Elephants And Tea - March 2021 - 10

Conversation

FITTING IN

That Moment When
You Don't Fit the Mold
BY L I Z H I L E S

J

ust before I received my diagnosis on
a scorching hot day in August 2016,
I thought I was seriously losing my
mind. I had been having increasing
urinary issues for quite some time,
but was continuously being told that there
was nothing wrong with me and that some
of it was just part of getting older. I did not
believe this. I questioned test results. How
dare I! I was asked if my symptoms weren't
actually from my menstrual cycle. Because a
woman shouldn't know her own body. I was
continuously treated like a drug-seeking,
suburban housewife junky instead of someone with a legitimate health issue plaguing
their life. I was starting to believe it until I
saw my current urology team.
When I finally got the results of my cystoscopy, I was relieved. Relieved that I had
bladder cancer. I was relieved that I was,
in fact, NOT crazy, NOT hysterical, NOT
imagining all the things I'd been dealing
with for at least 2 years.
I was told by a colleague of the doctor who
had done my scope about my diagnosis and
the entire team agreed beyond a doubt that

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ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
MARCH 2021

my diagnosis had been missed, quite simply,
because I did not fit the bladder cancer mold.
Seriously, the emergency room docs had refused to listen to the symptoms I very clearly
stated and overlooked my diagnosis by adhering to an outdated demographic checklist.
I was not - and am not - an old, caucasian, chain-smoking male who had repeated exposure to strong chemicals. Until I
had started experiencing my symptoms,
I was an active, vibrant woman in my 30s
who worked hard and volunteered in my
community. I enjoyed spending time with
friends and going out to eat at least once a
week. By the time I was diagnosed, I could
barely make it through a workday because
I was so exhausted from pain, lack of sleep
and spending half my days and nights or
more in the bathroom. In fact, I was lucky
if I could drive the 7 miles between my
apartment and my parking location at work
without needing to urgently stop and use
the restroom. My entire life had begun to
revolve around where the closest toilet was
and how quickly I could collapse into my
bed to get some sleep.

I didn't fit the bladder cancer mold and
that's why I was dismissed.
I mean, I knew that something was wrong,
but I didn't even know bladder cancer was
a thing until I was diagnosed with it so it
was a shock that I had cancer. Once I recovered from that initial shock and the anger
of not being listened to and appropriately
diagnosed sooner, I set to work doing research and found that bladder cancer isn't
as uncommon as you would think. I couldn't
understand why it was consistently the 5th
or 6th most common cancer in the US and
currently 10th on the WHO ranking, yet NO
ONE was talking about it. WHY WASN'T
ANYONE TALKING ABOUT IT?! I very
quickly decided that I would be talking
about it. I was going to scream about it from
the rooftops and tell anyone who would listen to me. I knew that if it was happening
to me, there were others somewhere as well.
In between placing some phone calls to
close friends and family, I very purposefully
decided that I was going to share my entire
journey very publicly on all social media.
After the key people were notified, I made a


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Elephants And Tea - March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - March 2021

Contents
Elephants And Tea - March 2021 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - March 2021 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - March 2021 - 1
Elephants And Tea - March 2021 - Contents
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