“How long would you say you’ve had it?”
My first thought is “at least ten years,” and then I realize… dude. I was 16 ten years ago.
WHAT IN THE ACTUAL EFF IS THIS SORCERY
Anyway, I’d had it for years before then, so that wasn’t the right answer.
I scroll back even further—all the way back to the glory days of AOL and AIM, Geocities & gURLpages, away messages and buddy icons. Hours and hours spent learning basic HTML, awake in the night-owl glow of the computer screen, typing away in stacks of instant messages, figuring out how to code frames.
Yeah, it had to have been at least since then.
“Probably 12 or 13 years?” I reply.
“And it’s never caused you any trouble? No pain, no numbness, no tingling in your fingers?”
“So what brings you in today?”
“My husband scared the shit out of me about it, so that was pretty convincing.”
You know those weird things you’ve had forever, and they seem to freak other people out way more than they do you?
Those totally random things that you almost forget are even there until someone’s all, “Dude, what is THAT?”
Yeah, I have one of those:
Meet my ganglion cyst—
nothing special or painful or even remotely exciting, except when people are like DEAR GOD YOU HAVE A GROWTH.
Through my extensive Googling, I already know everything about it that there is to know (I mean, basically, I’m like a legit medical professional now with a degree in WebMD). However, the fact that I’ve never gone to see an actual doctor about it has consistently driven husband insane.
All of this changed last month when The Masseur Who Ruined Everything came into play and, as people named in this manner are wont to do, ruined things.
Said masseur was doing free chair massages, and when I hopped into the chair for my turn, I made sure to mention the infamous wrist bump—both to save said masseur the trouble of shouting DEAR GOD YOU HAVE A GROWTH at me if he accidentally came across it on his own, and also, primarily, to keep him from touching it.
We’d barely crested the one-minute mark in my massage when The Masseur Who Ruined Everything casually stated, “Did you know that, sometimes, those kind of cysts can wrap around the tendons and cause nerve damage?”
I’m face-down in the massage chair, fully convinced that Gus—who I can’t see—is sitting there in the row of chairs next to me, enthusiastically giving this dude a thumbs-up, like, Yes! Continue! TERRIFY MY WIFE INTO FINALLY GETTING IT CHECKED OUT!
The masseur continues, “Sometimes, they’ll actually have to go in and do surgery to cut the cyst out, because it can potentially cause severe and extensive tissue damage. Didn’t you say you’re a writer?”
Damn you, small talk. DAMN YOU SMALL TALK BEING USED AGAINST ME.
I nod, which does double-duty in allowing me to perform a *headdesk*-inspired maneuver against the padded head rest.
“Yeah, if there was severe enough damage, you might not be able to use your hand for awhile, so you know… no typing or anything.”
I could practically hear Gus making a smug face at me.
I happily would’ve forgotten the idle threats of The Masseur Who Ruined Everything… if, you know, husband would’ve, too.
Instead, he continually reminded me about them—”Baby, are you sure you don’t want to get it looked at? I mean, what if you let it go too long and you can’t write?” “Remember what that guy said? If you have to get surgery, you won’t be able to write”—a lot.
Apparently, using this incident as reference, the quickest way to get me to do something is to somehow tie it into my not physically being able to write.
Thus, this is how I found myself sitting across from Dr. McKenna, orthopedic surgeon, Monday night—with husband along for the ride—answering questions about how long I’d been growing my cyst. (You know, like a hobby. Some people cultivate flowers… I went the more natural route.)
After confirming that, yes, I was there primarily because my husband had scared the shit out of me (by parroting questionable medical claims from The Masseur Who Ruined Everything), Dr. McKenna performed a quick exam on my wrist bump. He then declared my cyst was nothing to worry about, and that The Masseur Who Ruined Everything was actually The Masseur Who Knew Nothing, because nothing he’d said was true.
HA WHO’S SMUG NOW HUSBAND, WHO’S SMUG NOW
Given that my cyst was filled with fluid and not fat or tissue, Dr. McKenna brought two options to the table: I could just leave it be or, if I wanted, he could aspirate it (i.e., a less gross way to say “let’s poke holes in the sucker and drain it!) for me right then.
