Mary Harbert Stromberg was in the thick of her junior year at Clemson University when a sharp pain near her right hip bone stopped her in her tracks. After an ultrasound revealed a mass, she immediately called her mother, Glennys, who turned to her own mother, Craig Cowles. The three-time cancer survivor insisted that her granddaughter go to MD Anderson, where doctors found no evidence of cancer. Stromberg’s misdiagnosis is one of countless such cases seen at MD Anderson.
It was a Tuesday when I started experiencing a lot of pain on my right side. It kept getting progressively worse, so I headed to the doctor, thinking it might be appendicitis. The doctor poked and prodded, then suggested I get an ultrasound. The scan revealed a complex mass.
At the advice of my grandmother, my mom said, ‘Let’s be extra careful and go to MD Anderson.’
Going somewhere that says ‘Cancer Center’ is definitely intimidating. But I had been to MD Anderson with my grandmother so many times, and I remembered how nice the people were and quickly felt at ease. Upon meeting Dr. Pedro Ramirez and his team, I knew I was in the right place. My doctor in South Carolina seemed more frightened than I was. But the MD Anderson team has seen it all.
They said in a very calming way, ‘First, we’re going to figure this out, and we’ll go from there.’
After a full exam, Dr. Ramirez told me there was no complex mass at all. It was a normal, benign, regular cyst that commonly occurs, and mine just happened to twist in a strange way that was causing the pain. He told me I was OK.
My mom, grandmother and I are all on the same page. It’s scary how far people will go without asking questions, getting second opinions and really knowing what’s going on.
My first doctor recommended a hysterectomy – at 21 years old! And then to find out I had no evidence of disease. I feel lucky to have gotten that second opinion and hope others will do the same.
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