It’s a statement that many women have heard from their doctors, especially in a country where more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese – your signs and symptoms are a result of the excess weight, so go home and work on losing a few pounds and you will feel better.

However, this story about an Alabama woman highlights the importance of looking beyond one’s weight to ensure that our healthcare needs are met!

Thirty-year-old Kayla Rahn had been experiencing unexplained pain, stomach issues and weight gain for months when she went to the Emergency Room at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama.

She has previously sought an answer for the health complaints, however, several doctors had told her that she simply needed to lose weight. Having worked hard at losing weight for a year, Rahn had gained so much weight that a fellow patron at a restaurant had even asked her if she was pregnant with twins!

“I couldn’t even walk to my car without losing breath,” Rahn explained. Not only was she unable to lose the weight despite her best efforts, she was actually gaining weight and the problem was getting worse. Rahn described the situation, stating, “My stomach was really hard, it was starting to get difficult to move.”

It wasn’t until the doctors at Jackson Hospital ordered a CT scan that they discovered the truth. The imaging revealed a giant mass in Rahn’s abdomen and surgery was scheduled for the following day. The cyst that was removed was a 50-pound benign (not cancerous) mucinous cystadenoma. To break that down, it was a 50-pound tumor that developed on the outer surface of Rahn’s ovary. While this particular tumor was benign, those that are cancerous account for 85-90% of ovarian cancers according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Ovarian cancer survival rates vary dramatically based on the stage that they are diagnosed. According to the American Cancer Society, for cases of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer the 5-year survival rate when caught early and diagnosed at stage I is approximately 78%, however, it drops to 19% by stage IV. Therefore, leaving a tumor like this to continue to grow and develop could have proven fatal for Rahn if it had been cancerous.

“She was seeking help from multiple physicians, and we missed it – as a medical community, we had missed it,” stated Gregory Jones, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the hospital. “What was interesting is that she never had the shock and awe; she had this relief, like ‘Of course there’s a mass.’”

Rahn’s surgery was successful, and she is now moving forward with her life. In fact, she is happy to report that she has lost a total of 75 pounds since the May 26 surgery date! When speaking with the local media and reporters, she was excited to share that the dress she was wearing was one she hadn’t been able to wear in a year.

She hopes that her story will help others to realize the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to medical care. “If one doctor doesn’t listen, go to another,” she advises. “Don’t give up.”

Image via NBC4

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