A yoga teacher whose stomach became so distended it ‘looked like she was pregnant’ reveals how doctors discovered the symptom was caused by her ovary and bowel ‘fusing to her pelvic wall’.
Rebecca Bruce-Radcliffe, 28, from Carlisle, tried for years to find out why she had a mysterious, ever-worsening ache in her pelvis, causing ‘unbearable pain’.
She was rushed to hospital in October with severe bleeding and passed ‘egg-sized’ blood clots. It was then doctors found her internal organs had fused together.
A yoga teacher whose stomach became so distended it ‘looked like she was pregnant’ reveals how doctors discovered the symptom was caused by her ovary and bowel ‘fusing to her pelvic wall’. Pictured: The yoga teacher in hospital having her organs surgically separated
Pictured: The 28-year-old’s stomach distended due to pelvic inflammation. It would remain like this for ‘weeks’ at a time before the condition was diagnosed
Having always been extremely healthy and fit, Nartani from Carlisle, Cumbria, became a vinyasa, hatha and yin yoga teacher in 2016. Pictured before the diagnosis
Rebecca, who is known as Nartani Rose, is still recovering but is relieved to finally have a reason for her suffering and to know it was not ‘in her head.’
Taking up yoga aged 21, Nartani had always been extremely fit and healthy.
She completed her training to become a vinyasa, hatha and yin yoga teacher in 2016, aged 24 and began incorporating dance into her classes.
That June, Nartani began suffering from unexplained pelvic pain and inflammation, which she felt sure was not digestive or menstrual cramps.
Nartani said: ‘My belly was inflamed and swollen – it looked like I was pregnant.’
But the source of her problems had doctors baffled.
‘I had countless appointments, scans and internal examinations with gynaecologists, and appointments with gastroenterologists,’ she said.
Nartani (pictured) admits she started to wonder if her symptoms were just in her head, as doctors struggled for answers
‘No doctor could diagnose me and I just kept hearing, ‘Well we couldn’t find anything. I started to think it could be all in my head.’
Despite her worries, Nartani pursued her dreams and went travelling in India and America where she taught dance and yoga.
She managed to cope with her symptoms, although the pain was getting ‘worse and worse’ over time.
In March this year, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Nartani returned to her hometown in the UK to avoid being stranded in India.
She stayed with a family member before moving into a rented house with her new boyfriend Ryan, 24, who is currently visiting from California.
A smear test revealed that Nartani (pictured) had pre-cancerous cells on her cervix in April and would need surgery to prevent them from developing into cancer
- Adhesions are deposits of fibrous strands or scar tissue which can connect organs together.
- Organs in the pelvic region usually slide against each other freely and adhesions can prevent movement – leading to pain.
- The abdominal lining can become damaged following an injury during surgery, an infection or an inflammation.
- The body’s attempts to repair the wounds can lead to an overproduction of immune cells, which can build up – like a scab or blood clot – and develop into adhesions.
- In people who haven’t had surgery adhesions can also sometimes form due to conditions such as endometriosis or following infections or inflammation within the abdomen, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, bowel conditions, appendicitis or gastroenteritis.
Source: GutsUK! / gutscharity.org.uk and Pelvic Pain / pelvicpain.org.uk
In April, a smear test revealed that she had pre-cancerous cells on her cervix, which had reached the severe stage, meaning she would need surgery to remove them and prevent them from developing into cancer.
However doctors assured her that this was not causing her mysterious pelvic pain, which had become so bad she was signed off work in June.
‘I was hoping my pain would stop,’ Nartani said.
On September 15, 2020, she had surgery to remove the pre-cancerous cells and was sent home to recover. But, far from feeling better, just a couple of weeks later, her condition dramatically worsened.
She said: ‘Out of the blue one evening at home, I suddenly started experiencing very heavy bleeding.
Nartani (pictured) said one evening in September she suddenly started to bleed heavily and needed to wear an adult nappy
Nartani was rushed by ambulance to the A&E department at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. Pictured: Nartani Rose’s stomach was so swollen she appeared pregnant
‘It was so heavy to the point where I was having to wear an adult nappy and it was leaking through – even on the night it started.
‘I was in so much pain – it was like labour and I was screaming out in agony.’
Rushed by ambulance to the A&E department at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, on the evening of Monday, October 5, Nartani was given strong pain relief and had a colposcopy – a procedure where a microscope with a light is used to look at the cervix.
‘I was passing blood clots that were so big they were the size of an egg,’ she said.
‘I couldn’t stand up or walk – I was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t even put one foot on the ground because the pain would bring me down to the floor.’
The yoga teacher (pictured) was kept on high doses of painkilling drugs and had her cervix cauterised to stop the bleeding
Nartani was asked to return to the hospital the next day to be examined more thoroughly but, despite her exhaustion, her condition became so severe that she had to return again in the evening of Tuesday, October 6, in the same excruciating pain.
She was discharged again and then admitted on Wednesday, October 7, after returning first thing in the morning.
During her three-day stay, her cervix was cauterised to stop the bleeding and Nartani was kept on high doses of painkilling drugs ‘pretty much around the clock’.
Before she could leave the hospital after being discharged, Nartani collapsed in a toilet in the discharge lounge.
