As she walked, heads turned, noses discreetly covered, and people moved to the opposite side of the road, seats around her on the PMV remained open, no one wanted to be near her, even her family. The small lump that she found in her breast, had grown and grown and grown and now was a large fungating mass producing a smelly discharge that no one could ignore. The smell went before her, stayed with her, and remained for minutes after she left. The smell, the mass was so bad that she was desperate for help.
The doctors near her home were unable to help her, but the smell, stares, looks continued. She became desperate for help, desperate for the smell to go away, desperate to not have people walk away from her, and desperate for healing. She collected her savings, withstood the stares and traveled many hours equipped with a can of fragrance spray to try and hide the smell and came to Kudjip Nazarene Hospital for help.
As she waited to be seen, people moved away from her, reenforcing the desire she had to be healed. When I called for the next patient, she painfully made her way into my exam room, hunched over so her meri blouse wouldn’t rub against the open sores on her chest. When I asked what was wrong, she asked, no, pleaded for help. She asked for us to be able to remove the mass on her chest, but as I examined her I found that the mass was too big and too advanced for surgery. I knew that even if we could remove the mass, to help reduce the smell, the odor, the discharge, that we could never close the wound.
As I looked at her, I thought of the hemorrhaging woman in Mark, and thought the women in front of me could be the woman in the story of Mark 5:25-28, “A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that hse had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse – after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garment, I will get well.”
The women in Mark, thought that if she could just touch Jesus’s garment, she would get well. The women in my room thought that if she could just reach out, if she could save her money and make her way to Kudjip, she would get well, and yet I was telling her otherwise. Tears started rolling down her cheeks as she looked at me, telling me how she thought we were going to help her, and now we are doing nothing. I don’t often think of examining a patient and giving my medical expertise as nothing, but I do realize that by not doing surgery, and removing the mass and the smell, we were very far from reaching her expectations.
As she was crying in front of me, I tried to comfort her and help her see that getting well might look different than what she had thought. I prayed for her and had our chaplain to come and talk with her more. When I saw her waiting for a dressing to be placed, I can’t say I saw a peace, or an understanding, I still saw the tears, and the disappointment on her face. I wish there was more that I could do, but often times I do all I can and have to trust that God will take care of the rest. Pray for her to find that peace, to find the understanding before it is too late.