When Keely Favell’s swollen tum drew questions about baby due dates, she spared everyone embarrassment by playing along.
Pregnancy tests had shown she was not expecting and she thought she was just piling on weight.
Baffled about why her bump kept on growing, she made repeated visits to her doctor.
But after more pregnancy tests came back negative her GP, still convinced a baby was the only explanation, referred her for an ultrasound scan.
And it was then that her enormous bump was revealed to be an ovarian cyst weighing more than four stone – the same weight as seven newborn babies.
Keely, 28, had a five-hour op to remove the growth – which she nicknamed Mr Whippy – and shed a third of her body weight.
She says: “I lost sight of how difficult even simple things like driving a car or walking up the stairs had become.
"Losing my lump gave me my life back.”
Keely noticed she was gaining weight around 2014 but thought nothing of it.
“I’ve always been chunky but over a couple of years I gradually got this tummy” she says.
“I couldn’t understand it. I was exercising and eating healthily but I was slowly getting bigger. It crept up so slowly I didn’t know anything was wrong – I thought I was putting on timber.”
Keely, who has been with partner Jamie Gibbins for 10 years, thought she could be expecting. “We did wonder a few times if I was pregnant” she says, “but we did at least three home tests and they ruled it out.”
Assuming it was simple weight gain – which had made her balloon from a size 14 to a 22, weighing in at 23 stone – Keely carried on as normal.
Then, in the summer of 2016, she blacked out at her office admin job and decided to see her GP. “It was a tough period in work and when I passed out my GP put it down to stress,” she says.
“My blood tests came back clear and when I fainted again, I was told it was probably a side effect of acne tablets I’d been prescribed. But I’d stopped taking them six months previously.
“I pointed to my belly and said, ‘Could it be anything to do with this?’”
Keely, from Swansea, says her GP insisted she must be pregnant, despite blood tests ruling this out. Convinced there had been a mistake, a new blood test was requested.
She says: “Anyone would have thought I was nine months gone. It wasn’t the first time I’d been mistaken for an expectant mum but my GP had the test results.
“People had seen me waddling around, carrying this lump, and I’d been asked a few times when I was due. It was so embarrassing trying to explain I was – or so I thought – just fat. I’d go along with it to spare everyone’s blushes. I remember trying to shop for clothes in December 2016 and nothing would fit. I was skin and bone on top, then this massive lump and normal legs. The only thing that was going to fit was maternity wear.”
She returned to her GP that month to discuss her blood test results – again negative for pregnancy. Still convinced Keely was expecting, her GP referred her for an ultrasound scan. There, Keely was presented with an ominous black screen.
“By the time I had the appointment it was January last year” she says. “I had Jamie beside me as the radiologist moved the probe over my tummy. I saw her eyes widen in horror but the screen was blank. The look on her face said it all. When she said she had to get a consultant I started to panic. Jamie did his best to reassure me but I felt paralysed with fear.”
The consultant sent Keely for an emergency CT scan – which revealed a cyst surrounded by fluid. “He told me I wasn’t fat all, I was quite thin. But I had a 25cm-thick sac of fluid in my belly.”
Hop on your bike or in the pool to age slower – and keep out the weights room
Keely was referred to a high-risk obstetrics consultant and examined in February. “By this time, even walking was a struggle and I had difficulty breathing,” she says.
“I’ll never forget the look of shock on his face when the consultant examined me. He said I had a large ovarian mass and the only option was surgery. He couldn’t say what it was exactly, or how big. He warned me there might be more than one and they could be attached to other organs.
“Agreeing to the surgery, I felt like I was signing my life away. Until they opened me up, no one knew what they would find.”
As Keely waited four weeks for surgery, her stomach swelled another 5in. She finally went under the knife at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital in March last year. What she hoped would be a routine hour-long op ran for five hours as her surgeon removed a cyst weighing 26kg – or 4st 1lb.
With newborns averaging 7lb 7oz, Keely’s benign cyst weighed the same as septuplets.
She said: “I remember still being groggy from the anaesthetic as they wheeled me back to the ward and excited hospital staff were shoving photos in front of me.
“I didn’t understand why until I came round and everyone was treating me like a minor celebrity. They explained how big this cyst was and showed me pictures – I couldn’t believe I’d been walking around carrying this medical alien.
“It looked like a massive pile of ice cream so I called it Mr Whippy!”
Keely has a 30cm scar from her sternum to her pelvis but was back on her feet soon after the op.
She says: “I was sore but walking around felt amazing!”
Keely lost her right ovary in the surgery but medics say her odds of becoming a mum are unaffected.
In the meantime, she is getting used to one unwanted side-effect of pregnancy all new mums dread.
“At 28 and even though I’ve never been pregnant, I’ve been left with stretch marks,” she says.
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