‘Suddenly it all started again,’ she said. ‘The severe pain and heavy bleeding.
‘Two nurses had to help me and there was blood everywhere.’
Nartani was put on strict bed rest and returned home to await further surgery.
She needed a laparoscopy – a type of keyhole surgery to examine the organs inside the abdomen – in a bid to discover what was causing her pelvic agony, but faced a wait of over a year for the procedure, because of delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
To add to her anxiety, she discovered her pre-cancerous cells had spread, requiring another operation to clear them from her cervix.
Nartani said: ‘I spent almost six weeks being bedridden and totally housebound – in pain and bleeding.
‘Due to Covid, they were only performing cancer surgery, which was why I was able to get my cervical pre-cancer cells removed – but had to wait for the laparoscopy.’
But a stroke of good fortune saw her being fast-tracked for her laparoscopy at Westcumberland Hospital, in Whitehaven, on November 19.
Nartani (pictured) recalls being scared, confused and fearful after coming from the anaesthetic
And her surgeon said he could remove her remaining pre-cancerous cells at the same time, saving her a separate operation.
But when she came to from the anaesthetic, Nartani was in ‘unbearable pain.’
She said: ‘They had to IV me with fentanyl which is an extremely strong painkiller and can only be administered by anaesthetists.
‘I was so scared, confused and fearful. It was horrible and I was also bleeding.’
Kept in a private room in Whitehaven Hospital for five days, Nartani needed 24-hour care, as she kept bleeding through her dressings and was unable to move herself.
‘The first two days were the most unbearable suffering time of my life,’ she said. ‘My body was in so much shock I couldn’t even have a wee.
‘I couldn’t actually move – the nurses had to wheel a commode next to the bed and I was struggling to even get onto that.
Nartani (pictured) said she was unable to use the toilet because of the amount of pain in her pelvic region
‘I was in so much pain that I was screaming agony moving my leg a centimetre.
‘I couldn’t wee because I was in so much pain in my pelvic region. I had to sit there for an hour and pass urine one drop at a time. I couldn’t even push because it was so painful.’
To make matters worse, Nartani started having panic attacks.
‘I couldn’t breathe and started hyperventilating – my body was just stunned,’ she said.
‘I kept begging for more painkillers, but they’d given me everything they could.’
The surgeon explained that the laparoscopy had revealed Nartani’s left ovary had completely fused to her bowel – with both organs in turn fused to her pelvic wall – and this had caused all her pain.
Nartani (pictured) said despite the pain, she was relieved to finally have answers for the symptoms she had for the past four years
The organs have now been separated, in a process known as adhesiolysis and what was meant to be a simple diagnostic process turned into a complex operation.
Despite all the pain she was in, Nartani felt relieved to finally have answers and to know she had not imagined her suffering over the previous four years.
‘I just thought ‘oh my God, it wasn’t in my head’,’ she said
‘The surgeon said the inflammation, which I’d had on and off since 2016, had caused the fusion. The chronic inflammation had pushed the organs together.
‘He said the fusion can be caused by the pressure of the organs being squeezed so closely together.’
However, the cause of the mysterious inflammation, which had sometimes made Nartani look pregnant and caused her bleeding and pain, remains a mystery.
Nartani (pictured) who is in pain seven days a week, said she believes there is still something going on in her body
Nartani is currently awaiting test results, which she hopes will show all her pre-cancerous cells – although doctors say they were not responsible for her symptoms and have been removed from her cervix.
‘My pain diary still shows that I am in pain seven days a week,’ said Nartani, who can only hope her organs will not fuse together again.
‘It’s still a big question as to why I am still in pain and I honestly think there is still something going on.
‘But mentally it gives me peace of mind knowing that medically something has been done.
‘Now it’s up to me to be positive and just push my own recovery and move forwards with my life.’
Nartani set up a GoFundMe page to support the cost of her illness and has so far, raised £1,584 towards her £8,000 target. She plans to use the money to repay debts caused by being unable to work.
Nartani (pictured) who hopes to return to her yoga career, said she may become an ambassador for a skincare brand otherwise
Hoping to find cheaper accommodation to rent, she will also use the funds to help with living costs, as she waits to hear if she will qualify for Department of Work and Pensions personal independence payments (PIP) – or long term sick benefits.
At least, armed with a cause for her pain, Nartani who found the strength to walk out of the hospital, rather than using a wheelchair, is determined to overcome her problems.
She said: ‘There are still a lot of questions about what’s wrong with me. It’s mysterious even to the doctors.’
Her goal is to return to her yoga and dance teaching career if she can recover physically, or to become an ambassador for a natural skincare brand, if that proves impossible.
‘My life is travelling and yoga and dance teaching,’ she said.
‘I really want to go back to it, but if I can’t, I plan to focus on promoting natural skincare, as I can do that from home, even if I am in pain.
‘I’ve learned you really have to take care of your own health. Nobody is going to solve it for you. They can help, but the desire to get better has to come from you.’
To donate to Nartani’s GoFundMe, visit: https://go.pa.media/e/314511/for-unexpected-medical-tragedy/dvgnk/1174596866?h=XDMxFKCqz_b06-EUW5kTcJt-s7Z23U4536ATUDmdHUI