DYER — For nearly two years, Derrisa Green has been left with more questions than answers when it comes to her health.
The 39-year-old mother of eight, who resides in Dyer, has spent hours explaining her symptoms to doctors and specialists, hoping for a firm diagnosis.
After various appointments, abnormal scans and two diagnoses, Green was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where she is paying for her treatment on her own.
After arriving to the Mayo Clinic with $10,000 raised by a private donation and GoFundMe last week, however, Green now needs an additional $18,000 for appointments and tests.
In the days leading up to her visit to Mayo Clinic, Green told The Times of the "merry-go-round" she has been on when it comes to her health.
When she became a mother — Green's oldest child is 14, her youngest almost 2 — Green said it was important that she always be there for her kids, noting her mother died when she was 16.
"I never wanted my children to have to experience that," Green said, adding she went through a "very rough time" following her mother's death.
After seeing what her mother went through, and wanting to be there for her children, Green said she learned how to advocate for herself.
"Being in Indiana as a black woman trying to seek help for my health, I'm constantly fighting. I am more tired of fighting than I am (from) what I'm going through. But I don't have a choice. I have to keep fighting," Green said.
"I have to keep advocating for myself. I have to because I want to live. I want to live for my children. I want to be here to raise them, and I don't want it to be that I die because someone just didn't care enough, or my life wasn't worth enough."
Before moving back to the Region in September 2019, Green, her children and husband lived in Detroit, where Green was diagnosed with atypical mesothelial proliferation — an increase of cells in the mesothelium, which creates the lining of various body cavities — in February 2019 following her eighth pregnancy.
After an emergency C-section, Green's doctor said she wasn't sure what the diagnosis meant for Green, but decided to move forward with an aggressive treatment plan, given Green's mother died from spontaneous cancer.
The doctor suggested Green have a full hysterectomy to prevent the cells from developing into cancer or spreading, which was initially scheduled for April or May 2019, but without relatives in Detroit, Green said she had to postpone.
"She told me my recovery time was going to be six to eight weeks, that I wasn't going to be able to do anything," Green said, noting her husband was the only one working at the time. "Now, I had eight kids and one of them was an infant, and a premature infant at that."
Green postponed the hysterectomy two more times. After postponing for the second time, Green decided to move back to the Illinois/Indiana area to be close to relatives.
"I knew I had to have the surgeries. This is where our help was, and so we decided to move back," she said.
After moving back in September 2019, Green had to apply for medicaid in Indiana, which she didn't receive until December of that year, as Green and her family were staying with relatives until they could find a place of their own.
At the time, Green continued to deal with gastrointestinal issues that caused frequent, violent diarrhea. She developed a cough that wouldn't go away, body aches and headaches.
Right before the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the Region, Green had the hysterectomy in February 2020, during which her doctor also removed anything "suspicious," she said.
A few weeks later, Green had a checkup to go over the pathology report, which showed there wasn't cancer, but there were reactive mesothelial cells.
"I said, 'Well, what does that mean?' He (the doctor) said, 'Well, I don't have any answers for you. I can't tell you where these cells came from. I can't tell you if they even started in the reproductive system,'" Green said.
From there, the doctor suggested Green keep the results in the back of her mind and go back to her primary doctor.
About two months later, Green had another checkup following the surgery, during which a physician assistant suggested Green seek a second opinion and go to the Mayo Clinic.
Getting to Rochester
When in-patient services resumed, Green began to see a gastroenterologist, a doctor who treats diseases in the gastrointestinal tract and liver, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
From there, Green tested positive for C. difficile — a bacterial infection that can cause inflammation of the colon — and had a colonoscopy, during which doctors discovered four polyps, or abnormal tissue growths, one of which was later determined to be precancerous.
"At this time I'm like, 'This is crazy.' Why is all of this stuff happening? Why isn't anybody putting this stuff together?" Green said.
After more appointments and tests and continuing to have diarrhea, shortness of breath, a cough, chest and colon pain, headaches and a rapid heartbeat, Green approached her primary care doctor, hoping he could put all of the pieces together.
In August, he told Green she had malignant mesothelioma of the peritoneal, a cancer that occurs in tissue in the abdomen, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A few weeks later, a cancer specialist told her she didn't have mesothelioma, and he had to prove the diagnosis.
"Needless to say, that was kind of like a bittersweet moment," Green said.
It was then her specialist said he had more questions than answers, Green said, noting at this point, the COVID-19 pandemic was well underway in the Region, leaving her husband without a job for eight months and prompting Green to start a homeschooling consulting business — Green homeschools her children.
The specialist suggested Green go to the Mayo Clinic.
After being denied for charitable care, Green was approved as a self-pay patient at the Mayo Clinic in December that required Green pay a preservice deposit of up to $10,000, which she received from a family friend and GoFundMe donors.
Green has been at Mayo Clinic since Monday. She was able to make the eight-hour trip with her husband, children and cousin using funds from GoFundMe and receiving free lodging from Cedar Valley Resort.
The Dyer resident has reapplied for charitable care, but if she isn't approved, or cannot raise $18,000 by Monday for additional tests ordered by doctors, she has to return home.
"They will refer me back to those same doctors that referred me to them (the Mayo Clinic) that had no answers," Green said, later noting she has received more information from physicians at the Mayo Clinic in four days than she has from other doctors in almost two years. "That's just not an option. I will be devastated if I have to come back, and I couldn't get the answers that I'm so close to getting."
To donate, visit gofund.me/e1df8398.
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