Tipping the scale at 360 pounds, Kayla Hilton is seriously obese and has major health issues, but the Oklahoma woman's long-term prognosis is encouraging now that doctors have removed the 93-pound ovarian cyst that grew undetected inside her for years.
“I feel lighter and happy to heal, to get better and be able to get around,” Hilton, 32, said during an appearance Monday on TODAY.
Hilton, who lives in a Tulsa suburb, has been overweight since childhood. But when she was about 16, she began gaining weight at a faster rate.
Hilton visited doctors rarely because she lacked health insurance, and each time her weight gain and infrequent menstrual cycles was attributed to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
She grew larger and larger, and the weight damaged Hilton's quality of life and contributed to the failure of a marriage. Still, doctors told Hilton she had better accept the fact that she was just fat and change her ways.
One physician, however, refused to accept that.
“Based on Kayla's physical examination, it just didn't all add up,” said Dr. Jennifer Cameron of Tulsa's SouthCrest Hospital, appearing on TODAY with Hilton.
Because Hilton weighed over 500 pounds, Cameron had to locate an MRI machine large enough to hold Hilton, while its sensors probed her body for possible causes of her uncontrolled weight gain. Last fall, Cameron found the cause — a beach ball-sized cyst growing on one of Hilton's ovaries.
Ovarian cysts are common, usually harmless and are routinely dissolved by the body before women even know they have them. But when a cyst persists and grows like Hilton's, they have to be removed and tested for the possibility of malignancy.
“I was relieved to know we had one single answer that was related to all of these issues, but [the cyst] didn't answer all the questions,” Cameron said. “We still needed to have surgery.”
On the mendA surgeon performed the operation on Jan. 10. When the cyst was removed, it weighed a whopping 93 pounds. Far from a record — some cysts have been recorded at more than 140 pounds — the growth was benign but still could have killed Hilton had it remained.
Now, Cameron believes Hilton can begin to address her related health issues, reduce her weight further and go on to lead a normal life. She may even be able to bear children.
“That's what we expect .... We are trying to stabilize the rest of her health because she has been struggling with all of these problems for many years,” Cameron said.
Hilton is anxious to shed even more weight, but plans to wait for the green light from Cameron before starting any strenuous exercise programs or aggressive diet programs. She also needs some physical therapy because she has not walked normally for years.
Sometimes, she becomes angry that so many doctors wrote off her health issues as diet-related and completely missed the fact that such a large mass was growing inside of her for so long.
“I get over it,” Hilton said. “You can't just keep being mad at them for not finding it.”
— John Springer, contributor for TODAY