A carer who thought she was pregnant after years of infertility was devastated to discover her ‘miracle baby bump’ was two grapefruit-sized tumours.
Josephine Clinton, 49, of Bucknall in Staffordshire, took a hopeful pregnancy test in August 2017 when she became unable to shift her bloated midriff while her arms and legs looked ‘like sticks’.
When the test came back negative, Mrs Clinton ‘popped into’ A&E on her way home from work in September, only for a scan to reveal two masses in her pelvis.
Two months later, Mrs Clinton underwent a full hysterectomy, with surgeons also removing two borderline ovarian tumours – one the size of an apple and the other a grapefruit.
Mrs Clinton has since been given the all-clear and requires check-ups every six months.
Josephine Clinton was convinced she was pregnant when her abdomen swelled to the size of a ‘baby bump’ (left). Mrs Clinton and her husband Gary Clinton (pictured together right) had been told they could not have children. She was later diagnosed with two ovarian tumours
Speaking of the warning signs, Mrs Clinton – who is married to Gary Clinton, 52 – said: ‘This belly just came out of nowhere in a matter of weeks really.
‘Everywhere else I’d lost weight – I’d lost my bottom, my legs were like sticks, my arms, my face was really gaunt.
‘But I had this big belly. It was scary.
‘I was on a bootcamp and had been for quite a while but I wasn’t losing this belly.
‘No matter how much exercise I was doing this belly wouldn’t go.’
While having coffee with a friend, Mrs Clinton was persuaded to take a pregnancy test.
‘My husband and I had been told that we couldn’t have children – we’d been through IVF,’ she said.
‘I kept thinking, “I wonder if I am?” It would have been a miracle if I was.
‘My friends were saying “go and get a test, go and get a test” so I did.
‘Of course it came back negative and then they were like “oh we’re really sorry, we shouldn’t have made you do it”.’
As well as her midriff being bloated, Mrs Clinton also noticed a ‘squishing’ noise, like she had ‘drunk too much tea’.
‘When I was lying down in bed it was gurgling in my throat so I ended up sitting up and tucking my pillow behind me,’ she said.
‘I just put things down to pulling my back out at the gym, irritable bowel or drinking more water.’
Mrs Clinton claims her ‘belly’ (pictured left) appeared out of nowhere in a matter of weeks while her arms and legs stayed ‘like sticks’. She is pictured looking slim on the right in June 2017 – a few weeks before fluid started collecting in her abdomen due to her tumours
Mrs Clinton is pictured with her husband in April last year – five months after she underwent a full hysterectomy and the surgical removal of her two tumours, one of which was the size of an apple and the other a grapefruit. She also had to have 14 litres of fluid drained from her midriff
Desperate to get to the bottom of her symptoms, Mrs Clinton saw her GP four days before she took herself to A&E.
But her doctor struggled to diagnose her due to her condition being so similar to IBS.
‘I decided to nip into the local hospital on the way home for a quick check over,’ she said.
‘They took me in for a scan straight away and then took me into a room and told me there was a mass in my pelvic area.
‘I was basically floored, because I went up on my own thinking they were going to tell me I had a bit of irritable bowel [syndome] or something like that.’
Mrs Clinton was eventually diagnosed with bilateral borderline ovarian tumours.
‘One was the size of an apple and the other the size of a grapefruit,’ she said.
‘The doctor said I was lucky I took myself into the hospital that day because if I had left it any longer it would have been a totally different story.’
She worries that if a friend had not encouraged her to take a pregnancy test that day she may have continued to pass her symptoms off.
‘People do that because you don’t dare to think it’s anything serious,’ she said.
As well as thinking she may be pregnant, Mrs Clinton also dismissed her condition as everything from back pain from exercising, IBS and even just water retention.
This is despite her sister Alison Locker, 51, having ovarian tumours before her.
‘There needs to be more awareness of the symptoms,’ Mrs Clinton said.
‘Apart from my sister I had never heard of it before.
‘But because she just had this belly, but no backache or any other symptoms, when I was going through it I didn’t think I had what my sister had.
‘You don’t put two and two together.
‘There are a lot of the same symptoms as irritable bowel where you do have your back ache and feel bloated and stop going to the toilet.
‘They always say you’re supposed to have symptoms, like painful sex or bleeding, and I had nothing like that.’
Mrs Clinton also noticed her bloated midsection (pictured left) made a ‘squishing’ noise, like she had ‘drunk too much tea. Pictured right earlier this year – nearly 18 months after her operation – Mrs Clinton stayed strong and positive throughout the ordeal
Mrs Clinton is pictured left three months after her operation – the time the reality of what she had been through hit home. The scar from her hysterectomy runs down her midriff (right)
Mrs Clinton is pictured looking healthy five months after her operation. While she battled through treatment, her loved ones became so concerned by her gaunt appearance they did not take she would make it past Christmas. But Mrs Clinton was determined to make it through
Once diagnosed, doctors drained seven litres of fluid from Mrs Clinton’s abdomen during her first biopsy and another seven litres in her second.
Medics then decided she need a full hysterectomy, the reality of which did not sink it until three months later.
‘It’s a bit of a blur to me now because I got these blinkers on where I thought everything is going to be okay and I am going to get through it,’ she said.
‘I thought, so long as at the end of the day everything is alright and I come out the other side they can chuck everything they want at me.
‘I was quite strong and positive – it was everyone else around me that wasn’t.
‘I don’t think it hit me until afterwards because I just got the tunnel vision of “I am not going to die”.
‘I think it hit me about three months after the operation when I was sat down one day, thinking about it and I burst out crying.’
While she battled through treatment, Mrs Clinton became so gaunt her loved ones were convinced she would not make it past Christmas.
‘Everyone else around me was devastated because you just don’t expect it,’ she said.
‘My friends have said to me looking back at the pictures, they all thought I wouldn’t have been here on the other side of Christmas.
‘I had lost that much weight and changed so much, but you don’t see it in yourself.’