A Surgery for Olga - MEDLIFE

A Surgery for Olga

Olga doesn’t like to leave hear house, she prefers to hide in bed, where no one can see her. “I’ve been hiding my whole life,” she says. But she can only hide for so long until the obligations of motherhood, of day to day survival, trips to the market, picking crops on her farm, or to get her children from school, force her into the harsh light of day.

Vergüenza, that is the hardest part for Olga, not pain but shame.

She carries it on her neck, it swells and throbs. A weight that bows her head, dressing her neck in a veil of dark hair to protect it from the sharp gaze of others.

She is losing weight, her hair has begun to fall out, leaving her with one less thing to hide behind, naked. All the while the mass continues to grow.

She first noticed it when she was fifteen, just a girl, working as a live-in servant in the capital city of Quito. It came in just below her ear, subtle at first; a sensation of pressure, taut skin.

Until she could no longer look at herself nor anyone at her without seeing it, until it hurt to move her head and stung to be looked at. It wasn’t just the stares that drove her into hiding but the questions.

            “What is that ball on your face?”

            “Why do you leave it there?”

            “Why haven’t you healed that thing?”

            “Go to a doctor,” went a daily deluge of reactionary comments.

Didn’t they understand that she was poor? That her resources were already stretched thin? After all, they lived in the same impoverished farming community in the Ecuadorian jungle that she did.

And she had gone to a doctor, had even gotten surgery once, but the mass came back. More tests, more doctors, but now she was older, she had her kids to care for, she couldn’t afford it.

She cannot hide forever.

She has to meet with her son’s teachers at school; today this, tomorrow, something else. So she puts on her hat, lowers her gaze and pulls her hair down over it, and bracing herself. Even if she is lucky, even if the stares and questions don’t come today, the sensation remains; an out of place mass, dull pain, an ever present shame.


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MEDLIFE met Olga in a winter Mobile Clinic in Tena. It only took a quick glance to see that she needed some kind of prolonged treatment. She was quickly put into our follow up patient program. When MEDLIFE took Olga to the hospital the mass on her neck was diagnosd was Pleomorphic Adenoma, a tumour on her salivary gland. This type of tumour is typically benign, but has the potential to become malignant. MEDLIFE is committed to getting Olga the surgery she needs to get it removed. “I don’t want to live in hiding anymore,” said Olga. “That is why I am asking for your support. I want to get the surgery. I want to get cured. I don’t want to hide my face.”

We cannot do this on our own! Let’s give Olga the opportunity to walk down the street, healthy, with her head held high! Please help us fund Olga’s surgery donate here!