WHEN Kenya Smith started having trouble going to the loo, she knew she needed to see a GP.
The 27-year-old could no longer sleep on her stomach as it continued to grow – making her look pregnant.
In May 2022, she said she was asked around 50 times if she was expecting, due to the growing size of her stomach.
Kenya, who works in real estate, claims she saw various specialists to try and get to the bottom of her strange symptoms, but doctors were left scratching their heads.
After several months passed with no answers, the content creator booked her own ultrasound and CT scan, which revealed she had an ovarian cyst – a fluid-filled sac on her right ovary.
When it was removed, it weighed in at around 20lb, the mum-of-three said.
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In November, she had life saving surgery to drain ten litres of liquid from her stomach, before it was removed along with her right ovary and fallopian tube.
Following the procedure, she is now urging other women to advocate for themselves and their health.
Kenya, of Orem, Utah, US, said: "It was life-saving surgery. If it wasn't treated it would have kept on growing and crushed my lungs, so I would have suffocated from the inside out.
"For me it was an emergency to get it out because I literally was starving because I couldn't eat anything because there was no more room in my abdomen for my stomach to grow.
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"I was in so much pain and so miserable at the end. I was drinking smoothies for around three weeks, taking laxatives and was so malnourished.
"My stomach was growing at a really fast and alarming rate the last few weeks before my surgery. It was really scary."
She added that it was like 'having a pregnant belly' but was also 'soft and squishy'.
Kenya said that she had her youngest last March and that her stomach never really went down after she gave birth.
But it started getting bigger once she stopped breastfeeding around six months later.
Kenya said: "The main symptoms that made me go to the doctor were having a hard time going to the bathroom and I like to sleep on my stomach sometimes and I couldn't lay on my stomach.
"Every time I'd eat I'd have discomfort where I'd feel really full.
"I had no idea what the symptoms were. I was wondering what was going on because I'd never had anything like this before.
"I thought maybe it was a gastro problem, my abs didn't come back together after having a baby or that maybe I'd developed a food allergy."
What is an ovarian cyst?
Most ovarian cysts occur naturally and go away in a few months without needing any treatment, the NHS states.
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on an ovary. They're very common and do not usually cause any symptoms.
Ovarian cysts may affect both ovaries at the same time, or only one. An ovarian cyst usually only causes symptoms if it splits (ruptures), is very large or blocks the blood supply to the ovaries.
In these cases, you may have: pelvic pain, pain during sex, difficulty emptying your bowels, a frequent need to urinate, heavy periods, irregular periods or lighter periods than normal, bloating and a swollen tummy, feeling very full after only eating a little or difficulty getting pregnant – although fertility is usually unaffected by ovarian cysts.
The two main types of ovarian cyst are: functional ovarian cysts – cysts that develop as part of the menstrual cycle and are usually harmless and short-lived; these are the most common type or pathological ovarian cysts – cysts that form as a result of abnormal cell growth; these are much less common.
The mum claimed that she went to five different specialists, an obstetrics doctor, pelvic floor specialist, an allergist, a naturalist, and agastroenterologist.
But she finally decided to book ultrasounds and a CT scan.
"I was pretty persistent even before it started to get bigger – I was at the doctors, googling everything and using social media to ask for help.
"I saw a girl whose stomach looked very similar to mine and she had fibroids, which are benign tumours that can grow on your uterus.
"I thought 'oh my gosh, that looks like my stomach'. That initially made me think I don't have time to wait for all these doctors to figure it out, I needed an ultrasound as soon as possible."
Kenya said it had started to become exhausting living with the cyst as well as looking after her children.
"When it started to crush my ribs it hurt so badly. Physically it was hard, but mentally I think it was the hardest. I felt like my body was foreign and not my own.
"I couldn't get doctors to figure it out, that was the most frustrating part.
"They'd be like 'ok, we'll see you in a month' after a check-up and I was like 'let's not wait a month, let's figure this out now or tomorrow'."
The mum-of-three regularly shares TikTok videos about her ovarian cyst, and has amassed over 130,000 likes in the process.
She said that women often push through their symptoms because of their strong nature.
But she said that 'you know your body' better than any doctor or professional.
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"We know when there's a problem and we can't let people gaslight us or make us feel like we're being oversensitive because most of the time we're not, because women are strong.
"We deal with a lot of really hard things so when there's something wrong we need to advocate to get the help we need," she added.
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