Because husband was there, I had an extra level of bravery and badassery coursing through my veins. Thus, in spite of my massive, massive phobia of hypodermic needles (like, I cringe and hide my eyes when people get injections on TV; I avoid entire sections of the building when they do blood drives at work), I found myself agreeing to let this (albiet surgically adept) stranger forcibly stab needles into my skin.
As I lay down on the crinkle-papered exam table to prep for the aspirating, I’m already rambling off how terrified I am of needles (very) and how, if I could just NOT see the needle, that’d be the best, thanks.
“Isn’t that a tattoo on your left wrist?” Dr. McKenna remarks. “It’s always the people who say they’re afraid of needles that have tattoos!”
I wagered that shouting OH SHUT YOUR JUDGY MOUTH IT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT at the man who was about to surgically stab me wasn’t wise.
Instead, I calmly asked, “Do you think this will hurt less than a tattoo?”
“Oh, yes,” the good doctor confidently replied. “It won’t hurt any more than that first prick when they start the tattoo. It’ll probably take less than a minute!”
& here’s where it gets gross.
There’s no numbing agent applied—just the usual super-cold spray to disinfect the area before the needle plunges in.
I watch husband’s eyes go huge, and I’m like, “Oh no. OH NO. We are NOT making faces about this because I will freak the hell out about what I’m not seeing.”
Almost immediately, all the fingers on my right hand go tingly; my left hand is firmly gripping Gus’s, all clammy and panicked.
I can feel the needle digging around underneath my skin, inside the bump, followed by Dr. McKenna’s surprised announcement that, “Wow! This is the thickest fluid I’ve EVER seen in a cyst!”
Meanwhile, longer than the promised minute has passed, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to die, probably.
I’d never claim to have an exceptional pain tolerance anyway, but having a needle swirled around inside your skin? Yeah, that feels really not nice.
I CAN SAY THIS WITH TOTAL AUTHORITY.
As the needle’s still digging around, I’m occupying myself by taking big, deep breaths (thank yooooou, Pilates) and flutter-kicking/point-flexing my toes at the opposite end of the table.
You know, just going for a leisurely panic swim. No big.
I’ve probably completed a few meters of panic “laps” when I feel the needle come out, followed by Dr. McKenna announcing, “I’m going to come at it from a different angle and see if we can get some more fluid out that way.”
i.e., “Hey, guess WHAT! I’m going to stab you again!”
I think this was the part where I announced that this was definitely the least fun thing I’d done all day.
Meanwhile, in the midst of this needle-y hell, there’s husband—
standing right by my side like a bearded angel, soothing me with “you’re doing great, babe” and encasing my clammy little hand between his, letting go only once to gently stroke my forehead with the back of his hand.
My bright, shining spot in a sea of frantic flutter-kicks, that one.
Finally, needle number two ends its reign of torture, and Dr. McKenna bandages me up, sending me on my way with a warning that I might experience “some really ugly bruising” over the next two weeks.
Thanks to the lone bandage, I went home looking like I tried to slit my wrists, but got distracted after the first side & gave up.
As soon as I stop feeling like I’m going to FALL OVER AND DIE, I immediately press husband for all the gory details. (See, I’m totally down to hear about them after the fact, but I’d have likely (a) lost my $h!t and (b) vomited had I actually seen any of the things happen in real time.)
Apparently, I bled. A lot.
Also, a big fluid “chunk” came through the needle at one point, so I’m extra glad I missed that one.
Yesterday afternoon, I took off said bandage, fully expecting to crash an epic, ugly bruise party, but found this instead:
Super anticlimactic, right?
The bump’s still there, rebel fluid and all—but it’s definitely less noticeable than it was before. Instead of looking like my wrist swallowed a marble, it’s more like an M&M… which, it being my wrist, is entirely cool with me.
Oh, and about that whole “it’ll hurt less than a tattoo” thing?
Yeah. Don’t ever believe them when they say that.