Before my diagnosis, I considered myself to be very fit, active, healthy and positive in all aspects of life. I was going to the gym 3-4 times a week and eating as healthily as possible. I love being a teacher and although it is a demanding career, I have always been very efficient and productive with my time. I rarely ever feel stressed! When I received my diagnosis from my surgeon, I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. Why me? What have I done wrong? Did I cause this somehow? Do I deserve this? You will ask these questions to yourself after you receive the news from your doctor, and because there are no answers, it is the most frustrating thing in the world. Eventually, you will accept that it is happening to you and that you will be brave enough to fight it.
Rewind to 5th November 2016, I had been to the gym and did a HIIT class. I really enjoyed the class and there was a lot of focus on working the core. Think planks, oblique twists, that sort of evil. The day after, I noticed a pain coming and going on the right side of my torso. I thought it was my 6 pack abs coming through from the workout! A week later, the cramps were still happening so I booked an appointment with my doctor. He had taken blood tests, a urine and stool sample and conducted an ultrasound before deciding to give me antibiotics for what he thought was a UTI. The pain got worse and another doctor decided I needed a full abdomen ultrasound at the hospital to check if I had kidney stones.
After my second ultrasound, the doctor said ‘you have a pipe, within a pipe’. I laid there thinking WTF does that mean? He sent me straight to the emergency room where I then met with Dr Mahendra Rajan, an excellent surgeon at Medcare Hospital (Al Safa). He told me that I had Intussusception which is rare in adults and more common in children and elderly people. He was surprised that I wasn’t in that much pain and eating and drinking as normal. He made it clear that surgery would be needed sooner or later. As I wasn’t in severe pain, the doctor arranged a colonoscopy to investigate. The procedure went fine and I had the best sleep of my life! Prepping for the colonoscopy was way worse. Make sure you have a lot of toilet roll! The colonoscopy showed partial blockage of the large intestine but not what was causing it. I went home feeling fine, waited for my husband to come home from work and we had a late dinner. As we got into bed, I couldn’t sleep due to severe cramping and what I would describe as trapped wind which was causing horrendous stabbing pains. The next day I went into hospital and had emergency surgery.
Dr Mahendra removed swollen lymph nodes which were causing the intussusception. They were sent away for biopsy and in the meantime I just focused on moving around and recovering. I was happy, healing and watching trash TV on E! to pass the time. I thought the lumps would most probably be benign due to the fact that I’m young, healthy and active.
A week after surgery, Dr Mahendra confirmed that it was Non-Hodgkins Burkitt’s Lymphoma and that I would need intense chemotherapy over 4-6 months. I sat there with tears in my eyes thinking how is this happening? Although I knew cancer was a possibility, I would never have thought this would really happen to me. I cried every day for over a week. After that, I accepted my diagnosis and started planning projects I could do such as this website and blogging my journey. I still have moments where I cry, but that’s normal and healthy to release negative energy. I have to say here that my husband was and still is AMAZING. He remained so strong and accompanied me to every appointment, CT scan, bone marrow test, echogram, MRI scan and fertility consultation! He gave me strength, hope and happiness when I needed it the most.
I also have to give a shout out to Dr Mahendra, an absolute legend and angel!!! He diagnosed the intussusception, performed the key hole surgery, confirmed the cancer diagnosis and linked me up to my oncologist. He even got in touch with an oncologist from the UK. I’m forever thankful for having him there when I needed him and I still whatsapp him when I need his advice LOL! What a lad!
Looking back, my intussusception was a blessing in disguise. If I didn’t have surgery, I would have carried on with life as normal. The symptoms of Lymphoma are fever, tiredness, night sweats and unexplained weight loss. I had only been experiencing some night sweats, but I put that down to sleeping with a duvet during the Dubai summer! LOL. It’s scary to think if I didn’t have intussusception, we wouldn’t have caught the disease as early as we did and for this, I feel very lucky. The one thing I would say is to listen to your body. It will give you signals, even if they are subtle, get it checked out! Night sweats would never make me think ‘hmmmm, I should go to the doctors’, but more like, ‘I really need to take a shower before I go to work!’. No matter how small or insignificant it may be, if it’s out of the norm, approach your doctor.