"I had no idea what to expect when I went to Mayo, and I wanted to make something for other people who might be in the same situation."
Franceska Garza was sick of being sick. The 21-year-old makeup artist and YouTube lifestyle vlogger had lived with "stomach issues" since she was in high school. Numerous visits to doctors in her home state of Michigan had failed to find a reason for — or a solution to — the problem.
Things came to a head earlier this year when a doctor told her she had a rare cancer and recommended chemotherapy. Even though another doctor disagreed with that diagnosis, Franceska was desperate to feel better and reluctantly decided to start the treatment. "That amplified my symptoms times 10," she says in her video, My Experience at Mayo Clinic: What to Expect, the most popular video on her vlog (more on that later). She decided to quit treatment and get yet another opinion. "My mom and I started researching hospitals, and Mayo came up as number one for GI issues, so we decided to go," Franceska says.
Mayo was "so different" from the other hospitals she'd experienced over the years. "I was used to feeling like I was in an emergency room when I went to a hospital," she says. "Mayo was almost like a hotel." The people around her were different, too. "People seemed relieved and thankful to be there," says Franceska, who had appointments with several providers from Mayo's Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department, including Lisa Pisney, a nurse practitioner, Santhi Swaroop Vege, M.D., Bret Petersen, M.D., and Mark Topazian, M.D. "I felt like all of the providers had communicated before they saw me," Franceska tells us. "They'd reviewed my records and knew my history. I liked that."
Franceska's care team ruled out the cancer diagnosis and ordered new tests in an effort to get to the bottom of her persistent symptoms. They eventually came up with an answer — a recurrent C. difficile infection — and perhaps most importantly for Franceska, a plan for treating it. "I'm on antibiotics and feeling good," she says. "Coming to Mayo was like a miracle for me and my family."
Franceska decided to vlog about her experience in part to be a resource to others planning a visit to Mayo. "I had no idea what to expect when I went to Mayo, and I wanted to make something for other people who might be in the same situation," she tells us, adding that she was initially surprised by how popular the video became. "I wasn't sure anyone would watch it," she says of the video, which to-date has been viewed more than 30,000 times.
The responses Franceska received from viewers made her realize her experience was also an encouragement to others living with unexplained symptoms. And she's happy she's been able to give some of them hope. "I'd been to nine or 10 doctors before I went to Mayo Clinic, and it took that 10th doctor to figure out what was going on," she says in her video, before encouraging viewers to get their own second (or third, fourth or 10th) opinions. "Don't quit," Franceska says, "until you feel better."
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