One Maltese woman moving onto the fourth year of her battle with cancer was told she had IBS for more than a year.
This is the story of Kate Grech Sammut, a woman whose misdiagnosis still troubles her today.
Lovin Malta spoke with Kate about her ongoing experience and the long journey that she’s been on, from her misdiagnosis to her fight with ovarian cancer.
“It was March 2017. I was having a lot of abdominal pains and decided to go to the doctor. The first diagnosis that I was given from a local GP was IBS, commonly known as inflammatory bowel syndrome.”
“Through that year, I was in absolute agony with the pain being on and off for the entirety of 2017. Not once during that year was I advised to go and have a proper examination at the hospital.”
She expressed that herself being the patient, she trusted in what the previous doctors had told her, but deep down knew that something was wrong.
Fast forward to March 2018. Kate returned to the doctor and tried to tell her that the pain was only getting worse.
“Again, she sent me away saying that I had IBS and suggested that I cut out certain foods from my diet to see if I get better. A month later, I went back to the doctor again. This time around my stomach was very bloated and I felt sick and was in a lot of pain.”
For the third consecutive time, Kate was told that it was just IBS.
“At this point, I started getting angry that I was constantly being told that it was IBS. The doctor gave me pain killers and advised me to give it a couple of days and to go to the Emergency Room if the pain persisted,” she explained.
“I was feeling as if I was going crazy.”
That evening, Kate went cycling to take her mind off of it. Halfway on her route to Birgu, she got off her bike in a tremendous amount of pain and curled up on the floor.
“It was the most horrendous pain I ever felt,” she said.
“My husband ran home got the car and took me to MDH emergency. There I was seen immediately and the new doctor was absolutely amazing with me. He ordered me a CT scan straight away.”
The results were much more grave than what they were expecting to hear. Prior to the CT scan, she was told it was probably going to be a ruptured appendix. But that couldn’t have been more inaccurate.
“Stage 3 metastatic ovarian cancer mass of 14cm on the right ovary… along with ascites fluid on the abdomen. I was immediately drained of eight litres of fluid and sent over to the oncology department where I then started the next three years of chemotherapy. I am to this day still being drained every four weeks from six to seven litres of fluid from my abdomen,” she said.
Kate believes that if she was immediately sent in for a CT scan and appropriate blood tests, she probably wouldn’t still be in this situation, or else her diagnosis would have been caught at a much earlier stage.
“I am doing really well, considering everything, but I didn’t need to go through all of this. It could have been avoided if the doctor had sent me for the right examinations instead of taking a guess and ignoring me when I cried with pain.”
“I am a strong woman, and I am still living my life to the full as a cancer patient. I do archery and cycle a lot with my husband,” she said, encouraging others to have hope.
Kate is telling her story because she wants other women to be well aware of their own health, and not to ignore their pain. She stressed that while the initiative is supposed to be taken by the doctors, they should insist on further examinations such as a CT scan and blood tests themselves.
She has also opened a cancer support group for women experiencing a similar reality, which can be joined here.
If you have any similar experiences that you would like to speak about, reach out to [email protected]
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