Like most women, Fidelis Mulama's wish has always been to have a flat belly.
In July, when she noticed her stomach was growing bigger, she embarked on a dieting programme. She cut down on junk food and reduced meal portions. That, however, did not help.
Her stomach grew bigger as the days went by. Alarmed by this, she sought medical advice last month.
"I wondered what would become of me if the stomach continued to grow bigger. The weight was becoming unbearable. I needed to do something," recalled the 46-year-old.
'WATER' IN STOMACH
Her search for treatment began at community health centres in Ruiru, where she was told she had "water" in her stomach. With the ongoing nurses' strike, she couldn't access major public health facilities such as Thika Level Five Hospital.
"I was referred to the Central Memorial Hospital in Thika for a CT scan that revealed that a huge follicular cyst -- the most common type of ovarian cyst -- was growing in my abdomen," Ms Mulama told the Nation from her hospital bed on Monday.
During a woman's menstrual cycle, an egg grows in a sac called a follicle. This sac is located inside the ovaries. The follicle or sac is supposed to break open and release an egg.
But if the follicle doesn't break open, the fluid inside the follicle can form a cyst on the ovary and grow up to about seven centimetres in diameter thus necessitating its removal through a surgical procedure.
On Thursday last week, the cyst was removed from her abdomen in a procedure that lasted about four hours. The operation was conducted by a team of experts who included an obstetric gynaecologist, an anaesthetist and a general surgeon.
"It was a risky procedure because the patient had earlier on gone through a Caesarian section while delivering her second born child and the human anatomy becomes delicate after the initial surgery," said Dr Moses Njoroge, the hospital's resident obstetric gynaecologist.
He added: "Secondly, the 16kg-sized cyst required us to be careful so as not to rapture its thin lining to prevent a possible spread of cancer cells in the event that the cyst is found to be malignant. Lastly, we needed to prevent injuries on some of the organs that the cyst was compressing with its mass."
After four hours, the team wound up the operation that normally lasts 40 minutes for small-sized cysts.
A jovial Ms Mulama revealed that she now feels lighter with the 16kg burden off her abdomen.
"I feel so good, way much lighter and gradually gaining my strength back. I would like to urge women not to ignore any sign of an abnormality in their bodies. Had I been diagnosed earlier, the procedure wouldn't have been as risky as it was. I am, however, grateful that it has now been dealt with," said the mother of three.
Dr Njoroge said: "She came to us bearing back aches, prolonged pelvic pain, could hardly walk and breath. The cyst had been putting a strain on some of her internal organs. However, she is now feeding well, gradually getting back to her normal meal portions."
WORST CASE SCENARIO
He said in the worst case scenario, the patient would have undergone excessive bleeding and her organs damaged, forcing her to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
"This would have delayed the procedure but luckily that did not happen. We managed to remove it safely," said Dr Njoroge.
Large cysts that cause problems occur in about eight per cent of women before menopause like in Ms Mulama's case.
Dr Joseph Mukala, a general surgeon who also witnessed the operation, urged Kenyans to go for routine screening so that such problems can get detected early.
"Had this been detected earlier, the procedure would have been less risky," he said.