Amanda Barrie says there was 'no camp' at Coronation Street
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Initially after the tragic storyline was revealed, Barrie spoke out accusing the characters death as a “cheap ratings ploy” by bosses, adding that it was irresponsible how fast her death occurred after being diagnosed. However, in a 2001 interview, Barrie seemed to shift her attitude after connecting her character’s plight to her own. Some 15 years earlier than Alma, Barrie was told that some of her tests returned as “borderline” cancerous, meaning the star had an agonising wait to see if she did have cervical cancer or not.
“I remember waiting for my results. I was really afraid that I had cancer and some tests came back borderline,” she said recalling the horrific time.
“I was in a cold sweat all the time. My strongest feeling about what has happened to Alma is that if one woman stayed away from her doctor because of anything she’s seen in the show, it would be unforgivable.”
Despite a strong intuition that something was not right, Barrie was told by multiple doctors that she was merely going through “a change of life,” and ruled out cervical cancer.
However, in actuality, the actress had “non-malignant growths in [her] womb,” a non-cancerous condition, but serious enough that Barrie was rushed into hospital for an emergency hysterectomy once doctors finally found out the cause.
The NHS explains that these non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb are known as fibroids. Although not usually life-threatening, fibroids can cause severe and uncomfortable symptoms, putting individuals at risk of infertility.
“By the time I was correctly diagnosed, the operation was almost an emergency. It turned out I had non-malignant growths in my womb,” Barrie added.
Although some women do not suffer from any symptoms, others, who may have more or larger fibroids can suffer from the following:
- Heavy periods or painful periods
- Tummy (abdominal) pain
- Lower back pain
- A frequent need to urinate
- Pain or discomfort during sex.
Although the build up of these growths, made of muscle and fibrous tissue is still not known, it is thought to be connected to the female reproductive hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is one of the hormones (along with progesterone) that stimulates the development of the uterine lining during each menstrual cycle. As the body prepares for pregnancy, the growth of fibroids is promoted.
More evidence to suggest a link between fibroids and oestrogen, is that most women who develop the condition are in their reproductive years- when oestrogen levels are at their highest. Fibroids tend to shrink when oestrogen levels are low, such as after the menopause when a woman’s monthly periods stop.
Other causal factors could include:
- Genetic changes – many fibroids contain changes in genes that differ from those in typical uterine muscle cells.
- Substances that help the body maintain tissues, such as insulin-like growth factor, may affect fibroid growth.
- Extracellular matrix (ECM). ECM is the material that makes cells stick together cement between bricks. ECM is increased in fibroids and makes them fibrous. ECM also stores growth factors and causes biologic changes in the cells themselves.
Similarly to symptoms, the size of fibroids can vary from person to person, with some being the size of a pea and others the size of a melon. There are also different types of fibroids that can develop, the most common being an intramural fibroid.
An intramural fibroid develops in the muscle wall of the womb, compared to subserosal fibroids that develop outside the wall of the womb into the pelvis and can become very large, and submucosal fibroids that develop in the muscle layer beneath the womb’s inner lining and grow into the cavity of the womb.
In severe cases, like Barrie, a hysterectomy is needed to remove the uterus and thus remove all of the fibroids growing there. Regarded as major surgery, it is only carried out to treat problems like:
- Cancers of the female reproductive organs
- Precancerous conditions of the cervix that have not gone away after other types of treatment
- Stage cancers of the female reproductive organs to find out how far cancer has spread
- Non-cancerous conditions of the female reproductive organs that have not responded well to other types of treatment.
For some women, a total hysterectomy is not needed. In this case, individuals have a subtotal hysterectomy, which removes the uterus but leaves the cervix in place.
Alternatively, other individuals may need more than just the cervix and uterus removed. Known as a radical hysterectomy, this removes the uterus, cervix, the uppermost part of the vagina next to the cervix and the nearby ligaments that support the uterus. Nearby lymph nodes in the pelvis are often removed at the same time as part of the staging operation.
Although daunting, Barrie spoke out after her surgery, urging individuals not to be panicked but optimistic. She said: “Don’t listen to the horror stories.
“Ask lots of questions and don’t be fobbed off. The worst thing, actually – something they never tell you – is wind.”
After having the procedure, Barrie was back to work just four weeks later, and never looked back. The NHS says that recovery times can also vary depending on the type of hysterectomy. Getting as much rest as possible during this time and not lifting anything heavy, such as bags of shopping will help.
Side effects can occur with any type of treatment, but not everyone has them or experiences them in the same way. Side effects of surgery will depend mainly on the type of hysterectomy you have and your overall health. Some short-term side effects can include:
- Bladder problems
- Blood clots in the legs or in the lungs.
Whereas some longer-term symptoms can include infertility, weakness in muscles and ligaments that support the vagina, and treatment-induced menopause. The last mainly affects perimenopausal women, but hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is usually offered to help aid with symptoms.
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