Imagine being told you had fibroids. You arrange a surgery only to find out it's a hernia.
Although men and women get hernias, women are misdiagnosed far more often because of their anatomy.
Until recently, just walking down the street with a heavy purse was something Laura Sweet couldn't do without a lot of pain.
"It just got to a point where it was chronic and it was constant, and it was a constant burning shooting pinching pain," says Sweet.
The pain was on one side of her pelvis. She went to doctor after doctor, who gave her multiple diagnoses.
"Several times they said it was a cyst. Then I was told it was chronic pelvic pain. Then I was told it was endometriosis, or fibroids, or a bladder infection thing," says Sweet.
She was prescribed pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy but the pain only got worse.
"One guy was like, he told me I had chronic pelvic pain and look it up and learn to live with it. It shattered my spirit. That's the best way I could put it," says Sweet.
After more than a year and a half, she was about to give up hen she was referred to the hernia specialist Dr. Shirin Towfigh.
"When I opened the door, she was on the exam table in fetal position, just in distress, just crying. She had severe pain and had been dealing with it for awhile," says Dr. Towfigh.
Several tests revealed that she had a hernia. Part of her intestines were bulging out of a tear in her stomach muscles.
Dr. Towfigh says many women who have hernias are often misdiagnosed because of anatomy.
"In women, you have ovaries, you have a uterus, they can have fibroids, they can have endometriosis adhesions, many have had c-sections or other pelvic surgeries. All of that can complicate the diagnosis," says Dr. Towfigh.
Some symptoms of a hernia are: pain in the groin, a bulge in the painful area that may or may not come and go. Pain with specific physical activities like getting out of a car or prolonged standing.
In Sweet, it took a careful analysis of a cat scan to show the hernia.
"She called me and I was crying and she was like, 'What's wrong?' and I go, 'I'm just sick of it. I can't take it anymore.' And she said, 'Then let's just get rid of it,' and I'm like, 'What are you talking about?' And she said, 'I found the hernia,' and I started crying from happiness at that point," says Sweet.
In surgery, Dr. Towfigh closed up the hernia with a mesh. The relief came immediately.
"I remember asking Dr. Towfigh, 'When is this pain going to stop?' and she said, 'Right after the surgery.' And she was not joking. It was over. And within a week I was jogging. Freedom. I got my life back. I mean, amazing," says Sweet.
Pain relief is not always immediate. Doctors say it could take weeks to recover.
If you have pain that does not get diagnosed, insist on more tests and see a different specialist.
Hernias are not dangerous unless the bulge won't go down, then it can turn life threatening. Getting it fixed before that happens can save your life.