“It’s the largest tumor I’ve ever seen,” said the X-ray technician, watching as the massive tumor traveled across the computer screen. It belonged to Sonia, a 34-year old nurse. The growth stretched out from her left cheek and was the size of a human head.
Sonia passed through the machine as it buzzed and whirred, taking images and measurements with beams and signals.
But no such scan could capture the pictures deep within her mind as she imagined life without this tumor. A life with her own family … one day … perhaps? She hoped and prayed that surgery would be possible now that she was in the care of the doctors at Mercy Ships.
Carrying this heavy tumor everywhere was a burden. Before going into the world outside her home, Sonia always wrapped her hair into a fabric twist, leaving a longer piece of material to hang down over her face. From certain angles, it helped to hide what she wished she could make disappear.
Sonia had spent years watching the mass grow. She had tried various forms of treatment, but nothing worked. Facing the world with a major disfigurement had been far from easy; yet she still managed to make a career for herself as a nurse, despite the shunning stares.
She went to work each day at the local hospital and treated her patients. Unfortunately, hospitals in undeveloped nations lack technology and specializations needed to treat a severe condition like Sonia’s. They primarily deal with malaria cases and provide maternity care.
The thought of maternity care and babies was a reminder of a startling truth – at 34, Sonia had no children of her own nor did she have a husband. In many cultures like Sonia’s, family is the defining factor in identity and value. Without family, you were considered … less. But Sonia refused to fret, saying, “I’m waiting until the tumor’s gone. Then I’ll start my family.”
Finally, the test results came back, and Sonia prepared herself for the news – news that just might change the course of her life. The doctors had reviewed her case, and sure enough … she’d been scheduled for free surgery on the Africa Mercy!
From that point, things happened quickly. Sonia was admitted to the hospital ship and had a successful surgery. After the bandages were removed, she could be seen holding up a mirror from time to time – as if to confirm that the tumor really was gone. And it was!
Just a few short weeks later, Sonia was a new woman. The scars will take time to heal, and the extra skin that used to hold the large mass will shrink down to size as the months pass. But with a new hair-do, a sassy smile and a definitive sparkle in her eye, she looks radiant. Now she can focus on making her dreams a reality, starting with a search for “Mr. Right!”
Story by Windsor Marchesi