Swollen tum turned out to be tumour size of watermellon
A mother has said she felt like she was going through "a never-ending pregnancy" after enduring an undiagnosed tumour for three years.
Margaret McMahon (48), from north Belfast, first went to her GP in 2013 suffering from stomach pains, but she was told she had irritable bowel syndrome and needed to lose weight.
However, for three years her stomach continued to swell.
"It was like a never-ending pregnancy - everything was put on hold, I felt ridiculous and was too embarrassed to go out," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "I imagined that everyone was looking at me. I was wearing maternity clothes and I just couldn't hide it."
"I didn't know what sleep was. I had constant pain in my hip and back, I was light-headed and eating made me feel sick."
Last year, Margaret started suffering from stabbing pains in her stomach and was taken to A&E by her daughter, Emma.
"I was told I had a mass in my stomach, but I didn't know what that meant," she explained.
The mother decided to pay for a private scan and was told she had an 18cm tumour the size of a watermelon in her abdomen.
Unaware if it was cancerous or not, she went through the "worst week of her life".
"I thought, 'You are actually going to die'," Margaret said. "I remember my daughter having to stop the car because I felt so sick. I had to tell my parents and sister."
Days later, doctors explained she had a non-cancerous fibroid tumour.
"I just felt this weight of relief - it was as if somebody had lifted me," Margaret said. "I was shaking from head to toe."
Her daughter Emma McMahon (24) added: "That was the scariest week of her life and also for me and my brother Matthew (16). We only have our mum."
Margaret chose to have a hysterectomy to remove the tumour, but she said her "life was put on hold" because she faced a nine-month waiting list.
After a successful procedure in March this year, Margaret is recovering well and looking forward to returning to work as a teaching assistant.
"Seeing her now, it's like two completely different people - we feel like we've got our mum back," said Emma."She was going to the hospital for nearly three years. I felt that the doctors weren't listening to her and I got really angry. I saw her every day and I knew what she was going through."
Margaret added: "I think there should be more information out there on fibroid tumours, so people don't have to worry like I did. You can't even pick up a leaflet in your GP surgery.
"I also hope my experience gives other women hope that if they do go down the road of a hysterectomy, there is light at the end of the tunnel and things will get better."