Published: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 10:29:33 AM

Dealing with the unseen

WHEN that many doctors tell you there’s nothing wrong even though you feel quite unwell, you begin to seriously doubt yourself. One doctor even suggested that perhaps Annie Ling should see a psychologist.

“At one stage, I told my husband I didn’t want to see any more doctors as they would just dismiss me.

“I’ve always felt not right. I would feel hyper, with lots of energy, yet I constantly felt tired and drained. I needed short naps, after which I could actively multi-task,” says the 46-year-old project trainer.

Since her 20s, Ling says she has had symptoms, but general physicians often put it all down to stress and prescribed rest.

“I was particularly sensitive to all things new. By that I mean the smell of new paint, the inside of a new car, fresh leather seats, newly renovated rooms.

“I would get nauseous and suffer severe migraine,” she explains.

No wonder doctors didn’t understand her disposition. It didn’t seem logical.

In 2003, she had bought a new car, and unknowingly, this brought on a slew of new physical problems. Ling was admitted for high blood pressure, which again was attributed to stress.

At the hospital, while she lay horizontal, her pressure returned to normal. But when she attempted to get up, it spiked and she almost passed out.

Before this, she was already on hypertension drugs, but they didn’t seem to work very well as she frequently experienced fluctuations in her blood pressure.

What was frustrating was that the check-ups showed normal blood pressure levels a few hours later.

As Malaysia didn’t have adequate facilities then, her tests were sent to Australia. However, after her condition stabilised and she was discharged, Ling didn’t bother to call back to find out the results.

“Interestingly, a clinic doctor did suggest once that it might be pheochromocytoma (pheo) three years ago. But it was very rare and I promptly forgot about it.”

The following year, when her symptoms persisted, Ling did some research on the Internet and realised her symptoms typically matched that of pheo patients.

Finally, she saw an endocrinologist and an MRI revealed a tumour on her right adrenalin gland.

She sought a second opinion and this was confirmed by Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who was Putrajaya Hospital surgical department head and consultant breast and endocrine surgeon.

This was the turning point in her health as Dr Noor Hisham (who is currently the Health director-general) was one of the few surgeons in the country then who had experience dealing with pheo.

After a four-hour surgery in October 2004, the tumour was successfully removed.

Today, she is considered cleared of pheo. Initially, she was required to go for follow-up every three months. But now, it’s only once a year.

For years, Ling had felt all alone in her physical distress, and it was frustrating trying to explain what she had to other people who probably thought it was all in her head.

“Thankfully, all my earlier symptoms were finally explained and resolved. But I still don’t feel great as now I have low energy levels and hormonal imbalance. The doctor says it’s the body trying to adjust, which has made me hypo instead,” she adds.

“I’ve since learnt that one of the most telling signs are inconsistent blood pressure spikes. When that happens, the doctor should check for pheo,” Ling concludes. – Patsy Kam

Related story:

Speaking of lumps

Tags / Keywords: Health, pheochromocytoma, Pheopara Troopers, Facebook, support, patients


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