Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cystfully yours

As cyst pictures are too gross, here are some cute animals instead!

A friend of mine has discovered a lump on her neck which she is concerned about. Her mother calls it a "neck bunion" which delights me no end. Our mutual friend alerted her the fact that I had recently dealt with a sebaceous cyst on my head, so she messaged me seeking, advice, comfort and pep. Here's what I wrote...

Oh it is SO okay to talk about my cyst! I'm happy to talk about it to anyone willing to listen and even some who aren't.

So my famous "lump" appeared perhaps 6-7 years ago on top of my head, a little to one side and visible to no-one. I was mildly concerned but my mum and Gregg insisted I get it checked out. I think I forgot to get it checked for a long time just because it was just there and never bothered me except for the fact that it grew/grows pube type hairs from that spot. I would be happy to put one in the mail for you with a guarantee that it's from my head.

So anyway, I had it checked out and the doctor said it was a sebaceous cyst which forms when a pore gets blocked. He said it was nothing to worry about unless it got bigger or if it hurt. He said to remove it, it would have to be cut open and pulled out (not drained like I'd hoped) which made me quite fearful of the whole process. Given my fear of needles, I was glad I could ignore it. I went on with no pain or growth, but after a couple of years, my mum and Gregg insisted it was bigger and that I should get it checked again. Again, the doctor said it was fine and not to worry about it.

This is Yakini, my beloved gorilla at the Melbourne Zoo.

Finally, a few more years passed, I was tired of it. Maybe it had grown and was in my way more, or maybe I was just suddenly more aware of it. It was always in the way if I would try to rest my head on a wall or sleep on a plane window on my left side. My head would just sort of roll on the nut and I had choose a less comfortable tilt of the head to work around it. I was going to get it out last year while in Australia, but I went into the doctor with not enough time before I left the country again for the cyst removal and subsequent stitch removal. In the following months, I went a bit mad and once tried to pop it with a pin (which I later read you SO shouldn't do). I knew Gregg wouldn't approve of this so my attempt occurred one night when I was home alone. I revealed this indiscretion at a tiki bar while intoxicated and as predicted, he was very annoyed at me, looking aghast while I told our friends. Another symptom of my frenzy, hereby known as "lump fever" was the time I plucked out all the pube hairs and left a small bald patch over the lump. My next trip to the hairdresser was a bit embarassing as he thumped my bald patch with his finger and asked what was going on.

So, when I went to Australia this past January, I sucked it up and booked the double appointment to get the cyst removed. I was so scared that I screamed at my mum because I told her not to book it until after my birthday because I didn't want to be thinking about it coming up and being unhappy. She went ahead an booked it anyway for AFTER my birthday but told me about it before which is exactly what I told her I did not want. She's a bit demented like that. I just knew I would be scared the whole time leading up to it so I didn't want a time set, so I went nuts at her and made her cancel it. After my birthday was over, I booked my own appointment.

When the big day came, I was quite terrified but calmer than I thought. I asked the doctor about liquid stitches I'd heard about on TV and he said that was rubbish and that I should chill out. I warned him I might cry and he said that he thought HE might cry and then I laughed and was marginally happier. When he approached with the needle to numb it, I started hyperventilating as I do when needles approach but with a quick nick, that portion was over with and numb. The doctor came back five minutes later to start cutting and I got all scared again but what he was doing just felt like a little scrape! It was completely fine and I wasn't at all bothered by it. He then pulled the lump out with a tweezer thing and showed me the little white egg I had grown. Steph told me it would be like an egg and she was right! I was quite impressed by it! It was probably about 1/2"/1cm long. He then put the cyst in a jar, stitched me up which didn't bother me at all and then it was all over. I was most afraid of the stitches but they were no sweat and I later remarked that I could have that procedure done to me all day! The doctor said he was taking my lump to pathology just to confirm it was a benign cyst and after he rounded the corner with it I called him back for one last look. If I could have kept my little egg, I would have.

So everything was fine and didn't hurt. He gave me some antibiotics that could mix with alcohol (he was so thoughtful because I didn't ask!) and I was on my way. As the anaesthetic wore off several hours later, it started to hurt, but I just got really drunk that night and hardly noticed it. I went back in a week and got my stitches removed and that was the absolute end of it. I wasn't keen on that final procedure, but again it wasn't much of anything.

I was worried the whole thing would cost about $300 but it only cost $60! I thought I had to pay for the return visit to remove the stitches but that was included! I then got the $80 bill from pathology and I went to pay that but that was covered by Medicare! And my antibiotics were only $6! You can see why I waited to go back to Australia to get it taken care of!

So that's my story. I hope it makes dealing with a sebaceous cyst sound like a barrel of fun. I really wouldn't be afraid to have it done again and now when I sit on the left hand side of planes, I roll my head against the wall like a loving cat.


*NOTE* The title "Cystfully yours" was how my friend signed her email in response to this message.

***UPDATE*** I am happy to add that my friend has reported "Guess who's benign and feeling fine?" She looks forward to her procedure on August 6th.

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