Unsplash | Lazar Gugleta

Cancer Survivors Share The Moment They First Realized Something Was Wrong

In today's society, cancer rates are very high, and odds are you know a family member or friend who has suffered from a form of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 39.66% of men are at risk of developing cancer in their lifetime, and 37.65% of women are at risk.

However, survival rates are slowly increasing over time, and one person took to Reddit to find out stories from people who had survived cancer, by asking: "Cancer survivors of Reddit, when did you first notice something was wrong?"

What follows are a series of stories from people who survived cancer, with the hope that these stories will give people hope that this terrible illness need not be a death sentence, and convey the importance of attending regular check-ups.

Trouble With Speech

Instagram | rad_bros

"I was having a business meeting with a contractor who was doing some graphic design work for my company. I'd had a few brain farts over the last couple of months where I'd been trying to say a word but just couldn't come up with it. I brushed them off as 'tip of my tongue' type brain farts and ignored them. In this meeting, I got stuck on the word 'and' [...] and I don't remember anything after that other than waking up in the hospital.

"Turns out I had an oligodendroglioma which had been pressing up against my speech center and had grown to the point where it was screwing with my ability to talk [...] Oligodendrogliomas respond well to resection, chemo and radiation treatment and I've been fine ever since." — SoMuchForSubtlety

These sorts of tumors are apparently incredibly rare, only making up <4% of all brain tumors, and only occurring in men in their 40s.

Difficulty Walking

Unsplash | Morgan Sessions

"When I was walking to class one day in high school (I'm now 23) and my legs just gave out and I collapsed to the floor. Had to have a random student walking by helping me to my feet, and even then I wasn't stable. I had been having weird symptoms for the month prior [...]

"Turned out to be a rare type of bone marrow cancer called POEMS Syndrome that only a few other adolescents have ever had. At least that's what my doctors have told me." — JTSJohnson

This person sadly relapsed; however, their recent blood work has been looking positive, so best of luck for their recovery!

Neck Discomfort

Instagram | venom_tattooz

"I was studying in grad school looking down and reading frequently when I began to feel vague neck discomfort. I ignored it for a few weeks but told my then-girlfriend. Then I noticed an asymmetrical bulge in my neck. I wanted to blow it off until our year-long finals were over but my girlfriend insisted I get checked out. It was thyroid cancer. I went through 2 surgeries and radiation therapy but fortunately, I’ve been cancer-free for 5 years now!" — RickSteve-O

Thyroid cancer is most common in people in their 30s and those over the age of 60. Also, women are apparently 2 to 3 times more likely to develop it than men.

No Symptoms

Instagram | manayaj

"I didn't know there was anything wrong - no symptoms. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer through routine screening (I had missed one due to being out of the country). Luckily it was spotted early enough that I got away with 'just' having a total hysterectomy (cervix, uterus and tubes removed).

"I've been left with the lingering fear that they missed a bit somewhere and it'll reoccur, and a messed up bowel/GI situation - but at least my ovaries are still working and I'm not dead." — awfulhat

PTSD is actually more common than you may think in cancer survivors, with certain memories and situations often triggering anxiety attacks.

Post Childbirth

Instagram | utryggabort.glemtekriser

"I was weak for a long time, but I had just had my son a few months before so I thought it was just healing after a c-section [...] I'd been bleeding for 3 months.

"After numerous test, blood work, a d&c, I was told I had endometriosis. After they did a D&C to clean the blood they did a biopsy and found the cancer. The doctor was amazed that I was able to get pregnant and could not imagine how I carried my son full term [...] he came into the room and said very bluntly, you have cancer. Now you have 2 options, we can treat it with chemo and radiation and hope for the best or we can do a complete hysterectomy and get it all at once. I just looked at him and told him. To cut that s**t out of me." — sesame_says

This was 14 years ago, and this person is still happily cancer-free.

