Wah was 26 years old and she sought treatment for a large mass in her pelvic region. She had actually travelled to the Mae Tao Clinic to accompany her mother who had failing health (and who sadly passed away soon after arriving). Since she was at the Clinic anyway, Wah decided to have the mass looked at. She’s now successfully undergone treatment for her condition and is no longer in any pain.
During her initial interview with BWMF, Wah tells us that she is from Karen State and that her village is very poor and remote – there are only about 20 houses made from wood and the other 80 or so huts are made from bamboo. Most of the villagers work in the fields or on surrounding farms. The village is in a conflict zone so every month all the households have to pay money to the Burmese military.
…There is often fighting in and around their village. Wah’s father and brother have been forcibly recruited as porters and had to carry weapons for the army. Wah has also been forced to work at the nearby military camp and make weapons from bamboo. One time they kept her for five days. Wah says she was lucky that she wasn’t abused because she was with the village leader who ensured her safety. She was given a small amount of food but it was barely enough to keep her going…
One of her duties was to carry heavy loads of water for the senior soldiers to bathe in because they were afraid to bathe in the river for fear of attack. Wah usually works growing and harvesting rice. She doesn’t earn money but earns her wage in food that she harvests.
Journey to the Mae Tao Clinic
In January 2011, Wah travelled to the Mae Tao Clinic with her mother who was suffering from a disease in her spleen. Getting her mother treated in Burma was difficult – the village is very remote and the cost was too expensive. Wah said that she heard about the Clinic from other people in her village who had been for treatment. They decided that getting to the Clinic was their only option so they had to borrow 100,000 Kyat (US$100) to pay for their journey. However, by the time they were able to travel, it was too late. Wah’s mother was very sick and she passed away from her condition soon after she arrived.
Despite her grief and since she was at the clinic anyway, Wah decided to get a check-up for a large mass that had appeared in her pelvic region. Wah noticed it in April 2010 while she was bathing. Some villagers told her that perhaps it was related to malaria and some even told her she was pregnant. She did not know why she had a hard mass in her abdomen but she knew it was not normal. A traditional birth attendant in her village examined her based on the assumption she was pregnant but she was informed that she wasn’t pregnant. Wah thought she was cursed and perhaps she had a ghost in abdomen.
Treatment and recovery
When she came to the Reproductive Health Outpatient department at Mae Tao Clinic, she was suffering from an abnormal menstrual cycle and her pelvic mass measured around 32cm in diameter It was causing her great discomfort and pain. The Reproductive Health team referred her to Burma Women Medical Fund (BWMF) and Wah underwent surgery at Mae Sot Hospital on 21 February 2011. Since the surgery, Wah says that she is no longer in any pain and that her movement is not restricted by the mass. She feels lighter and freer and has a renewed hope for her future.
In the short term, she says that she will try and find work in the border area. She is the eldest of five children and she has to return to her village to look after her father and to pay back the money she borrowed to travel to Thailand for treatment. Wah says that had she not had treatment through Mae Tao Clinic and Burma Women Medical Fund (BWMF), she believes that she would have died.