"Your body gives you signs before it shuts down," Teague said, "so listen to it."
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 21, 2022. It has since been updated.
Losing weight is often seen as healthy but not always. A 28-year-old lost more than 25 pounds without exercising or dieting. A medical practitioner diagnosed it as IBS whereas the person actually had colon cancer. In 2019, Ashley Teague began losing weight. She thought that it was a good thing and that her mental and physical health was improving. "I was like, 'OK cool,'" said Teague. "I wasn't even paying attention to like, 'Hey your schedule is horrible, you barely sleep, you eat like crap,'" she told Insider.
I talked to a 30-year-old who advocated for a colonoscopy after experiencing weight loss, bloody stools & diarrhea. She said she was denied for being too young, despite her likely inheritance of a genetic condition that put her at high risk for cancer. https://t.co/i0hxhs7NZE— Anna Medaris (@AnnaMedaris) October 19, 2022
The year prior to that, Teague had had a rough year. Her close friend had died from a heart attack and her uncle was killed in the line of duty. She had put on a lot of weight owing to the tragic toll these incidents took on her. But by 2020, Teague began to worry as she had lost 25 pounds and she had pain on her side, once while working at Super Bowl. Later, she also began to have diarrhea seven times a day. She said that she "knew deep down" something was wrong. Despite having an inheritance of Lynch syndrome (a genetic condition linked to a higher risk of multiple cancers), the doctors didn't allow her to get a colonoscopy done.
The first time Teague went to the doctor, the nurse practitioner told her that she has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A month later, Teague returned with the same symptoms along with bloody stools. But her blood reports came normal, so the nurse said that she "looked healthy" and refused a colonoscopy. "We do not give colonoscopies to patients under 48 years old," the nurse told her. Teague even tried to make her case by telling the medical team about her mother's history of surviving kidney and breast cancer. They just asked her to "lay off spicy food" and to change her diet as the CT scan didn't show any issues. Only when she told the doctors that her father had recently had cancerous polyps removed from his colon did they fast-track her for a colonoscopy. In total, it took 6-7 months for the doctor's office to agree to the test.
Once the results came, she was told that she has a tumor in her colon. "Your body gives you signs before it shuts down," Teague said, "so listen to it." In December 2020, Teague's report confirmed cancer. "I remember my world just stopped. I didn't hear anything, it was just silent and cold," she said. She went through surgery and the doctors removed more than four and a half feet of her five-foot colon and merged what was left with her small intestine. It was also diagnosed that Teague had Lynch Syndrome.
Ashley Teague, now 30, experienced unexplained weight loss, diarrhea, and bloody stool for months.— ew david | fold in the cheese (@thurgoodhamer) October 19, 2022
Healthcare professionals continue to be a risk factor for black women.https://t.co/lH42DZ3BHI pic.twitter.com/UuPhWBARYm
Teague preferred to look at the positive side of things. She feels grateful for the syndrome as cancers that occur because of it tends to be diagnosed in the earlier stages. "Something that should have killed me didn't because I have Lynch syndrome," Teague said, adding that doctors told her she has had cancer for the past year. Teague has started a GoFundMe page to support her medical expenses. She is also planning to get a hysterectomy done as she is at a high risk of uterine cancer. But before that, she needs to decide if she wants more children. Her two children are 10 and 6 years old, they will also be tested for Lynch when they turn 18 years old. "If they have it, we'll start setting up the preventive screenings," she said. "If not, they're good to go."
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe/ Ashley Teague