Weight Gain

Instagram | gaja_

"Brain tumor - diagnosed at 22. But I was asymptomatic. I had no headaches, no blurred vision, no change in personality. Just weight gain. Had I not been a vain bugger, and wanting a quick pill to sort it out, I would never have gone to the doc and had a blood test. My bloods came back all highly irregular - fast forward 6 months of tests - brain tumor." — shinyhappycat

This person went on to say that they had unsuccessful brain surgery and radiotherapy. However, they are now 36 and have constant routine scans, checkups, and medication to make sure their blood and hormone levels are normal.

The Importance Of Checking Your Body

Instagram | one_point_medical

"Invasive malignant melanoma, diagnosed and removed at 29.

I noticed a dark mole on my upper arm/shoulder area that wasn't there before. Over the next year, it doubled in size but was still smaller than what they tell you to look for. I offhand asked my dermatologist to check it and he says he would but that it wouldn't be anything. It was. I was considered stage II. I'm ok now. Had a precancerous mole removed about a year after the cancer but I get checked regularly." — ginger_genie

It is crucial to keep an eye on your body, and tell your doctor if something doesn't look right, as catching these sorts of things early can make the world of difference.

Strange Swallowing Movement

Unsplash | João Silas

"I was putting on my mascara. I was leaning forward with my chin up with my neck stretching out a bit. I swallowed and saw my throat went to the side, out and down, like making a letter C, instead of just straight up and down.

I had this sudden, crazy, random flashback of an episode of Oprah that I caught wind of while doing my homework. I was just in elementary or early Jr high. They were talking about women and signs of thyroid issues. They demonstrated the swallow test. You look up while drinking a glass of water and watch the movement of your throat. If it goes up and down, it's fine. If it goes to the side, you may have a problem." — sauerpatchkid

This person ended up having thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism, and ultimately had to have it removed.

Caring For Loved Ones

Instagram | thecaratclub

"My mom got lung cancer April 2006 and month later my GF who was in med. school at the time (now wife and a neurologist) asked if I have ever been checked for cancer. I said no, so she asked me to lie down. She searched from neck down and once she got between my legs her face changed. She found testicular cancer. It was in so early stage that it was easy to treat. Surgery and 6 weeks chemo and that was it. Still, she most likely saved my life." — K_Marcad

Making sure those we love are getting checkups is sometimes just as important as making sure that we are getting checkups ourselves.

Constant Fatigue

Unsplash | Christian Erfurt

"Felt like s**t all the time. Fatigued constantly and losing my physical strength. Finally went to my family doctor who said it was just aging. Went for a second opinion and they found high cancer markers in my blood test.

"Spent the next few months going back and forth to various specialist while they tried to pinpoint it. Finally turned out to be both lymphatic and testicular cancer. I was very lucky. I lost six lymph nodes and a treacherous left testicle and came out of it clean after having to do very little treatment." — darthbiscuit80

Ewing’s Sarcoma At Age 12

Instagram | beachsportclubcuxhaven

"The first time I remember noticing it was during a volleyball game. I spiked and landed and felt a sharp pain in my left thigh. I ignored it and it would bother me on and off for a few months.

One day I was walking downstairs at school and as I took a step I was blinded by pain, screamed and collapsed. By the time my mom got to school to pick me up, it was barely a dull ache, but she said we should get Xrays just in case.

And, cancer. I started treatment immediately. 13 months of chemo, ~100 nights in hospital. Two years of physical therapy to lose my limp." — imsomessedup

Even at a young age, it is important to get yourself checked. It can be easy to think that just because you're young, you won't get sick. However, this sadly isn't the case.

Scratching Their Body

Instagram | moran.nissim.photographer

"I was scratching my balls and felt a hard knot. Froze for like ten seconds, panicking internally, thinking it's definitely cancer then remembered that cancer is actually pretty rare and it's far more likely to just be a cyst or something. Went to the doctor anyway because I'm not an idiot." — summonator

This person ended up losing the testicle; however, they are now thankfully in remission.

Chest Pain

Instagram | szendreibence

"I was ten years old and went back and forth between feeling an incredible amount of chest pain and feeling fine. I missed a week of school but as soon as Friday came around I was outside climbing trees with my friends.

