Friday, November 30, 2012

This is what happens when you watch too many cyst videos.

You get one of your own. Thanks a lot, YouTube.

Warning: So much TMI ahead - that is, if you're not the sort who enjoys a good chat about vaginas, the tricky creatures.

For a week now, I've had a walnut-sized bump (a walnut WITH shell, as my friend asked me to clarify) at the edge of my vulva, on the right side. My boyfriend discovered it, BUT DIDN'T TELL ME until the next day, when I found it for myself. Guess who's no longer on boob cancer watch?

I did some internet sleuthing, which turned up the usual awfulness: hernia! cancer! death! Finally I decided that it was probably a Bartholin gland cyst.


Too late, you looked.

I can't see mine, so I can't confirm that it looks like this. It'd be kind of fascinating if it weren't happening to me.

Per WebMD (that labyrinth of horrors), the Bartholin glands are two small organs under the skin of the labia on either side of the vagina. Usually they do the awesome job of lubricating the outer bits of the vulva.

However, if one of these ducts gets blocked, fluid builds up in the gland and a cyst grows. If the cyst isn't infected, it's usually small, firm, and painless. I can't even feel mine unless I touch it, but I still decided to go to the clinic today to get it checked out.

My clinician was an efficient and friendly woman in her thirties. She confirmed my diagnosis, then proceeded to stress me out some more. Apparently, the course of healing goes something like this:

1) It probably won't go away on its own, but I can try to help it heal by sitting in four inches of hot water, four times a day. (Who has time for that?? Also, I hate baths, and I suspect that I would hate this thing, a "Sitz bath," even more.) Then I can push on it so that a bunch of gross stuff comes out. (DON'T READ THIS IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH. I had to read it because I am a masochist.)

2) It could get infected, in which case a gynecologist will need to drain it. DRAINING IT INVOLVES A SCALPEL. IN AND AROUND MY VAGINA.

3) It could get EVEN MORE INFECTED, and become an abscess. If that happened, I would have to have it "marsupialized," which is not as cute a procedure as the name might imply. Think more "creepy backwoods possum" than "adorable kangaroo babies."

When an abscess is marsupialized, it is cut open and drained, and a small catheter is placed in the gland to allow for continued drainage.

Suffice to say, this is not the most thrilling news. It has somewhat put me off my holiday spirit.

This all sounds miserable, but the worst part is when I left the clinic. My clinician sort of grimaced, and said (well, it was implied more than said outright), "Merry Christmas! Your insurance sucks," and I was charged $100.

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