(CNN) – Kayla Rahn wasn't pregnant. She didn't even have a "food baby." What the 30-year-old did have was a 50-pound ovarian cyst, and though it's been successfully removed, questions linger about how it went undetected for so long.
The Alabama woman started gaining weight in the summer of 2017 in spite of making no major dietary changes, though at first, she thought her recent career move to a desk job was to blame. Tasks that were once simple, like putting on her shoes, became nearly impossible, as she struggled to catch her breath or bend over. In the fall, she began experiencing pain and noticed her stomach was hard. Strangers started asking if she was pregnant — with one inquirer going so far as to ask if Rahn was expecting twins — and occasionally rubbing her belly.
Medical professionals told her she just needed to lose weight. Rahn tried, but in spite of her efforts to eat healthier and go to the gym, she kept gaining. When she went to work out, she would immediately lose her breath. She said she spoke to four doctors, none of whom identified the mass growing in her ovary.
Dr. Gregory Jones, a staff physician at Montgomery's Jackson Hospital, said he thinks it's fair to characterize that as a "miss."
"Certainly, something of this nature that's not identified on repeat examination is a miss," he said before offering this reminder: "Physicians miss things. We all do from time to time; we're all human. However, we all work very hard to take care of our patients."
Jones and the team at Jackson, however, did not miss. When Rahn's mother forced her to go to their emergency room the night of May 25, Dr. Richard Sample "scanned her and the diagnosis was made pretty quickly," Jones said.
From there, Jones and general surgeon Dr. Reza Seirafi took over and Rahn had surgery on May 26. Jones estimated the surgery took no longer than 1½ hours. When it was over, they'd removed a 50-pound mucinous cystadenoma, which Jones said is a type of cyst known "for producing large masses in the pelvis."
"The unusual part of that was just the sheer size and volume of the mass and that it had gone unrecognized for so long," he said.
Rahn, too, was stunned by the size of the growth — which she nicknamed "Juicy Lucy" — when she finally saw it.
"They basically told me it was the size of a watermelon," she said of what she knew before her surgery. "I knew it was large, I just didn't expect it to be as large as it was. There's different sized watermelons, you know what I mean?"
Since having the cyst removed, Rahn said her life has gotten better. Now, she can put on her own shoes and even pick out which ones she wants to wear, an opportunity that was robbed from her by swelling in her legs before the cyst was removed.
The future is brighter for Rahn, but she and Jones both had plenty of advice for people who might be in a similar situation, unable to get definitive answers regarding their medical issues:
Ask for a second opinion
"I love when my patients do that," Jones said, noting that a second opinion can give great feedback to not only his patients, but also to him.
Rahn was careful to make the same point, saying, "If you're seeing a doctor and you're not getting answers you feel are appropriate, go to another doctor."
Bring a loved one to doctors' appointments
Jones pointed out that a friend or family member "can give a point of view that sometimes you're not giving" when it comes to your symptoms or background.
Write everything down beforehand
"Writing things down before the appointment is very important," Jones said. "Organizing your thoughts for communication" will help you make every point you want to make during your appointment and will help you not forget anything that could help you get an accurate diagnosis.
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