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After roughly 5 years of experience with these beasts I opted to have my gland removed. I feel as though I've been through hell and back and almost feel a sense of obligation to share my story to those who may be going through the same thing. I know I wanted to know everything about them, so the least I can do is contribute my knowledge of the topic.
*I am NOT a medical professional and I am not dishing out medical advice, just sharing an experience*
I got my first abscess towards the end of my senior year of college. I'm now 27. I had the abscess drained by OB and it did not reappear until several years later. And guess when it decided to return? My honeymoon. My honeymoon was completely ruined. We were in the Dominican Republic and I noticed it starting to swell up the morning after we arrived. By that afternoon I was already starting to feel sluggish and almost like I had the flu. By the third day I was in bed with a 102 degree fever. I was too embarrassed and nervous to see an actual doctor in the Dominican so we went to the resort clinic and I faked a sinus infection knowing they would give me antibiotics. The antibiotics did not help (cephalexin) and I still had several days until I could get a flight back to the states. I writhed in pain for days, I didn't sleep for 3 days straight. I made a half-assed attempt at popping it WITH A NEEDLE. That is what desperation will do to you! The pain was so bad I had to stop and LAY DOWN IN THE AIRPORT when we were trying to get home. Do you know how disgusting and humiliating it is to lay down on the ground in an airport? I refused to get help until we got home. There is just something about getting cut open by someone you don't know in an unfamiliar place that is just unsettling...I cried for the entire day during the course of our 2 flights home. My husband rushed me to the ER as soon as we landed. The doctor lanced the abscess and gave me a word catheter. I felt amazing afterwards. It hurt to sit, but I could work from home and within a week I was back to normal. Story should end there with a happy ending, right?
Fast forward to a few months later and it's back. I tried the sitz baths, but it did not change. When it got big enough and I started to feel that awful flu-ish feeling, I saw my OB GYN who once again lanced it and inserted a catheter. Went home, did my sitz baths, back to normal in a week...
Fast foward another two months and I feel another one coming on. Once again, I got the catheter. Except this time my OB stated she made a larger incision than before. It hurt extremely bad this time. I cried at the pharmacy waiting for my pain meds and cephalexin. I almost couldn't make the drive home. That night, I got chills and noticed I was bleeding way more than normal. I also developed another high fever. By that time I was a veteran with the word catheter so I knew something was wrong. Me and my husband called local hospitals trying to figure out how to classify "too much blood loss". I toughed it out and tried to sleep through the night. I was sure it was infected and that it was bleeding too much. 3 days of bleeding with chills and fever, puss burst through the catheter, almost as if it had re-burst again after it was lanced. It was a horrible, horrible experience.
Later that winter it came back once again...like clockwork, I swear. This time I had a marsupilaization. The procedure seemed almost TOO good to be true. I felt way better afterwards than when I had the catheters. We even went out to eat that night! This blissful feeling lasted for 3 whole months! I know it seems odd, but when my husband and I were intimate after the incision healed and the stitches dissolved, it was better than it was before this whole mess started!
Too good to be true, you say? You are correct.
Here we are...summertime, a little over a year after my honeymoon disaster. On a holiday weekend I felt it coming back. I went and saw my OB and she said she would lance and insert a catheter. At that point, I finally took control of what I thought should be done and declined the catheter. I requested a lancing instead because at that point - I already know it will come back, so why go through the extra pain of the catheter? She lances it, it got infected (despite the antibiotics) and re-burst again a few days later. Same fever, same pain, no sleeping, etc. I cried once again, but this time not just because it hurt, but because I felt broken. I felt like it had officially taken over my life.
Before I left my OB's office the day I got it lanced again, we talked about a more permanent solution. I mentioned removing the gland entirely (because like you people, I troll the internet looking for all possible solutions to this thing) and she shrugged her shoulders and gave me an uneasy look suggesting that removing the gland was not something she would advise.
The fact that she wouldn't even hear it out made me feel a bit less comfortable with her even though she had been my OB for 14 years! I once again took to google and searched for the BEST gynecological surgeon in my area. I settled on one and set an appointment for a second opinion. My visit with her was borderline inspiring. She was so confident, she expained that I was considered an ideal candidate for the surgery and even went so far as to draw pictures of the actual procedure for me. It sounds weird, I know, but it helped. She sent me on my way and said to call back when I was ready. I called back two months later when I just barely felt another abscess coming on and she put me on the surgery calendar. I met with her the night before and even sat down with the anesthesiologist to get a very clear picture of how everything the next day would run. The surgery went great. I'm 3 weeks post-op and feeling really well. There is still a little pain, but definitely no bleeding. I'm used to healing really quickly so I keep expecting it to not hurt at all, but that is just unrealistic considering a gland was removed from my body.
I'm not going to tell anyone on here to go out and do the surgery. It is up to you.
Below is what did not work for me.
Tea tree oil
Probiotics (these are good for you anyway)
Massaging the area
The Bartholin Cyst Miracle e-book
Here is a little procedure cheat-sheet for those who may be unfamiliar:
Lancing - the area is numbed with a topical anesthetic, again with local anesthetic and a small incision is made into the abscess/cyst to allow the built up puss to drain. **soooo gross**
Word Catheter - incision is made similiar to the above, except a small tube with a balloon on the end is inserted into the hole. This allows the hole to remain open and encourages the cyst to continue to drain. My first doctor said the catheter should stay in place for a few days. The internet told me 4 weeks. My second doctor that performed my excision also said it should have stayed in for at least a few weeks.
Marsupilization - incision is made per the above and instead stitched open to allow the hole to remain open. From what I've heard, this has been a permanent solution for some! Not for me, but I definitely preferred it over the catheter.
Gland Excision - exactly that. The entire gland is removed. Recovery time is around 6 weeks, pain is mild, I was also warned that disfigurement is a possibility, but that was not the case for me. Yes, I've looked at it.
It may be too early to tell if my surgery has a good prognosis, however, my doctor did say she was able to remove almost all of the gland. It is important to know that the gland is so small and the area is so vascular, that it can sometimes be difficult for the surgeon to remove the entire mechanism. Understanding how much was removed will help you better figure out your chance for reccurrence.
Well friends, I wish everyone on here the best of luck with this awful condition. It blows my mind that this disorder doesn't get a whole lot of attention considering how life altering it really can be. I leave you with just a few of my mantras for battling this crap: you are not alone, you are not broken, and you are not crazy. Do your research, don't be afraid to get second opinions and do what you feel is best for your body and your well being.
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