Orem woman running 5K after having 60-pound cyst removed

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OREM -- During the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, many Utahns will lace up their running shoes for several races scheduled throughout the state.

An Orem woman has signed up for a 5K race in Utah County, not just to better her time, but to encourage other women to get healthy as well. It's a lesson she learned the hard way.

Heidi Ryan
Heidi Ryan

On a hot afternoon at Mountain View High School in Orem, 37-year-old Heidi Ryan continued her training. The Utah Valley University employee is preparing for an upcoming race.

Heidi hopes to improve on her previous 5K time from last year.

"I completed that 5K, starting as the last person across the start line and last across the finish line, but I completed that in 57 minutes," she says.

Fifty-seven minutes for just over 3 miles wasn't bad, considering Heidi had gained 70 pounds over the last five years. This, after losing 80 pounds the year before.

What Heidi didn't know was that weight gain was caused by a very large ovarian cyst.

What is ... an ovarian cystadenoma
A type of ovarian cyst that forms from cells on the outer surface of the ovary. These cysts are often filled with a watery fluid or thick, sticky gel. They can become large and cause pain.
- US Department of Health and Human Services

"I got back up to 270 pounds," she says. "Tried everything I could to lose weight. I would lose 10 pounds, gain the 10 pounds back."

Heidi didn't have health insurance, so she put off testing for five years thinking she had metabolic issues like her mother. But test after test came back negative.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cysts?
Many ovarian cysts don't cause symptoms. Others can cause:
  • pressure, swelling, or pain in the abdomen
  • pelvic pain
  • dull ache in the lower back and thighs
  • problems passing urine completely
  • pain during sex
  • weight gain
  • pain during your period
  • abnormal bleeding
  • nausea or vomiting
  • breast tenderness
If you have these symptoms, get help right away:
  • pain with fever and vomiting
  • sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • faintness, dizziness, or weakness
  • rapid breathing
- US Department of Health and Human Services

"We had even tried some diabetic medicine to see if that would help lose weight. It didn't help," Heidi says.

It also didn't help that people thought she was pregnant.

"I was actually, one time, sitting in a doctor's office and one of the office managers came up and looked at me and said, ‘Oh, are you going to have twins?'" Heidi recalls.

She was finally diagnosed with a benign ovarian cyst, specifically an ovarian cystadenoma. It measured 20 inches wide by 16 inches deep, and was filled with fluid. It weighed 60 pounds.

"The liquid that was in my cyst, it calculates out to 6.6 gallons, or 25 liters," Heidi says.

Eight weeks ago, Heidi had the cyst removed. She was recently cleared to begin her training. Her goal is to get back into her favorite jeans by the end of summer.

Heidi also hopes her story will motivate other women to get yearly exams.

"If I would have seen a gynecologist five years ago, they would have found it and we could have avoided this whole mess of surgery," she says. "I was given a second chance, I believe."

Now she has a second chance to improve her 5K time too, which ironically comes Monday at Provo's Freedom Festival. It's a perfect time to celebrate her own freedom from poor health while embracing a new lease on life.

Heidi also hopes men will encourage the women in their lives to get their annual checkups.

E-mail: kaiken@ksl.com


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