Surviving cancer, a tale of hope: Missing the signs

I have been asked to share my Cancer Survivor Journey so that those who have had cancer or currently having cancer treatment will see there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The family connection

But firstly let me introduce myself my name is Preeti Dudakia born in Nairobi – East Africa, my family (Dad, mum, 3 brothers and myself) moved to UK in the 60s when I was about a year old. I’m the youngest of the four siblings, but I can honestly say being the youngest and the only girl in our family, I wasn’t spoilt as most would think the case would be.

Most of my life I have been a healthy child with good prospects, education, and social life until the year 2007 (age 41) when I started getting abdominal pain, this pain did not resolve by taking pain killers (analgesics), the pain was excruciating to say the least and hence called for trip to the GP.

My GP examined me and put it down to being hormonal changes even though I mentioned that my period was not due for another 2 weeks. Having told the GP that the pain killers were not effective, I was still told to take them. Going to work with this pain was unbearable at times and I was constantly off sick, almost two to three times a month resting for two to four days in a week. This was not looking good for my job prospect. Again more visits to the GP and this time I questioned my GP that “my mother had ovarian cancer, so do you think it could be that?” – to my amazement the GP said, “No you have nothing to worry about – it’s not genetic”.

Now let me tell you about my mother before I carry on with my journey. My mother at the age of 60 was diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage 4 in the year 2000. Prior to her diagnosis, she was regularly visiting her GP with abdominal pain, bloating, eating less but feeling full, and back pain, as well as having to go to the toilet more frequently. The GP examined and said “it’s hormonal changes and basically all Asians have bigger tummies especially women so nothing to worry about”.

Mum went through six cycles of chemotherapy (paclitaxol/carboplatin) and recovered as well as can be. Unfortunately, after a few months the cancer came back and again she had further chemotherapy with only carboplatin – this was not effective and therefore she was taken off this treatment. Mum was then given a clinical trial NX211 but this only worked for a short period of time, so the cancer had won and on August 12th 2002 sadly mum passed away.

Missed signs

Now, let me go back to my journey which you will find it to be similar to my mothers. Several visits to my GP took place again, more CT scans, MRI scans, blood tests, internal examinations, you name it and I probably had it. The tests revealed I had endometriosis, fibroids, cysts which were removed via laparoscopy in 2008. Unfortunately, the pain and bloating was not resolved so again more visits to the GP. At this point I was losing the will to live, the pain was unbearable, the sickness record was increasing and not being able to enjoy life as I would have wanted to took its toll.

From 2009 there was no outcome of why I was in so much pain and having a bloating tummy all the time. I started to exercise, diet as much as I could but still no change to my tummy size, nothing was getting toned. So again several more trips to my GP and another laparoscopy was performed in 2009 after more scans. This time I was told that as they could not find anything they stitched me up and that was the end of it. Again another disappointment for me but I still had a feeling that something was not right and I’m sure with all of you, you know if your body is not right.

In 2010, I requested to have a second opinion from another consultant, he kindly looked at all my past medical notes and showed me a picture of my insides from the laparoscopy which was done in 2009 and said “there are fibroids, cysts, and a lot of sticky fluid – why was this not removed?” He immediately found out who operated on me and I was told that this surgeon was not an expert in removing these and should not have operated on me. He then said he would do a laparoscopy and remove these fibroids, cysts, etc. So again, I had another laparoscopy in which more cysts, fibroids were removed and fluid was added to enable the sticky fluid to disperse.

(continued in “Final Confirmation”)

Preeti Dudakia

Preeti was born in Nairobi, East Africa. Her family moved to the UK in the 1960s when she was about one year old. She is one of four siblings, the only girl with three older brothers. She currently works as a Senior Pharmacy Technician at Epsom General Hospital in Medicines Information where she answers various types of enquires from other healthcare professionals and the patient’s helpline.