teague pledged.