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I never thought the long term effects of bulimia would be a problem for me. Even in the 6 years that I have been bulimia free - I never gave them that much thought... I have just felt so healthy and happy! But, that all changed on a recent weekend getaway to the beach...
After a lovely carefree day of hanging out at the beach and watching dolphins swim in the ocean I was getting ready for bed. I went to brush my teeth and for some reason looked into my mouth at my throat before I did this...
I noticed a lump beside my tonsil. I didn't think much of it until I stuck my finger on top of it to investigate it further... It was far bigger than it looked and there was a hard 'growth' that went back into my flesh.
My heart began beating fast and I felt the blood drain out of my face...
I knew that in VERY RARE circumstances one of the long term effects of bulimia is esophageal cancer... It would have to be incredibly unlucky to have this happen to me - but I knew there was a tiny chance.
I went to tell Tom who was sitting in the lounge reading a book... Right away my chin began to wobble - a tell tale sign that I'm about to begin crying! I told him what I had found and then came the tears! I was terrified.
Tom is lucky a very sensible person and talked me out of my panic. The chances that this was anything were extremely low and worrying was the worst thing I could do. I tried to push the thought out of my mind - but I promised myself that I would book to see my doctor as soon as possible!
On the way to the doctor today I went over and over in my head what I would tell her. She is a new doctor that I had never been to before and I needed to share my history of bulimia in case this lump was related.
I planned to tell her that I had suffered from bulimia between the ages of 8 and 20 and that it had been severe.
I planned to tell her that I run The Bulimia Recovery Program and that I would share any info with the community that she shared with me...
I planned to tell her that I wanted thorough tests on all the long term effects of bulimia (even if they were over the top!) to make sure that I am okay!
I planned to tell her lots of things... But as soon as I got in her office, my chin began to wobble again and my eyes welled up...
I ended up not saying much because everything I wanted to say felt like it would open a floodgate of tears!
But at least I got the main points out:
"I have a history of bulimia and now I have a suspicious lump in my throat"
...and that was about all I could handle.
She tried to reassure me that there was a very tiny chance that I would develop cancer as a result of my bulimia... She said that only 1 in every 100,000 bulimics develop barretts esophagus (which in rare cases can lead onto cancer) ... I am not sure if her numbers are accurate - but they did make me feel a little better.
She also said that I have very healthy and good looking tonsils (Thanks Dr!)
and she said that in her opinion the lump does not look that suspicious.
She did a couple of swabs, gave me antibiotics (in case the lump is a result of an infection) and also send me for blood tests to see if there are any suspicious cells in my blood.
The blood test part made me nervous... not because I am scared of needles but because I got visions in my head of going into the doctors office for my result and well... you know, you see it in the movies... It starts with:
Of course the chances that this happens are so tiny - but I do get a knot in my tummy when I think about it.
Her main advice was to wait a month or so and see if it increased in size... If it did, she said perhaps seeing a specialist would be a good idea.
So a month has passed since I went to the doctor and although the swabs came back okay - the lump on my tonsil has definitely grown. So I have booked an appointment with a specialist...
After seeing a specialist who treats lumps of the nose and throat, I was advised to get my tonsils removed so that they could be biopsied. Even though the risk of it being malignant was very low, I decided to get this done just for peace of mind. I wanted that lump out of my throat!
Maybe if I had done my research properly into tonsillectomy, I would have made a different decision. I never realized how dangerous it can be for an adult to get their tonsils removed.
The operation went well and although it was painful and smelt awful as it healed (apparently this is common) - things seemed to be progressing normally. One week after my operation however, I felt a sudden gush down my throat - and then I tasted blood. A vein close to the operation site had ruptured and it began to hemorrhage...
So in an ambulance to the hospital I went. It was quite terrifying and I really did think at times that I could die - having blood pour our of your throat is a scary sight! Thankfully they managed to stop the bleeding and after a few more nights in hospital, I was back home... waiting for my results...
The results came back showing that there was no cancer in my tonsil - just an abscess which has filled with 'debris'. WHAT A RELIEF!
It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could get on with life again.
Maybe the measures I took to make sure it was not cancer were a bit extreme... but I wanted to be 100% sure... I didn't want to sit around waiting to find out.
The change of bulimia leading onto cancer through Barretts Esophagus is very, very low - but it is still an increased risk. I'm not sure if I did the right thing getting my tonsils taken out - but I am just glad that this experience is over.
Remember - the best way to reduce your risk is to work on recovery right away!
Sending you lots of love and light!
Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community