Monday morning the pain came crashing back. As my mom took me to the hospital she uttered the now infamous words, 'something better be wrong.' I was diagnosed with an incredibly rare type of cancer and given a near-zero chance of survival. That was 25 years ago." — Nic871

I can imagine that their mother still feels bad about those words to this day!

Stomach Pains

Instagram | jenna.oz

"Probably when my stomach was starting to hurt [...] I had lymphoma at the age of 10, and I was taken to the emergency room after I was vomiting blood because there was nothing else in my stomach. The day before, the nurse sent me home from school because of my extreme stomach pains. Luckily we caught it very early so it wasn’t too bad, but it sure as hell wasn't fun.

"Though oddly enough, even though I had cancer, I never once thought about myself dying in the hospital. Maybe because I was so young, but I just simply enjoyed my time by playing on the Xbox they had in there and the gifts I was given. I also watched Jumanji maybe 20 times over." — LordCatto

It's too hard to imagine how you would go about talking to a child about death. This happened 6 years ago, and this person is still happy and cancer-free.

Neck Discomfort

Unsplash | Nhia Moua

"I was sitting in my 10th-grade biology class and leaned forward and rested my chin on my knuckles. I touched my neck at some point and felt that it was swollen on one side. I had no other symptoms; felt completely fine, my neck didn't hurt, nothing. The doctor tested me multiple times for strep and mono despite me reminding him that I felt perfectly healthy. They finally did a biopsy, and when they cut my neck open they could clearly see that it was a cancerous tumor. 12 years cancer free now though as of this week, and it feels good!" — slowjamjesus

It is shocking how many of these stories occur when people are still at school. It just goes to show that you are never too young to get checked!

Couldn't Sleep Lying Down

Unsplash | Hayley Catherine

"I couldn't sleep lying down. Or even sitting up. I had all of this pain and pressure on my left side. The final kicker was when I dropped a pencil at work and couldn't imagine how I'd be able to bend over and pick it up.

"Went to my regular GP, he did an X-ray, then an ultrasound. Then he called his wife and wouldn’t say why. Turns out she's an OBGYN/surgeon. The next day she removed 25 pounds of cancerous tumors and fluids from my body. Turns out that I had 3 different primary cancers at once. She said that I had all the pain bc the tumors were pushing all of my organs to one side. Ugh!" — alduck10

This person is now one year away from full remission apparently, and no longer needs to see an oncologist.

Lump In The Throat

Unsplash | Lazar Gugleta

"I had a lump in my throat that felt like I tried to swallow a super ball and it got stuck. I begged for six months for the doctor to run some kinds of tests. When they did they found the tumor was growing inside my airway and I was breathing through a 4mm opening (think coffee stirrer). They all freaked out like I had been hiding it when I had been begging for help for six months. That was four years ago. Still fighting." — HellenBack292

If something really feels wrong, it is important to ardently follow up on it if you feel like adequate steps haven't been taken.

The Stream

Unsplash | Tim Mossholder

"I was in my mid 40's and noticed that over a few months my urination stream has weakened a lot," this man shares, "And there was always something left I had to squeeze out from below. I had a family history of prostate cancer (father, uncles, grandfathers) So I had a PSA test. Multiple tests and biopsies later I discovered I had very aggressive and rapidly growing prostate cancer."

Driving Test

Unsplash | Samuele Errico Piccarini

"My grandfather," this person shares, "We were in the car with him driving and suddenly he was swerving off the road/into the driver's lane. Multiple times. That was a harrying ride home. They took him to the hospital and found multiple cancer lesions in his brain from melanoma that had spread."

The Turtle

Instagram | @tropical.decor_

"I had a mole shaped like a turtle," this person writes, "I only noticed the change in shape as it turned malignant because it stopped looking like a turtle."


