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“I felt a mass growing.” Ovarian cancer survivor urges women to know the signs, see a doctor

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 4:00 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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GREENVILLE, Wis. (WBAY) - A Greenville woman is sharing a very personal story about her battle with cancer in hopes of saving the lives of other women.

Her message is key -- if something doesn’t feel right, go to the doctor.

By the time she did, her tumor was the size of a small football.

“I always have the... things happen for a reason. I don’t know why this happened to me, but I didn’t really think twice about it. It’s just... let’s get through it and figure it out,” says Kelli Gobin.

The young and healthy woman exudes positivity, even in the most difficult of times.

That would be the summer of 2018 in Kelli’s life journal.

“I started gaining a lot of weight, and my ankles were swelling, and my hands were swelling. I just knew that something wasn’t quite right,” Kelli says. “Before I knew it, I felt a mass growing in my stomach, and I could actually feel it growing on the daily.”

She knew she needed to get it checked out, but wanted to get her kids in school, and like many moms, kept finding other things to do.

When she finally went to the doctor, she thought nothing of it, even after an ultrasound revealed a mass on her ovary.

Blood tests and other indicators appeared normal.

“I had a cyst before on my ovary when I was pregnant with my youngest son. Cysts kind of run in the family, but they’ve never been cancerous, so I didn’t think that it would be,” says Kelli. “(I) scheduled surgery and woke up from surgery and he told me I had cancer.”

The news shocked her, her family and even her doctor.

“People tend to have symptoms even early on. The problem is they tend to be confused with other things, and most of the time they will be other things,” explains Dr. Peter Johnson, a gynecologic oncologist with Aurora BayCare Gynecologic Oncology.

Dr. Johnson says while ovarian cancer is more rare than endometrial or even breast cancer, it is more deadly because there are not screenings for it like many other cancers.

As was Kelli’s case, it’s not until there are symptoms that doctors go looking for it.

“It’s not in my genes. It was just, we call it, just a fluke,” says Kelli.

She was diagnosed with stage 1C3 cancer called clear cell carcinoma of the ovary.

“That’s why it grew so quickly. It’s a cancer that just keeps mutating and mutating,” explains Kelli.

But surgery and six rounds of chemo later, she received good news.

“I’ve been in remission two years and four months,” she says proudly.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, but it doesn’t really matter what the calendar reads. Her message is timeless. Kelli wants everyone to know the signs, know not to wait and, just as important, stay positive.

“I go in for my checks every three months, and feel like I go in, do my cancer thing, and it feels really good to walk out of there,” says Kelli.

Here are the big symptoms to watch for:

  1. frequency of, or changes in, urination
  2. changes in bowel habits
  3. bloating
  4. abdominal pain
  5. feeling full even without eating a lot.

If these are consistent for three weeks or longer, Dr. Johnson says it’s time to call your provider.

“f you have symptoms, please go in and get checked out. Don’t wait. Don’t delay it. If we find it early makes all the difference in the world,” says Dr. Johnson.

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