Mom Assumed Her Night Sweats Were a Symptom of Menopause — But She Had Cancer

Susete Ferreira initially thought she was experiencing typical symptoms of menopause including night sweats, a swollen abdomen, loss of appetite

<p>Susete/Instagram</p> Susete Ferreira


Susete Ferreira

For months, Susete Ferreira thought she was experiencing the typical symptoms of menopause — night sweats, a swollen abdomen, loss of appetite. But suddenly she began experiencing an intense pain beneath her ribs.

Days later, she would be diagnosed with cancer.

<p>Susete/Instagram</p> Susete Ferreira


Susete Ferreira

"I started with a really sharp pain on my right side, under my ribs," Ferreira, 41, tells PEOPLE. "I thought it was maybe going to go away, but after four days of pain that would go away and come back, I went to the emergency room."

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It was Sept. 2023 when Ferreira, who lives in Toronto, Ontario, says she first underwent an ultrasound, then a CT scan, which showed abnormalities in her lymph nodes. Two days after first being admitted to the ER, her gallbladder was removed and a biopsy was taken.

The test results came back as stage 4 follicular lymphoma.

"I was on my hospital bed and the oncologist came to my room and gave me the news," she tells PEOPLE. "I thought, I have to do something. I can't be the only one going through this. I felt very alone."

The stay-at-home mom decided to share her story on Instagram with the hope of connecting with other people facing difficult situations.

"Social media is such a powerful plug, I just felt sure I could find someone else going through something similar," she says.

<p>Susete/Instagram</p> Susete Ferreira


Susete Ferreira

Within two months, she had more than 100,000 followers, many of them inspired by her dancing videos from her hospital room.

"I couldn't believe the community I found on Instagram," says Ferreira, who has an 11-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.

She also shares milestones in her cancer journey: In a recent video she rings the bell signifying the end of her first round of chemotherapy.

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"Maintenance," as she calls it, will remain a crucial part of her health care, and Ferreira will undergo injections for immunotherapy every three months for the next two years.

For now, she urges her followers to get checked if they notice changes in their body — even if those changes seem like they might be part of the typical aging process.

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"The night sweats are one thing to look out for. I had them for a long time and ignored them," she says. "Also a swollen abdomen. When I feel my belly bloating, it's not a good sign. It's a sign of inflammation and that's not good."

These days, Ferreira says she feels good, but continues to monitor her health and take things one day at a time.

"I feel like it's something that will always be a part of my life now," Ferreira says. "There are things you thought to be true before you had cancer, and there's what you think after ... everything changes. It gives you a different perspective in life, and forces you enjoy the smaller moments, the ones we normally take for granted."

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