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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kristen Mitteness

"There's a problem." My tumor story.

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

"There's a problem" may have been the very last thing I wanted my doctor to say while he was looking at my cervix. It turns out that instead of my cervix, he found a mass. I was there because I wanted my IUD removed. It seemed to me it was causing a few problems. Turns out my problems were coming from something completely different and much more severe.

While tears fell down my cheek, I was instructed that the next steps were an urgent ultrasound and a visit to an Oby/Gyn who could better take care of this situation. Being that I was at a walk in clinic rather than at my designated doctor, the information needed to be passed to him as well. Now, let me back up just a bit.

December 25, 2020 - Christmas day! I woke up to FaceTime with my family because, you know, COVID. Quinn had just gotten off his last night shift so after we chatted and ate brunch, he headed to bed. I started to pack for my upcoming trip to Minaki when I suddenly had severe left sided low back pain that wrapped around my torso and shot into my pelvis. It wasn't severe, severe. It was a 4/10, but so relentless that I couldn't think straight. As someone who never has pain, I assumed this was my body telling me to cool it on the dairy and sugar. I was also waiting for my period, so I assumed these were just horrendous cramps (which I never get). I grabbed an ice pack, laid on the couch and set a timer for 10 minutes. The ice felt good but as soon as I stood up, not only did my pain come back, it triggered nausea. I leaned over the toilet while I contemplated my next move. I remembered that Quinn had Advil in the drawer, so I popped 1 extra strength and ran myself a bath. I added Epsom salts and soaked. Within 10 minutes, I could finally think straight and felt good enough to take a shower. Once I jumped out of the shower, I was functioning at about 80% so I started packing again. Within 10 minutes, I was back at 100%. Phew, crisis averted.

December 26, 2020 - Off to Minaki we went! I got my period and my back pain was minimal but persisted. No pelvic pain or flank pain, so I was feeling pretty okay. At this point I assumed I strained my QL during my workout on the 24th. I noticed it, but it certainly didn't stop me from doing anything. And I'm so glad I went, because Minaki was one of the most beautiful winter trips I have ever taken that didn't involve mountains or tropics. 10/10 would recommend.

January 11, 2021 - My back pain is finally manageable enough to work out again! Woo - hoo! After chiropractic and lots of stretching, it's not quite 100%, but I can tolerate weights. I get back into my #NoExcuses workout routine. I'm also in the middle of a Whole 30 and annoyed I'm still in pain. I rarely ever feel pain and when my diet is squeaky clean. I typically feel invincible! This is also around the time I decided to skip coffee. It seemed to trigger pelvic pain. Tea it is. Thankfully, this transition was much easier than I thought. No withdraw symptoms, just a hardcore longing sensation every time I smell it's aroma.

January 16, 2021 - At about 7:00 pm, the pain from December 25th comes back. This time it's on the right side and it's not quite as severe. But, it is making my evening intolerable so I put myself to bed at 8:30 and hope for the best in the morning.

January 17, 2021 - I wake up feeling mostly fine. I go to bed in a bit of pain, but nothing too serious.

January 18, 2021 - I decide to call Women's Health Clinic to see if I can book an appointment to get my IUD removed. They're short staffed so I inquire about going to Urgent Care. She advises me well and is very informative, kind and helpful. I hum and haw all day and decide to go to the Minor Injury and Illness Clinic on Corydon Ave. I show up after talking to the receptionist on the phone. After ignoring me for a few moments, they ask if I have an appointment. I don't of course, but I just called. "You didn't call us," they say. "Yes, I did.". After figuring out that I called a different clinic, I reroute myself to the clinic that DID say I could come in - Corydon Village Medical Centre. I've used them in the past and have received great care. On this day, I found out I have a mass in my pelvis. January 20, 2021 - I just happened to have booked this day off. I booked it off in December assuming my case load would be slow and I would want a day off after working through the holidays. I received a call around 10:00 for an ultrasound appointment at 1:45. The ultrasound took nearly an hour, both external and internal. I could tell by the technician's demeanor that it wasn't good. And when she told me the doctor would be in contact with me, probably this evening, my suspicion was confirmed. January 21, 2021 - At 2:00, I still hadn't heard anything so I called my referring doctor to ensure the results were received. In the middle of the receptionist booking me a phone call with the doctor for the next day, I hear whispers in the background and she quickly changes it to today at 5:00. I took this as another sign that things weren't great. When the call comes in, I'm informed that I have a 16 cm mass coming from my ovary. Due to its size, the next step is Cancer Care Manitoba. It's not a matter of IF it has to come out, it's a matter of WHAT ELSE needs to come with it. I'm advised to give them one week to call me and if I don't hear within that week to let them know.

