The fibroid is mocking Raphaela today. As she lies in bed on Saturday morning, she lifts up the duvet and looks down at her belly. Once flat is now gently curving but only on the left side. It could not even pretend to be normal. It could not even pretend to be a new life, gently growing and forming at 16 weeks. At 16 weeks a fetus is 5 inches and has started making movements. At 16 weeks some women can feel these movements. Instead her belly resembles a round hill and gentle slope, the type she might have rolled down when she was younger, when life was much less confusing and complicated. Instead this lopsided curve is devoid of new life and continues to mock her. “Where is a baby going to fit in here?”, “I have taken all the space, I am first”
She sighs to herself, she may look like she is carrying new life but instead it is nothing but a mean hard ball of muscle mass. Mean – yes mean. In the days before the crimson flow, the fibroid tightens up and enlarges – like a fist getting ready to punch. Sometimes the pain is bearable and sometimes requires a paracetamol or two to take the edge of it. In that time of her cycle her profile changes and the baggy unflattering clothes are worn for the week. And in the meantime the biological clock ticks away mercilessly and the fibroid continues to laugh.
Raphaela remembers when she first noticed it, almost imperceptible, but for some unusual left sided discomfort. The left sided pangs had been present for years but one day, she felt a lump, and the only reason she could feel a lump was because she had lost weight. And the only reason she had lost weight was because of her attempt at fasting. Every Tuesday she would fast, for a future husband. Tuesday was perhaps the worst day for her. She had two full clinics in two different locations. Instead of focusing on the goodness of God and the faithfulness of God’s promises, she would dream of the chocolate bar she was going to eat at five o’clock after her quick prayer. She would allow herself water but it did not take the edge of the craving. She would chew gum but her stomach would still rumble. She was not even sure if gum or water was Biblically ‘kosher’ but she could not manage without the two.
However her husband did not arrive; instead she discovered my fibroid, one quiet January Monday morning when she was feeling too drained to get up and go to work. She was not even sure what the lump was and at first she thought it was just her imagination. After half a day of pondering, she finally convinced herself, that she had some horrible incurable cancer that had been growing unchecked in her pelvic cavity. So in a moment of, what she can only describe now, as madness she took herself to the to the GP centre at her local hospital. As expected, such a visit could only end in disappointment.
The doctor who eventually saw her was pretty useless. From his examining her while sitting on the chair, to him claiming the mass was an enlarged ureter from a urinary tract infection, that he was too quick to diagnose. When she insisted that she did not have a urinary tract infection, he wrote her a prescription for antibiotics. When she insisted that he send her urine sample to the lab to be tested, he dropped the sample in a plastic bag without labelling it. So there she was, in the little clinic room, labelling her own urine sample, as if back at work again and doing the same for a little baby with a fever of unexplained origin.
She left and then proceeded in doing the more sensible action of making an appointment with her own GP at her local surgery. Her own GP who was infinitely nicer, who correctly diagnosed a fibroid and who told her not worry and who requested an ultrasound for her. A week later she was staring at her ‘multiple fibroids’ on a small screen in a small darkened room. The ultrasonographer needed to brush up on his bedside manner, but at least he got things right. When he was not being rude and offensive he managed to say “I do not know how you managed to fill your bladder; your uterus is so bulky, there’s no room – it’s full of fibroids!”. Not what Raphaela wanted to hear as a single woman in her mid-thirties…
And so despite the fact that the fibroid, fibroid(s) had been quiet tenants in her womb for sometime, this year they were determined to make their presence fully known. Pain was their anthem. Pain whenever she was stressed, which at that time seemed to be a regular occurrence. She remember every weekend when she completing a busy on call, the whole time was filled with a background of persistent left sided dragging sensation in her lower abdomen. Sometimes the pain would take her breath away but for some reason, she just ignored it, down played it. She told myself, it was all psychological. Psychosomatic features brought on by the stresses and uncertainties of work. Only in the quiet moments on Saturday morning would she glance at her belly but look away in hurry and denial. Now, remembering those months in the spring, she cannot quite believe this behaviour.
In the mean time the fibroid continued to grow and mock, grow and mock. “you should have had children by now”, “you have left it too late, “you’ll never get pregnant now”, “you’ll never get to term”, “it won’t look normal!”. Another Saturday morning rolls by.