‘Active’ woman who was diagnosed with aggressive BILE DUCT cancer at AGE 23 reveals the early warning signs she IGNORED before doctors found a ‘sizable mass’ growing in her stomach

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Sydney Towle, from California, received her diagnosis in early August 2023
  • Doctors found a ‘sizable mass’ in her stomach that had been growing for months
  • The young woman is now urging others never to skip their health checkups

An ‘active’ woman who was diagnosed with bile duct cancer aged just 23 has revealed the early warning signs that she ignored.

Sydney Towle, from California, received her diagnosis in early August after doctors discovered a ‘sizable mass’ in her stomach that had been growing for four months.

‘I’m typically an active person but suddenly I started feeling short of breath, and this strange burning sensation took hold in my tummy,’ she shared.

The young woman admitted that she had initially overlooked her symptoms and is now urging others not to skip their regular health checkups.

Sydney Towle, from California, received her diagnosis in early August after doctors discovered a ‘sizable mass’ in her stomach that had been growing for four months

The young woman admitted that she had initially overlooked her symptoms and is now urging others not to skip their regular health checkups

The young woman admitted that she had initially overlooked her symptoms and is now urging others not to skip their regular health checkups

‘After ignoring my symptoms, I finally decided to go to the doctor. They did an ultrasound, then an MRI and a biopsy,’ Sydney explained.

‘When I received those initial MRI results, and they pointed to a solid mass in my liver, I just knew it was cancer. 

‘I immediately called my family, tears streaming down my face. It took me quite a while to fully grasp the reality of my diagnosis.’

Bile duct cancer, also known as cholangiocarcinoma, is an aggressive type of cancer that starts in the bile ducts. 

It can affect people of different ages but it is more commonly diagnosed in adults over the age of 50.

Sydney, whose tumor arose from a genetic mutation, admitted that the most challenging aspect of her journey has been dealing with the unknown.

‘It’s tough for me to plan for the future at all or expect anything when everything is so fragile around my diagnosis and treatment,’ she said.

‘It’s also really hard to plan in the short term, such as dinners or going out with friends, when I don’t know how I’ll feel physically or emotionally on a given day.

'I'm typically an active person but suddenly I started feeling short of breath, and this strange burning sensation took hold in my tummy,' she shared

‘I’m typically an active person but suddenly I started feeling short of breath, and this strange burning sensation took hold in my tummy,’ she shared

Sydney, whose tumor arose from a genetic mutation, admitted that the most challenging aspect of her journey has been dealing with the unknown

Sydney, whose tumor arose from a genetic mutation, admitted that the most challenging aspect of her journey has been dealing with the unknown

Sydney, whose tumor arose from a genetic mutation, admitted that the most challenging aspect of her journey has been dealing with the unknown 

‘There are so many things I want to do now, given that I don’t know how much longer I have, but I can’t plan my bucket list or any fun trips while receiving treatment and not knowing where surgery will take me.’

Sydney is currently undergoing aggressive treatment targeting the tumor with a variety of treatments, including chemotherapy and experimental drugs.

‘One thing I’ve continued doing throughout my treatment is staying active. I still enjoy like hot yoga, long walks, and surfing with friends,’ she added.

‘It’s also helped me stay busy and keep my mind off my diagnosis.

‘The oncology nurses at my chemo center are such a blessing. I am so grateful for their positive attitudes and smiles every time I go in for treatment. 

‘The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation has been especially helpful in providing resources and connecting me with other young people around the world who are fighting bile duct cancer. It does help knowing I’m not alone.’

Sydney is currently undergoing aggressive treatment targeting the tumor with a variety of treatments, including chemotherapy and experimental drugs

Sydney is currently undergoing aggressive treatment targeting the tumor with a variety of treatments, including chemotherapy and experimental drugs

'I want to keep inspiring and helping others. Volunteering at a chemo center seems like a meaningful path,' she said

‘I want to keep inspiring and helping others. Volunteering at a chemo center seems like a meaningful path,’ she said

Sydney began documenting her cancer journey on TikTok, starting from the day she was diagnosed. 

‘I have always shared every part of my life on TikTok – it gives me a place to vent and share my emotions and hope that others can connect with me or be inspired somehow,’ she said.

Sydney began documenting her cancer journey on TikTok, starting from the day she was diagnosed

Sydney began documenting her cancer journey on TikTok, starting from the day she was diagnosed

‘This has taken a life of its own throughout my journey, as countless people have reached out with their personal stories and how they are inspired by my journey so far.’

Looking to the future, Sydney has big plans in mind.

‘Australia and New Zealand are calling my name for starters, and I’ll be checking off my bucket list like it’s a to-do list – but it’s not just about me,’ she said.

‘I want to keep inspiring and helping others. Volunteering at a chemo center seems like a meaningful path.’

She advises others: ‘Don’t skip those regular healthcare check-ups, and never ignore any health concerns. 

‘I did that, assuming youth could shield me from serious issues, and it taught me a tough lesson. 

‘To my friends and followers, just be yourselves – no need to change because of my diagnosis. 

‘Let my journey inspire you to live life to the fullest and be as happy as you can be.’

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