My belly was really weighing me down - until docs made a shock find...
Everyone knows that at a certain age your body can turn against you. That middle-aged spread seems inevitable - well, it certainly was for me when I hit 40.
Even scrubbing floors and pushing round a vacuum cleaner in my job as a cleaner didn't seem to keep the bulge at bay.
Slowly but surely, the pounds piled on to my once toned tum.
'Don't worry,' my hubby Denis reassured me. 'I'll always love you no matter what.'
Sweet of him to say so, but that didn't stop me feeling I had a spare tyre wrapped around my waist.
So, I decided to try dieting. Maybe I was eating too much junk?
Chucking away packets of biscuits, crisps and chocolate bars, I felt a little guilty when I saw the look on Denis's face.
'Sorry, love,' I sighed. 'I won't be able to resist temptation if I know they're here. And it'll only be until I get back into shape.'
'I suppose I could do with going on a diet myself anyway,' Denis chuckled, patting his belly.
It was settled then, we'd fight the fat together.
Our son Andrey, 16, was a little star too, making sure I didn't pick at his leftovers or binge on biccies when we watched telly together.
I had all the support I needed.
But after months of eating just salads and fruit, I was no slimmer - yet Denis had lost half a stone!
'I don't get it,' I groaned, stepping off the scales for the umpteenth time. 'I've actually gained a few pounds.'
It was time to admit defeat. Perhaps this was just the way my body was meant to be.
As the years passed, I continued to put on weight. The odd thing was it only seemed to be around my middle.
When friends began commenting on my bulge, I was horrified.
'Are you pregnant?' gasped my pal Eva one day as we changed for a dip in the local swimming pool.
'No!' I blushed. I was 49, and well past my baby days. Besides, me and Denis had to go through IVF treatment to conceive Andrey.
Back home, I decided to be on the safe side, and took a pregnancy test. I breathed a sigh of relief at the result - negative.
But, a few days later at work as I leaned over to switch the vacuum cleaner on? 'Argh!'
Searing pain tore through my stomach like a knife. I felt like I'd been stabbed! Panting, I fell to the floor in agony.
'Help!' I wheezed. Every breath I took sent another excruciating jolt of pain through my stomach.
Pulling my mobile phone from my pocket, I called an ambulance.
Denis met me at the hospital.
'We need to get you in for a scan straight away,' a doctor said, taking one look at my swollen belly.
'Don't tell me I really am pregnant,' I winced, as he gazed at the monitor during my scan looking stunned.
'No? Not exactly,' he gulped.
Rifling through my medical notes, he looked at me suddenly.
'Were you supposed to come in for a scan after your last gynaecology appointment seven years ago?' he asked.
'Well? yes,' I started sheepishly. 'But the nurse said she thought I just had a small cyst and before I could make the appointment, I was bogged down with work, then we moved house? it sort of slipped my mind.'
'Nadya,' he started. 'This is serious. You have a massive tumour growing in your womb. We need to operate as soon as possible to remove it.'
Panic pulsed through me. Tumour! But that meant?
'Is it cancer?'
'We won't know until we remove it,' he replied.
The surgery was so serious, doctors had to make sure there was enough blood in the hospital for a transfusion before they could start.
'What if something goes wrong?' I sobbed to Denis as they got me ready for the operating theatre the next morning.
'It'll be fine,' he promised, kissing me. 'Just stay positive.'
Next thing I knew: 'You're okay, love,' Denis smiled. 'It went well.'
But when the doctor came to see me, he had shocking news.
'Yours is the biggest tumour I've ever seen,' he said.
'You're lucky to be alive.'
Opening a folder, he pulled out a stack of photos.
'It weighed 3st,' he said, showing me the pictures. 'It took three of us just to lift it out of you.'
Shocked, I almost gagged at the first picture he handed me.
A white sheet covered my body, and in the middle, where the doctor's hands held open a gaping hole in my stomach, a huge, bloody ball of flesh was being hauled out.
The second picture was even worse - the giant tumour covered in veins. Hanging off it were small sacks, like fleshy golf balls.
I felt sick.
All this time I'd thought I'd been putting on middle-aged spread, I'd been growing a tumour the size of six babies!
Tears sprang to my eyes as I looked at my bandaged stomach.
I'd been so foolish not to act sooner, and so lucky to still be here.
Luckily, it turned out my tumour wasn't cancerous.
It's been two months since my op, and I've recovered well. I've even gone back to work already.
I feel better than ever and, not surprisingly, a whole lot lighter.
When I tell people about what happened to me, they can't get their heads around how I didn't notice something was up.
But I suppose I was so busy trying to hide it with baggy clothes, I didn't realise just how big I had become.
One thing's for sure, though, the next time the doctor tells me to make an appointment, I won't be letting anything else get in the way!
Nadya Kurnosova, 49, Karasuk, Russia
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