January 27, 2021 - I'm so over the waiting game, so I call Cancer Care directly. They have a patient referral line and I leave a message. About 2 hours later, I get a phone call letting me know my consult is on Monday, February 1 at 10:00. Perfect. I'm not in the office on Mondays and Quinn is on his change over (the day between his day and night shifts) . I'm allowed to bring someone with me, but only because I'm a new patient. Thankfully, I've been mostly pain free and sleeping well since January 23rd. The five days previously I was going to bed with pain and not sleeping well. Luckily, I feel best in the morning allowing me to workout and work mostly normally.

February 1, 2021 - They're busy and short staffed so they're running a bit behind, but everyone we interact with is excellent. I start by seeing the Fellow. He's kind and thorough. We learn that my mass is large and will require a full incision (laparatomy) for removal. It's not quite a standard cyst. It contains debris, which is suspected to be blood, and has a nodule. While doing the pelvic exam, it's also suspected that it is now larger than 16 cm. It doesn't seem to be sticking to anything around it, so the chances of cancer are lower. After lots of questions, explanations and consents for surgery, I'm off to get blood work, EKG and chest X rays. Expected surgery date is 3-6 weeks away and dependent on my blood work. I should get my date in 1-2 weeks.

This is my belly (actually my tumor) on February 7, 2021 about 22 hours into my 24 hour fast. I had to take an extended break from food because I was getting too uncomfortable if I ate too much or anything with too much sugar. I tried baking some paleo cinnamon rolls (which were delicious!) and they left me in extreme pain and without sleep for nearly two days.

February 11, 2021 - I expected to get my surgery date by now, but haven't heard anything, so I follow up with Cancer Care. My surgery is still not booked, but I am in the queue. They inform me that I should be notified in the "next week or so" with a date and pre op instructions. They are booking "week by week". This differs from the information I was given at my consult. I haven't had any pain recently, but I'm noticeably more uncomfortable, achy, anxious and my appetite is weird. I know I need to eat as clean as possible to keep my pain in check.

February 17, 2021 - I had severe low back pain over the weekend that started on Friday morning during my workout. I went in for an adjustment that day and on Sunday I couldn't stand up straight. I took this picture because I couldn't believe how crooked my whole body was. I had physio (mostly acupuncture) on Tuesday and at her urging, I called my nurse to give her an update on my symptoms and check to see if there was an update on the surgery date. She told me to take pain killers and that they were booking "week to week". I confirmed that I was still expected to have my surgery by 6 weeks (she hadn't heard otherwise) and I would get a 1-2 week heads up. I'm slowly getting more frustrated at the lack of helpful information, communication and false promises.

February 26, 2021 - I had a better week physically, but a stressful week at work which slightly flared up my symptoms. I got the OR bookings number and called them directly to see if there were any updates on my surgery date. I left a message didn't receive a call back. Out of pure frustration, Quinn called every number he could find and left a message. We got a call back from my nurse (whom I had just spoken to the week before). She had no additional information for me. She said she would call me back on Monday or Tuesday after talking to the person in charge of OR bookings. We are now nearly 4 weeks out from my consult date (February 1) with no information on surgery. My main symptoms are frequent urination (4-5 times per night) and general achiness over the tumor and sometimes in my low back. I don't always have the urge to urinate, but my achiness gets so bad that I have learned that if I go to the bathroom, I'll get relief. I also can't lift my right leg straight up (to put on socks or pants) without discomfort. I have to pull it up sideways. My newest symptom is a fuzzy feeling on the bottom of my feet, worse on the left. Not all of the time, but occasionally. I'm not too thrilled about this symptom as it is usually indicative of a more serious issue.

March 3, 2021 - I finally received the call. My surgery date has been booked. I have a few weeks to prepare my work and home life, mentally and physically. I'll meet you on the other side, if I don't see you before then. Find all about my surgery and recovery here.

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