(it’s not what you think…)
I didn’t really notice the lump until the discomfort grew beyond the occasional, mild irritation.
“Damn, these knickers are uncomfortable,” I thought, as I tried to readjust them inconspicuously, as I got into my car. I made a mental note to go through my underwear drawer and throw out anything that wasn’t 100% cotton when I got back home.
Other times, I’d blame my outerwear for the discomfort, “Geez, these jeans are too tight.”
My mind continued to offer up plausible reasons for the irritation, including the warmer weather, the soap I bathed with, even the washing detergent I used to clean my clothes.
My vagina had never been as demanding of attention as it was now.
After eliminating all possible irritants and unable to dismiss it any longer, finally, I decided to check my vagina.
There was a lump. On the right side. On the inside of my ‘lips’.
I placed two fingers either side of ‘the lump’ and it moved.
My non-medical mind searched for what it thought it knew about malignant and benign growths…
”Was it a good sign that it moved? Shit! What if it’s… cancer?”
Fear set in. I had no idea what the lump was, but I was frightened that it could be cancer, so I ignored it. For a whole year. Like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, I hoped that if I pretended it wasn’t there, it’d disappear, unannounced, in the same way it had made its appearance.
Of course, that wasn’t going to happen.
Some days when it was really bothersome, I wondered, “Is this what it feels like when men are asked by tailors, ‘Which side do you dress, sir?’”
So, I eventually made an appointment with my local GP practice (General Practitioner). Thankfully, the doctor spared me the small talk about the weather while she examined me.
The GP referred me to the local teaching hospital.
To my relief, at my gynaecology outpatients appointment, the doctor assessed my lump as a Bartholin’s Gland cyst. She explained that my Bartholin’s gland was blocked and the proposed treatment was marsupialization – under general anaesthetic, an incision would be made through the gland to drain it and then stitched up. I’d receive an appointment for surgery as a day patient and be discharged in the evening.
Day of the Surgery – Pre-Op Consultation
It was a typical autumnal day in October 2003, when I walked into the hospital’s day unit and was booked in as a day case. A folded hospital gown and paper hair net lay neatly at the end of the bed assigned to me for the day. I was told to get undressed, ready for surgery.
The consultant introduced himself. The way he presented didn’t instil me with confidence. Imagine a bumbling public schoolboy, then add forty years to him and give him a theatre list. As he shook my hand, I became alarmed at his sausage fingers. My inner dialogue took over,
“Aren’t surgeons supposed to have nimble fingers? This guy’s fingers are so fat Chopin wouldn’t have accepted him as a protégé, yet he’s performing gynae surgery? I wonder if he’s a misogynist?”
The consultant wanted to examine the lump. It was on the inside of my right labia. I stared blankly at the ceiling as he struggled to find it. He said he couldn’t feel it.
I began to feel anxious – if he couldn’t find my Bartholin’s Gland cyst with his fingers, how would he fare in the operating theatre with a scalpel in his hand?
I endured the embarrassment of having to physically place my own hand on the inside of my vagina and guide his hand to my lump.
I mentally compared the earlier examination with the competent (female) doctor at my outpatients appointment. She found the lump straightaway. God, I wish she was performing my surgery.
He walked away saying he’d see me in theatre later. I tried to quiet the growing unease within me and got ready for surgery.
I waited nervously for my time slot on the theatre list.
We’re Taking You Down To Theatre
As I was wheeled down to theatre, I began to cry.
By the time we’d reached the ante-room, I was sobbing uncontrollably.
I didn’t trust the surgeon. It was as though, intuitively, my whole body was saying, “This is a bad idea, Tricia, a bad, bad, idea.” It just felt wrong.
I was so upset that a nurse took my hand and said “We can cancel the surgery, if you want?”
“If I cancel, can I have a different surgeon to do my operation?”
“No,” she replied.
It would be the same Mr ‘Fat Fingers’ surgeon, who didn’t know where to aim his scalpel, just on a different day.
“Can I have the procedure done under local anaesthetic, then?” I asked. It was only an incision to drain my Bartholin’s Gland and sew it up. People have knee replacements while awake, I thought, so it wasn’t an unreasonable request.
If truth be told, I wanted to keep an eye on what he was doing, but in all honesty, with legs presumably in stirrups, what was I going to do? I’d just be lying there, feeling him tug at my ‘lump’
The answer, again, was no.
I had real concerns about ‘Sausage Fingers’, but my option was same surgeon, different day, or continue with the discomfort.
With tears streaming down my cheeks, I chose to proceed with the surgery.
Back on the day unit, Dr Sausage Fingers approached my bed.
“I’ve sewn the skin to your vagina wall,” he said.
Why was he stating this? Was it an exception to the norm? I had no idea where surgeons were supposed to sew the skin of marsupialized cysts, but he waited for me to thank him… So I did.
“Thank you” I muttered, trying to sound sincere.
I was discharged later that evening.
Referral for a Second Opinion
I went back to my doctors unhappy with the results of my surgery. Dr Fat Fingers must’ve dropped a couple of stitches, leaving me with a skin tag and a dimple where my lump had once been. Thanks to him sewing the skin to my vaginal wall, I now felt a pull to the right. I was lopsided.
My doctor examined me. “I see what you mean,” she said, “but unless you’re embarking on a career as a porn star, I wouldn’t worry.”
She referred me, nonetheless, back to the hospital for a second opinion with the original consultant’s colleague; she noted some scarring, and my complaint of asymmetry, though stated her examination revealed nothing of significance. After being examined by a different consultant, he also concluded that it was fine and no further action was necessary.
The End? Not quite.
The META-Health Perspective
Years later, when I began to learn about META-Health, I started to understand how my perceptions of social interactions and my environment triggered biological changes in my body, creating dis-ease.
“The Bartholin’s glands secrete fluid that acts as a lubricant during sex. The fluid travels down tiny tubes called ducts into the vagina. If the ducts become blocked, they can fill with fluid and expand to form a cyst.” 1
As you can see in the diagram above, the Bartholin’s Gland relays to both the Brain Stem (BS) and Cerebellum (CB) layers of the brain with themes of lubrication – conflicts about not being lubricated enough for sexual intercourse (BS), and protection (CB). The ducts relay to the Cerebral Cortex (CC ) layer of the brain and is concerned with sexual separation.
I recalled comments during moments of intimacy; I mean, who hasn’t said or heard, “Ooh, you’re a bit dry” before or during coitus?
There had been instances of separation between myself and the man in my life during that period. And, as is common with a lot of people, there had been some comments about the lack of lubrication, on occasion, either before or during sexual intercourse,.
Biologically, my Bartholin’s Gland had increased the fluid secreted to provide more lubrication during intercourse. The gland became blocked and the cyst slowly grew.
According to the NHS website, there are various methods for treating Bartholin’s cysts, and marsupialization may be used if a cyst or abscess continues to return 2
This was my first cyst, there was no abscess and it wasn’t painful; there was just discomfort. In theory, had I done some research into treatments beforehand, I would’ve looked into whether any local hospitals drained Bartholin’s cysts by needle aspiration and requested a referral for treatment there instead.
I recently had an awareness that I needed to practice forgiveness around my issue with the surgeon and my distress before the operation. So, I’ve begun the journey towards healing this traumatic incident, acknowledging the residual anger which needed to be released.