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  • Doctor Says Mom Needed to Lose Weight After Pregnancy. A Second Opinion Found Cancer.

    If not for the second opinion, it would have taken months before she found out she had the disease.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Doctor Says Mom Needed to Lose Weight After Pregnancy. A Second Opinion Found Cancer.
PHOTO BY iStock
  • A woman’s body changes in so many ways during pregnancy that health issues are sometimes dismissed as a just “need to lose weight” scenario. But for one new mom, being told that her symptoms would be resolved if she lost weight proved nearly fatal — after sensing that something was amiss with her doctor’s initial diagnosis, she looked for a second opinion and found that what she had is a rare form of cancer.

    Jen Curran, a comedian based in Los Angeles, California recently went viral after she wrote a lengthy Twitter thread on how she almost missed finding out that she had cancer. Her ordeal started during the end of her second trimester when her ob-gyn found high levels of protein in her urine. This was accompanied by high blood pressure and she was diagnosed with preeclampsia then put on bed rest.

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    She was stable for the rest of her pregnancy, although her OB was still worried about the elevated levels of protein in her urine. “It was too high to match up with my other preeclampsia symptoms,” Jen writes. Her doctor insisted that she schedule a consultation with a kidney doctor after her baby was born.

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    In February 2019, her daughter, Rose, was born. Jen followed doctor’s orders and looked for a kidney doctor. But because she had recently given birth and needed to take her daughter around with her, she “assumed it would be easiest to go to a doctor covered by my insurance, near my house.”

    During the consultation in May 2019, her test results revealed that her protein levels were even higher than it had been during pregnancy. It was not a good sign — Jen notes that the high levels can cause irreparable damage to a person’s kidneys and is an indication that something more serious is going on. According to WebMD, an abnormal amount of protein in urine is often a sign of kidney disease.

    But the doctor didn’t seem particularly concerned and told her, “It can take up to a year for things to return to normal after pregnancy.” Jen shares the doctor blinked at her lab results and suggested that she start dieting and to exercise to lose weight. “Go lose weight and the protein will go away. Come see me again in four months,” the doctor had said.

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    Speaking with the New York Post, Jen says she left the doctor’s office feeling defeated and at fault. “I was like, ‘I have this protein sticking around just because I can’t stop snacking,’” she says. “I felt guilty and defeated and ashamed — I don’t think you’re supposed to leave the doctor’s office feeling that way.”

    Jen shares that while she had every intention of following the doctor’s advice, she also couldn’t help but feel that something was off. After all, she had previous experience with portion control, wellness, exercise, and weight loss. “I knew in my gut something else was wrong,” the mom wrote on Twitter. And so, she decided to get a second opinion in June 2019.

    This time, it was a kidney doctor recommended by her OB. “The new kidney doctor took one look at my lab tests and said, ‘This is not good. And there’s nothing diet or exercise can do to touch it,” Jen writes. The doctor then ordered a 24-hour urine collection and a kidney biopsy.

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    After a few weeks, detailed results of the biopsy showed that she had too many kappa light chains in her blood, which is a red-flag protein for bone marrow cancer. Jen was then referred to a hematologist-oncologist, who biopsied her bone marrow.

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    In July 2019, she received an official diagnosis: Multiple myeloma or bone marrow cancer. It is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are found in the bone marrow and normally make antibodies that help fight off infection. But when the cancer cells accumulate, they produce abnormal proteins rather than antibodies, which can cause complications, according to MayoClinic. There is no official cure for her cancer, but patients like Jen could be battling it their whole lives, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

    Jen’s ordeal sheds light on the weight stigma: some medical professionals perceive adults as people “needing to lose weight,” but it might also be an underlying cause for something more serious — and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with weight at all.

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    For Jen, it was her pregnancy and her daughter who helped save her life. If she had not had a baby, she might not have had a reason to see a doctor and seek a second opinion. And while it’s a terrifying diagnosis, Jen is determined to win the battle. She started her chemotherapy last August.

    Jen hopes that by sharing her story, she is also able to help others to advocate for themselves and ask for additional help if they suspect there is something more serious going on. “Here’s the moral of the story. Lose weight if you want to. But if you think something is seriously wrong with your body, and a doctor tells you weight loss is the key to fixing it, get a goddamn second opinion.”

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