A young mom has claimed that doctors said her excruciating back pain was caused by ‘bad posture’ while working from home – only to find out that it was actually a tumor the size of a baby’s head at the base of her spine.
Ellie Chandler, 25, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, first developed back pain after giving birth to her twins, Brooke and Parker Chandler, in December 2019, and when the pandemic hit months later, her symptoms worsened.
The mom-of-two said she went to the doctor several times in October 2021 as the pain increased rapidly, but was encouraged to buy a support pillow for her chair and take painkillers – after they claimed that it was likely caused by sitting badly at her desk.
The former loan officer spoke to multiple different professionals, and she even visited an orthopedic specialist and received a clear X-ray.
Eventually, the tumor grew so big that it started to effect her ability to use the bathroom; the large mass began ‘compressing’ her bladder and ‘smushing’ her bowel.
A young mom claimed doctors said her excruciating back pain was caused by ‘bad posture’ – only to find out that it was actually a tumor the size of a baby’s head at the base of her spine
Ellie Chandler, 25, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, first developed back pain after giving birth to her twins, Brooke and Parker Chandler, in December 2019
When the pandemic hit months later, her symptoms worsened. The mom-of-two said she went to the doctor several times in October 2021 as the pain increased
She was encouraged to buy a support pillow for her chair and take painkillers – after doctors claimed that it was likely caused by sitting badly at her desk. Her tumor is pictured
But once again, doctors brushed off her problems and told her she probably had an overactive bladder or intestine problems.
The pain got so severe that Ellie said she was often brought to tears, and she couldn’t sleep or sit.
Desperate for answers, Ellie went to see her gynecologists – who finally discovered the tumor after performing a rectal exam and feeling the huge mass inside her rectum.
After running emergency tests, the 25-year-old was eventually diagnosed in mid-December with a rare, five and a half-inch giant cell tumor at the base of her spine.
By the time they discovered it, the tumor, which is non-cancerous, had grown so big that it was the size of a baby’s head.
Ellie is now undergoing intense treatment – receiving monthly injections in an attempt to shrink the tumor – but she still has a long road ahead of her.
She is preparing to undergo surgery to try to remove it, however, the procedure is going to be extremely risky and complex due to the location of the tumor.
She could potentially lose bowel and bladder function permanently if anything goes wrong, since the tumor is surrounded by so many nerves.
She is now speaking out to in an attempt to urge other people who are suffering from back pain to take it seriously – as what she thought were simple aches caused by bad posture, turned out to be an extremely aggressive tumor.
Ellie said: ‘It went from what I thought was normal back pain from giving birth, then what I thought was caused by working from home and poor posture, to just excruciating pain.
The pain became so severe that Ellie was often brought to tears, and she couldn’t sleep or sit. The tumor also started to effect her ability to use the bathroom
Desperate for answers, Ellie went to see her gynecologists – who finally discovered the tumor after performing a rectal exam
By the time they found it, the tumor, which is non-cancerous and sits at the base of her spine, had grown so big that it was the size of a baby’s head
She is preparing to undergo surgery to try to remove it, however, the procedure is going to be extremely risky and complex due to the location of the tumor
‘My back pain really started in December 2019 when I gave birth to twins. It never really got better – it got worse – but of course we had the pandemic and I started working from home.
If something goes wrong, she could potentially lose bowel and bladder function permanently, since the tumor is surrounded by so many nerves
‘I figured I wasn’t set up the best way at home and had bad posture. I let it get pretty bad because life is busy and I had twins.
‘I was working full time and my partner travels for work. I had an annual physical with my primary care doctor [around October 2021] and mentioned it.
‘She told me to go ahead and get a special pillow to sit on while I was working and take some Ibuprofen. I did that but it just kept getting worse at a rapid rate.’
Ellie explained that her condition rapidly deteriorated after she suffered from a fall at her home, which she believes shifted an area of the tumor.
She said she was told by doctors that she had likely suffered a fracture, but when an X-ray came back clear, she was given pain medication and sent home.
However, months went by with no improvement, and she also started to develop problems with her intestines.
The mom-of-two then went to hospital after fearing she had developed a urinary tract infection, but doctors still didn’t discover the tumor.
They believed she had an overactive bladder or was suffering from a condition called IBS – a common disorder that affects the large intestine.
‘It became excruciating pain. But when I went to the doctor then, they said, “Oh, if you had a fall it’s probably a fracture or a bruised tailbone,’ recalled Ellie.
‘They did an X-ray and couldn’t really get a good image. Now, looking back, soft tissue tumors don’t show up on an X-ray.
She is now speaking out to to urge others to take their back pain seriously – as what she thought were simple aches caused by bad posture, turned out to be an aggressive tumor
Ellie is undergoing intense treatment – receiving monthly injections in an attempt to shrink the tumor – but she still has a long road ahead of her
‘They gave me more pain medication and told me to come back in a couple of weeks. I came back four weeks later and it still hadn’t improved at all.
What is a giant cell tumor?
- Giant cell tumors are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the bone
- They most often affect people between ages of 20 and 45 years old
- They are benign but aggressive, rapidly growing and causing damage to soft tissue. They can become malignant
- Symptoms include pain, swelling, fractures due to bone weakness and restricted movement
- Treatment can include surgery or biological therapies, such as Denosumab, which Ellie is currently receiving
- Source: Sarcoma.org.uk
‘In that time, I started having bowel and bladder symptoms. I had gone the weekend of Thanksgiving to another urgent care as I thought I had a UTI.
