Brenda Cridland thought that weight gain was just something that came with age.
As KTVB News reports, the woman from Meridian, Idaho knew she had been putting on weight for about a decade. But even as the pounds piled up and her body started to feel different, she assumed menopause was to blame. So she didn’t see a doctor about it.
“My stomach was like a rock,” she told KTVB. “I noticed I was gaining weight, and I was not feeling good. But I didn’t think anything about it.”
About eight months ago, Cridland started to experience serious health problems. She said that it became difficult to eat:
“I would take one bite of something and it would make me feel nauseous and like it was stuck in my chest.”
Though she continued to ignore the signs, Cridland’s family pointed out that her symptoms couldn’t be caused by menopause. She told KTVB that things came to a crisis last year: “In February, I was at my granddaughter’s birthday and everyone was looking at me, like, ‘that’s not just menopause.'”
Cridland went to the doctor and was given a CAT scan. What they found shocked Cridland’s doctor, who couldn’t believe she had gone so long without being diagnosed.
Cridland had developed a 50-pound tumor in her abdomen. The mass was so large that it had shifted the location of her organs. She told KTVB that doctors said the tumor had “pushed my stomach up into my chest, he said my intestines were over on my side.”
What’s more, the tumor had grown so large that it was now affecting Cridland’s brain. Had she waited any longer to see a doctor, it might have been too late:
“He showed me the tumor on the CAT scan and it was very scary because it was cutting off the blood supply to my brain. He said probably another two weeks it would have been life or death.”
After a two-and-a-half hour surgery, the tumor was removed — though doctors had to shift Cridland’s organs back into place during the procedure. Fortunately, tests showed that the mass was benign.
Cridland learned the tumor was caused by endometriosis, a disease which causes tissue that usually lines the inside of the uterus to grow outside the uterus.
According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of endometriosis include infertility, heavy periods, painful menstrual cramps, and pain in the abdomen, lower back, or pelvis.
For most of her life, Cridland had experienced symptoms of endometriosis but never spoke to her doctor about them. Now, she regrets ignoring the warning signs and not being more vocal about her health issues. She hopes her story will persuade other women to speak up about health issues and go to the doctor when something is wrong.
Cridland is now recovering from the surgery and says she only has to go back for annual check-ups to ensure she’s still doing well. And she can laugh about her husband’s reaction to the surgery that caused her to lose a significant amount of weight in just a few hours:
“It was like, his jaw hit the floor. He’s like, ‘Where did my wife go?’ because it was like I lost more than 50 pounds. I lost 65 pounds by the time I got done.”