Entrepreneur Jolene Barnes has captured the imagination of women across Mzansi with a series of riveting Facebook posts leading up to a hysteroscopy. The former business management lecturer has been suffering from unusual vaginal bleeding since June 2022. For months she had feared for the worst, going through numerous tests to eliminate the possibility of cancer.
“What the f*** is happening to me?” was her words on that dreadful Sunday morning when she was first faced with the severe bleeding. She recalls, “Pulling down my pants, it looked like I was having a miscarriage – only I was not pregnant.”
Three weeks ago, a hysteroscopy was eventually performed on Barnes at Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape to identify possible structural irregularities in the uterus that may be have caused the abnormal bleeding. The procedure involved a look inside the uterus with a hysteroscope – a long, thin tube with a light and camera – being inserted through the cervix.
In an interview with Health For Mzansi, Barnes revealed that the worst part of her journey was “laying on the hospital bed ready for the gynaecologist to do yet another biopsy and finding out that she could not find the opening to my uterus.”
She added, “The look of worry in her face caused me to worry and feel anxious. At that moment my first thought was that the growth has gotten so big that it is growing through my cervix.”
Despite her fears, Barnes shared that the procedure itself was not painful.
She experienced some pain later in the evening, though, and for the two days that followed. Despite that, she spoke highly of the medical personnel at Tygerberg, saying that unlike the horror stories often heard about government hospitals, the doctors who examined her were compassionate and treated her with respect and dignity.
Barnes is currently awaiting test results from the biopsy and hopes to know the way forward in the next few weeks. She shared that she decided to be open about her journey because she had never heard her mother or aunts speak about women’s health issues.
“Like me, I am sure there are many other women who experience female health issues but suffer in silence,” she said. Barnes wants to create awareness and educate women on their health, especially when it comes to reproductive health.
Reflecting on her experience, she added, “Only when I stared at the blood clots on my panty I realised that my health and well-being is important and I need to prioritise it as I do other things in my life. My health is essentially my responsibility.”
Here follows an excerpt from Barnes’ gripping Facebook posts:
Sunday, 26 June 2022
I woke up with what felt like a big pee. I jumped out of bed and ran to the toilet, but on my way [there I] felt a big blob leave my you-know-where. Pulling down my pants, it looked like I was having a miscarriage – only I was not pregnant.
I cleaned myself up and went back to bed. About 20 minutes later I felt the same pressure and ran to the toilet. Same scene, same routine. The third time, everything fell on the small mat in front of the toilet. What the f*** was happening to me?
Okay, so now I’m cleaning myself up, getting dressed… Made a cup of coffee which I had on the stoep. I sneezed. I mean, a stupid sneeze. I felt something warm run down my legs. When I looked down I was standing in a small puddle of blood.
I slowly managed to find my way to the toilet, once again. I felt drained. My face felt damp with sweat. Something unexplainable happened in my body. It felt like ants walking underneath my skin.
I called my daughter and asked for a glass of water. She stared at me and I could see the worry on her face, but in that moment all I could utter was, “Make quick.” I had no energy to take the glass from her so she fed me. My 11-year-old took my face cloth to wipe the now streams of sweat running down my face. I heard my sister asking whether I needed to go to a doctor or hospital.
Monday, 9 January 2023
A close friend of mine referred to stretch marks on the tummy as tiger stripes. So there you go. I’m a rather stripy tiger, but this post is not about my stripes.
In June last year I experienced discomfort when pressure was applied to my lower abdomen. By August, I could feel a small ball. Today, my dinosaur is bigger than my hand. Those who know me, would know that I have big hands. Litto Dino is causing more discomfort than I care to share.
Ladies, take note of what is happening in your body. Have a relationship with your body. I know it sounds like hocus-pocus stuff, but it is important to know what is happening inside of you and act on it.
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
Let me start with an apology. For years, I bragged about my period lasting three days, sometimes five. I thought I was God’s favourite. I’m currently on day 10. Anything from 12 to 17 days has become the new norm for me. Guess I wasn’t the favourite.