‘That all came back negative and they said I might have an overactive bladder.
‘I thought I might have some kind of bladder thing going on and I started having constipation issues because the tumor was obstructing my rectum. Then I was told I might have IBS.
‘By the time I went back to the orthopedic doctor, they did another X-ray and said, “your tailbone looks crushed so it’s definitely broken, but it should resolve.”
‘I brought up my bowel and bladder symptoms. They had a chuckle and said it’s probably IBS.’
Later that day, Ellie had an annual pelvic exam with her OB-GYN, but the doctor said she was unable to do the check-up because she could feel a large mass inside her.
It was only after an ultrasound and CT scan that she was finally diagnosed with the tumor – more than six weeks later – in mid-December, by which point the pain had gotten so bad that she couldn’t sleep and would cry whenever she drove.
Ellie continued: ‘When I went to the pelvis exam, she went to do the exam and said she couldn’t do it because she was feeling something in there.
‘She did a rectal exam and said she could feel it in there as well, it was a rather large mass.
Ellie, who is unable to work due to her condition, said she feels extremely frustrated that ‘so many’ professionals missed the tumor
She wants to warn young people that back pain is ‘really not normal,’ and hopes that sharing her story will help others going through something similar push for answers
‘I then went to get an ultrasound the same day, a CT scan the next day and they found the tumor then.
‘The pain was so bad at that point that I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sit, I was driving around for work and I was crying in the car some days because it hurt so bad.
‘From there, I was admitted into the hospital for about a week where they did a biopsy. It came back as a giant cell tumor, which is not cancerous.
‘Because of where mine is located, in my tailbone and lower spine, there’s so much space that it can get massive before you start to experience symptoms.
‘Giant cell tumors are quite common in young people, in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
‘Doctors don’t necessarily think it’s going to be a tumor because you’re young and healthy, they think of other things first.
‘All that contributed to how it got so massive. It was the size of a baby’s head by the time they found it. The measurements were all between 10 centimeters and 14 centimeters when they found it.’
Ellie has to go to a local cancer center for injections every four weeks, but added that there are not many treatments out there for her tumor.
She hopes to shrink the large mass before undergoing a risky and ‘morbid’ surgery to remove it – which could potentially cause her to lose bowel function altogether.
‘I’ve had some success with the injections. My tumor shrank about two centimeters after my 90-day trial of it. I’m going to go ahead and do 90 days more treatment,’ she said.
‘Usually, surgery is the primary treatment but because of where it is in my spine and all the nerves around there, surgery is going to be quite complex and morbid.
She often speaks out about her situation on TikTok, and has racked up more than 185,000 likes across her videos
The 25-year-old is able to joke about the situation, and hopes that her videos will help raise awareness and prevent others from going through the same thing
‘I could lose bowel and bladder function permanently if those nerves are compromised. We’re trying to shrink it as much as possible before surgery.
‘If we can remove the tumor in one piece, it reduces the chance of reoccurrence. We’re looking at neurosurgeons, orthopedics, plastic surgeons, surgical oncologists, colorectal surgeons, all of that.
‘We’re hoping that with surgery we can prevent it from coming back and get back to some more normal function.
‘I had to have a catheter for three months because my urethra and bladder were so compressed that I kept retaining urine.
‘I’m on a heavy regiment of laxatives right now because my bowel is so smushed against this tumor so nothing comes out otherwise.’
‘Back pain is so normalized, especially with people working from home these days, but it’s really not normal and you should take it seriously if it’s impacting your daily life,’ she concluded
Ellie, who is unable to work due to her condition, claimed that she feels like she is now going through stages of grief, and feels extremely frustrated that professionals missed the tumor so early on.
She wants to warn young people that back pain is ‘really not normal,’ and hopes that sharing her story will help others going through something similar push for answers.
She often speaks out about her situation on TikTok, and has racked up more than 185,000 likes across her videos.
Ellie added: ‘I really went through, and I’m still going through, the different stages of grief. I was really angry at first and scared.
‘After that, I was really angry that I went to so many different doctors and nobody caught this.
‘I did bring up red flag symptoms. Back pain shouldn’t really be considered normal for young people, but it generally is.
‘Once I brought up neurological symptoms like bowel and bladder issues, they should have been red flags to the orthopedic doctor that I saw.
‘I’m so glad I went for that check up with my OB-GYN because she was ultimately the one who found it.
‘My OB-GYN is a young female doctor and I don’t know if that had any play into it, if she was more willing to listen to my pain and the seriousness of it all.
‘I was definitely angry realizing I’d been to so many doctors and nobody caught it because over that span of weeks, the tumor did grow significantly to the point where I was having intermittent issues with going to the bathroom.
‘Back pain is so normalized, especially with people working from home these days, but it’s really not normal and you should take it seriously if it’s impacting your daily life.
‘Especially young people, don’t put off going to the doctor. Don’t let it get to the point that it’s so bad you’re having issues functioning.
‘Look out for red flag symptoms, so if you’re having other symptoms along with back pain, those could be signs that you have a tumor in your spine.’