Unsplash | Bud Helisson

"I had skin cancer at 29," this person shares, "Around 28 I noticed a small spot that had a raised edge around it. It was under where my glasses hit my face, near the bridge of my nose, so I thought it was a pimple. It wouldn't heal. Finally, a friend of mine told me to see a doctor about it. I did, the dermatologist biopsied it, and it was basal cell carcinoma."


Unsplash | Kelli Tungay

"When a newer mole started turning weird colors, was brown, white, black and kind of pink and started changing shape pretty quick," this person writes, "If you see a mole that is oddly shaped and has a lot of different skin colors in it, get it checked. (Had melanoma)."

The Shower

Unsplash | Carson Masterson

"I was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma about 2 years ago," one person shares, "I was in the shower one day, and I was putting soap on my leg when I noticed a lump on my left groin about the size of half a ping pong ball. I was surprised I hadn't noticed it before because of its size. It felt very smooth and very firm on touching. It wasn't causing me any pain either, it was just there.

The doctors first performed an ultrasound, but the reports were inconclusive, so they just put me into general surgery to do a biopsy on the lump. 2 weeks after the surgery, the reports came back, and they confirmed that it was a high-grade cancerous tumor, which shocked me to the core."

Something Wrong

Instagram | @j3cosart

"I had been feeling a vague 'wrongness' that I couldn't define or explain for a few months. I was in a musical and it was hard to memorize lines which was unusual," this person shares, "One day I had a stabbing headache that made me scream. I had severe migraines for 20 years but this was different. Took a shower to try to help the pain and started tilting to the left over and over. I knew instantly it was a brain tumor and I was right."


Instagram | @shibaribaby

"Got a few small lesions on my arm, maybe the size of a thumbtack if not a little smaller," this person writes, "Doctors dismissed it as normal for skin so went about life as usual. 2 weeks later 3-4 lesions had turned into 8 and start appearing more frequently. Eventually convinced a GP for a dermo referral and a subsequent biopsy.

Was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis about 4 months after the initial GP visit with it localized to the skin and brain. Having round 12 of chemo as I type which is going well, 3 more to go."

Choked Up

Unsplash | Ryan Johns

"I got terribly choked up while talking to a friend," one person writes, "I had a regular checkup a few days later and mentioned it because it was so weird. Stage IV pharyngeal cancer. I was under 35, nonsmoker, light drinker. Surgery, chemo, radiation. I just celebrated remission after five years."

Flashes In Their Eyes

Instagram | alexssandra83

"For me, it started with my eyes in my late 30s. Felt perfectly fine otherwise, but my eyes would have these weird all-over 'flashes', kind of like what you see after you stare too long at the sun, especially when I was moving from dark to light places (like waking up in the morning, or turning on a light in a dark room at night). Got my eyes checked, doc said my retinas had some severe 'high-pressure areas' and it might be the start of macular degeneration [...]

"Turns out my system was so overloaded with cancerous white blood cells that my blood was thick like potato soup. It was blowing out the veins in my eyes, which resulted in those 'flashes'. They went away after about the first 2 weeks of treatment." — pbspry

Abdomen Pain

Instagram | renovating_no.1

"Testicular Cancer, 20 Years Old.

"For me, it was rather obvious, lots of pain in my abdomen and one of the 'boys' was about 4x the size of the other. That being said, usually, it ISN'T that obvious, so guys always remember to check your junk in the shower. I had an inguinal orchiectomy, and I'm currently going through chemo." — Gallahad_

Bed Bound For A Month

Instagram | lilycorina

"Randomly ended up so sick I was bed-bound for a month. Got every test for the flu/cold/viruses they could think of. Ended up getting an ultrasound on my stomach; they saw a mass while doing so and also scanned my pelvic area. Turned out to be ovarian cancer but luckily for me, it was contained in the football-sized tumor attached to my right ovary, which I obviously didn't know was there. Month later I was cut open, had it removed. Minus one ovary and the constant fear, it'll come back later and I'm cancer-free... For now." — SakuraUme

Hopefully, these stories have shown that this disease can be beaten.

h/t: NHS & Cancer.net