This week I have been feeling some type of way. My emotions have been fluctuating and so too the energy levels. I am tired. I really am. Physically, emotionally and mentally, this is tiring. While lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself, Matthew 9 popped into my head.
That is the parable of the woman who was healed after bleeding for 12 years. I cannot begin to imagine how tired she must have felt if by day 8 I was done. When you are in a situation, it is difficult to see beyond that. All you can see is the here and now.
So, in this moment of reflection, I promise myself to look at the bigger picture and try to look for the why as well as a solution.
Maybe, just maybe, this journey is about me being my authentic self and creating spaces for other women to embrace their authentic self to start conversations that we sweep under the rug.
Wednesday, 8 February 2023
Mid-December, while in conversation with someone, he told me, “Happiness is a choice. You can allow this to consume you or choose to be happy while waiting on results.” Okay, I tried. I am still trying every day and for the most part I succeed.
Here I am. A ball of emotions. Anxiety on another level. Trying to breathe while trying to process while trying to be happy and trying to be whatever I’m supposed to be. It feels like the night before a big exam or presentation – only this exam and presentation is different.
My mind is playing tricks on me. While focusing on the positive, there is a split second I think, “What if this is the last birthday I spend with so or so, or last school outing, or…” I don’t like what if’s because it takes away from the potential of what could be, but here I am, trapped in a world of what if’s.
So, tomorrow is the long awaited hysteroscopy – the procedure that will give some clarity on what we’re dealing with. I should be happy that I am finally getting answers. I should be happy that I have a team accompanying me, but truth is, I am not happy in this moment.
I am scared. Scared for me. Scared for my family. Scared for my daughter. Scared for my friends. Scared for my business. Scared of the unknown. Today, I am like the video says “ungotten”. When you say your prayers tonight, please mention my name and ask God for just a little peace because right now I don’t know how to talk with Him.
Thursday, 9 February 2023
Apparently blue is my colour because I rocked the [hospital] gown this morning, but when they first gave me a glove and suppository I knew the sister wasn’t going to play. Like a good girl, I listened, popped my bullet, breathed some gas and got ready for theatre.
We often hear horrible stories about government hospitals, but I had such a good experience at Tygerberg Hospital today. The nursing staff and doctors were friendly and compassionate and treated me with so much respect. Dr Frans, dressed in pink scrubs and fuchsia Crocs with the cute jibbetz, explained the procedure in the finest detail [showing] everything on the monitor. I felt like a VIP on Grey’s Anatomy.
I was so scared and anxious, merely because I didn’t know what was about to happen, but I knew He was in control. I’m glad this is over, so we can get to the next part of the journey. The discomfort and pains I’m feeling is worth it today. After all, it is part of the journey.
Sunday, 26 February 2023
A nurse examined me. She even cracked a joke. She shared a story of a woman coming into the labour ward expecting to give birth to a single baby, but walked out with twins. I told her it’s impossible for me to be pregnant. When she did the pregnancy test, she said anything is possible. I guess she too just tried to calm my nerves.
An intern [now] examined me and called the senior gynaecologist on duty. I could feel my heart racing. Again, I was given a hospital gown to wear. It is becoming the norm now. I laid on the bed, legs spread wide with two doctors looking up my you-know-where. I tried to listen to what they were saying, but I got lost in my own thoughts.
Dr Hashim was kind enough to give me my test results from two weeks back, so now I need not wait another four weeks. “It’s not cancer,” she said. It felt as though a massive load was lifted off my shoulders.
She asked about conversations other doctors had with me and whether options [about the way forward] were discussed. She also scheduled a different scan that would give them a better view of what was inside of me. I am just so grateful that it’s not cancer.
It is weird how I instantly felt better after receiving the results. Well, the bleeding has not subsided, but knowing that I do not have cancer makes me appreciate my health and life so much more.