A 24-year-old nurse has issued a desperate warning to others after an unusual symptom led a devastating stage three cancer diagnosis.
Bailey McBreen, a nurse, says she rarely burped until two years ago when she suddenly started excessively belching. Not thinking much of it, she initially brushed it off as “normal”. But in February 2022, Ms McBreen also started suffering bad reflux, which doctors put down to anxiety rather than a sign of something more sinister.
It wasn’t until January this year when the young woman began to feel “excruciating” pain and was unable to go to the bathroom or eat, did she realise something was really wrong.
Given her job, Ms McBreen felt confident there was some sort of “obstruction” inside her body but had “no idea” it was actually a tumour until a CT scan found it growing in her colon. “Never in a million years did I think that any vague symptom I had was actually stage three colon cancer,” the 24-year-old, from Florida, told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
“The first sign something was wrong – although I didn’t know it at the time – was when I began excessively burping. I would burp 5-10 times a day. This was not normal for me. I actually rarely ever burped before and that is why I noticed how weird it was.
“But I honestly didn’t think too much of it. I never thought it could be linked to such a horrible disease.”
Woman burping five to 10 times a day
Ms McBreen said her burps initially became the butt of a joke between her and her fiancé, Caden, during a trip to Nashville in October 2021. “[We] were joking that I was burping because of the elevation change,” she added.
After her diagnosis, the nurse learnt more about the strange link between her new gassy habit and cancerous growth. “My tumour was higher in my transverse colon and was slowly causing a bowel obstruction,” she explained.
“Because I never used to burp prior and then started excessively burping 5-10 times a day, that was a ‘new’ thing for me – and anything new to you is not normal and needs to be addressed. Excessive burping isn’t your textbook sign of colon cancer but my oncologist told me that it was likely the start of my symptoms.”
She said she believes it is linked to the onset of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which developed within a month of the excessive burping. Because her tumour was creating a “complete bowel obstruction”, her food was not digesting and instead becoming “trapped” above the tumour, causing both symptoms.
'I am not ready to die'
The nurse said she was stunned when doctors broke the bad news. “It truly was an out of body experience. I felt like I was sitting in the corner of the room watching myself be diagnosed,” she added. “Time felt like it slowed down and my heart rate sped up. I was in a complete state of shock.
“I remember the first thing I could say was ‘I am not ready to die’.”
Ms McBreen said she immediately began to “mourn” the life she used to have and mentally prepare for the challenge ahead. She underwent emergency surgery on January 29 to remove the tumour before starting chemotherapy a month later. She will continue treatment until the end of August.
“This entire journey has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I don’t know if I will ever fully process the fact that I am diagnosed with such an aggressive and late-stage cancer,” she said. “But I refuse to let it define me. I am doing everything I can humanly do to fight this disease.”
Nurse's plea to others
The 24-year-old, who said she was the healthiest she had been in her life in the months leading up to her diagnosis, has “switched over to completely non-toxic living” — meaning all of her beauty products, cleaning supplies and cookware are nontoxic. Her diet is also now all organic.
“My diagnosis has impacted my life in every possible way you could imagine,” Ms McBreen said. “However, not every way has been a bad thing – a lot of good things can come from any bad situation I believe.”
The young bride-to-be is sharing her story to raise awareness for other people with unusual “warning sign” symptoms. “Cancer does not discriminate,” she added. “Anything that is new to you, even if it’s otherwise considered a normal thing, needs to be addressed.
“I didn’t think anything of my burping because it was a ‘normal’ thing. It’s important to listen to your body.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.