Help Leslie afford abdominal surgery

Hello! My name is Leslie. I’m a 41 year old senior at Georgia State University, getting my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting. I hope to go to grad school afterwards, because I want to be an art therapist to the special needs community. I was a graphic designer for about twenty years until I decided to change careers and go into something more focused on helping people. I’m an aspiring figurative artist and I have a strong desire to help others, especially those who can’t quite find their own voices to communicate. 

In October of 2017, I started having female troubles. I was experiencing some pain and swelling around my right ovary, and some intermittent bleeding not related to my period cycle. I thought I most likely had an ovarian cyst, and even though this one seemed particularly painful, I decided to wait and see if it would improve on its own after my period. Ovarian cysts often resolve by themselves once your period arrives, and this had happened before so I wasn’t too worried.

In November, though, I noticed that the swelling hadn’t gone away, even after my period started on the 20th. In fact, it seemed to have gotten worse. The lump was about the size of an egg, so I decided that as soon as I was finished with final exams I’d go to the low-cost women’s clinic near my house and have it looked at. By that time, I was in even more pain than before and the swelling had changed from being egg-sized to being the size of a cantaloupe.

On Monday, December 11, 2017, I went to the women’s clinic, and the elderly southern gentleman doctor put his hands on my belly and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! You’ve got something really large growing in there!” Not exactly what any woman wants to hear, haha. He suggested that I visit an ER because it could be dangerous. He mentioned the possibility that it could rupture or choke blood vessels to other organs.

That evening I went to the ER at Dekalb Medical and the amazing staff there confirmed I had a growth in my abdomen. They did an ultrasound, a transvaginal ultrasound, and a CT scan, and told me that the growth appears to be coming from my uterus although they cannot say for sure. They said it was larger than the ultrasound machine can capture all at once, or greater than 10cm x 10cm. The CT scan confirmed this, and they strongly recommended an MRI and a consult with a gynecological oncologist.

On Wednesday December 13, I went to the oncology appointment. He examined me and said that the mass is now 23cm, and stretches from the top of my pubic bone to well past my belly button. He recommends a total hysterectomy and wants to do the biopsy and testing on the tumor during the surgery itself. If this is malignant, anything they do which might puncture it or cut it (before they’re ready to take it out) could spread cancer inside my abdominal cavity, so they can’t even do a biopsy on it right now. I have to wait until surgery day to find out what dreadful thing my body decided to grow without my permission!

There is some concern that this might not be “just a fibroid”, because of its alarmingly rapid growth and the fact that I’m bleeding outside my cycle. There is also blood, and white blood cells, in my urine, and there are pockets of unknown fluid in my abdominal cavity as well.

Currently, I’m in a fair bit of pain and discomfort. This tumor is growing so fast I can actually notice a change every day when I wake up. I’ve lost 40 lbs since July, but my belly is stretched out like I’m 20 weeks pregnant. The tumor presses on my stomach, which makes me feel nauseous and not hungry. When I try to eat, I vomit about half the time. It presses on my bladder and bowels which is also very uncomfortable. And all of this has happened so fast, in just a little over a month!

The difficulty: I am very unfortunately not insured this semester, as I experienced some other issues in May 2017, and had to choose between attending to those problems or buying health insurance for the semester. I was planning to get back on track and buy health insurance through my school for the upcoming semester; this just happened at the exact worst time! Who expects a tumor like this, or one that grows this quickly?!

I feel so overwhelmed. I have a job as a server in a restaurant, but I will most likely soon be unable to work at all. I’ve also been advised that post surgery recovery will take 4-6 weeks, and I’ll definitely be unable to work for part of that as I’ll be prevented from lifting more than 10 lbs. I’ve got rent and bills to pay, a sweet furmonster doggie named The Magzilla to take care of, an MRI to get, and major abdominal surgery to figure out how to pay for. Timing is pretty critical: as fast-growing as this thing is, if I can’t get the surgery soon, I’m just... not sure what will happen. 

Please help me fight this! Any help you might can give just might save my life. Thank you!

**The initial goal is set low because I’m still waiting to find out the actual projected costs of the surgery. I’ll update the goal as soon as I know.
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Leslie Smith 
Atlanta, GA
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