WHEN Crystal Dominguez started to have irregular periods, sharp stomach pains and abdominal swelling, she knew something was wrong and went straight to her doctor.
But the social media marketing manager was told she just needed to lose weight and was sent home.
Crystal, who lives in Tennessee, US, said her symptoms started in late 2018 and that her stomach had ballooned so large that people would ask her when her baby was due.
The 26-year-old wanted to avoid uncomfortable questions so became housebound for months.
But just when she had nearly ‘lost hope’, a ‘basketball-sized’ cyst was eventually discovered on her ovary in October 2020, which was surgically removed shortly after.
Medics told Crystal she had a 5st Ovarian cyst, two years after her symptoms started.
She is now telling her story and is urging other women to visit another doctor if they feel as though their symptoms aren’t being taken seriously – visit another.
She said: “When I got my scans they told me my cyst was the size of a basketball and a week later when I got out of surgery I’d lost 68 pounds of fluid from my stomach.
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“After my surgery my surgeon came into my room and told me that I was lucky because if that cyst would have ruptured they would not have been able to save me because it was that big.
“A cyst can rupture doing anything and at that time I was going to the gym twice a day.
“It was a ticking time bomb.”
Crystal said that she felt like the cyst was a sign that she has been put on the earth to help others.
“I could have died in so many ways and I didn’t”, she added.
Looking back at her ordeal, Crystal said that doctors told her that her symptoms were normal due to the birth control she was on.
She explained that her periods were irregular and heavy.
“I had weight gain in my stomach. It would never go away and it wasn’t normal fat where I’d have rolls. My stomach was very hard and smooth.
“It looked really round to the point where I looked like I was pregnant with like three babies beyond full term.
“I also had very sharp stomach pains. It wouldn’t be all the time, it was sometimes in my lower stomach and then it was really tight.”
But after Crystal had her birth control removed, the symptoms continued so she returned to the doctors.
‘YOU’RE JUST FAT’
Crystal said: “The doctors essentially said ‘you’re just fat’. They sent me to a nutritionist and that was it. That was basically their version of saying that I was big and that’s all.
“A lot of them told me that I needed to start to work out and change my eating habits. They didn’t even bother to examine my stomach.
“I explained my symptoms to them but I felt like they wouldn’t hear me or care. I also felt like I wasn’t heard because of me being a mixed [race] woman. I felt like they didn’t pay attention to me.”
“It was really hard and depressing. I went to doctors and they really just convinced me I was fat.
“I wouldn’t leave the house because I was embarrassed. I went to the gym twice a day. I ate but didn’t eat enough. I was always like ‘ok, I can’t eat because I’m too fat’.”
The weight of the cyst meant that Crystal’s back hurt all the time and she was unable to stand for long periods of time.
People would stare and come up to me and touch my stomach and it would just be very uncomfortable. I would tell them I wasn’t pregnant and it would just get awkward and weird.
She said that everyone thought she was carrying a child.
“They’d always ask me questions like ‘oh my God, you’re pregnant? When are you due?’ and things like that which made me uncomfortable to the point I didn’t leave the house for months.
“People would stare and come up to me and touch my stomach and it would just be very uncomfortable. I would tell them I wasn’t pregnant and it would just get awkward and weird.
“I didn’t even want to go to the doctor anymore because I lost hope. But my mom was like ‘no, we’re going to go to the doctor one last time and they are going to do something’.”
Crystal said she was relieved to get her diagnosis as it made her feel like she ‘wasn’t crazy’.
The diagnosis only came up when she visited another doctor who sent her for an ultrasound.
Two days later she had a scan and then had surgery to remove the fluid along with one of her ovaries that had been ‘crushed’ by the cyst a week later.
OVARIAN CYSTS: THE FACTS
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on a woman’s ovary.
They’re very common – most women produce at least one naturally every month, which go away on their own. An ovarian cyst usually only causes symptoms if it ruptures, is very large, or blocks the blood supply to the ovaries.
In these cases, you may experience:
- Pelvic pain: either dull or severe/sharp
- Pain during sex
- Difficulty emptying your bowels
- Needing to wee frequently
- Heavy, irregular periods – or ones which are lighter than usual
- Bloating and a swollen tummy
- Feeling full when you haven’t eaten a lot
- Difficulty getting pregnant
The vast majority of cysts are non-cancerous and do not stop you getting pregant, although they can make it harder to conceive.
If you need an operation to remove your cysts, your surgeon will aim to preserve your fertility whenever possible.
It was then sent off to ensure it wasn’t cancerous and it was discovered to be benign.
It took Crystal three-to-four weeks to walk again and after eight weeks she said she was fully recovered.
She added: “Once it was removed it was super scary because the cyst pushed out all my organs and ribs so afterwards was horrible.
“I would stand up and it would feel like all of my organs were coming out of my body and it was painful because they were trying to move back in my body.
“I felt my insides move and it’s just the weirdest feeling to describe.”
She added that at first she had been embarrassed to share her experience online as she was worried she looked ‘really fat’.
“But I have to realise that I survived this and went through this for a reason and I truly believe that my reason was to be able to help someone else.
“I’d say to other women that you know your body better than anyone else in the whole world and if you feel like something is wrong please, from the bottom of my heart, go and get checked out.
“And if a doctor doesn’t listen to you, go to someone else and keep doing that until you find someone. You have to fight for yourself”, she added.