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I have been reading other peoples experiences for a few years since I was first diagnosed with having an enlarged bartholin gland around 4 years ago. I thought it was about time to write my own experience down.
I first noticed a small, hard lump on my left side. It wasn't painful, but it was slightly noticeable from the outside. I was told by the doctor that it was completely normal and unless it got bigger or painful I should leave it well alone so I did. I forgot all about it for a few years before I got a suspected infection while I was away in America. It swelled up to a massive size and I couldn't sit down properly. Eventually it calmed down and when I came back from America I went to the doctors. I was given antibiotics, but by that point it seemed like it was there to stay. It was obstructing and making intercourse difficult and uncomfortable, plus it wasn't nice to look at.
I was sent to a gynocologist who suggested that it needed draining as it was an abscess that would not go away by itself. It was the first time I would have surgery or be in hospital and I was incredibly nervous. They said they would do a Marsupialization on it. It was a very very horrible and traumatic experience for me. I was in quite a lot of pain after the surgery but they sent me on my way with no painkillers or antibiotics and no aftercare. I was too out of it after being given tramadol to really ask questions. It was only when I got home and the painkillers began to wear off that I realised that I had no idea what to expect. My discharge letter stated that the gland had been removed and I presumed that was the reason for the discomfort. The whole area was incredibly swollen and I had bruises all over the area. I was told by the surgeon before I left that they had to 'dig' around the gland to make sure it was an abscess and not something more sinister. I went to my local GP the day after and my notes had not been forwarded by that point. The doctor thought that it looked as though it had been removed, but could not offer much help at all apart from giving me some antibiotics (that ended up making me ill so I had to stop taking them). I was incredibly upset as the area began to heal and I realised that it looked as though I'd been butchered. I'm not sure whether I was being overdramatic, but the area looked a lot different and noone had prepared me for such an intimate part to be changed so significantly.
I ended up making a complaint and was given an appointment with the head consultant of the hospital I was at. She was there with the surgeon who performed my operation (who was not allowed to talk for the whole meeting, even though she apologised profusely when I left the room which makes me suspicious). I was told that the area was healing normally and she basically dismissed by concerns that things looked different - even though I was in tears. I left that day feeling like I had not been listened to, but wasn't sure what else I could do. Eventually it healed enough to resume sex, and although the scar tissue took a lot longer to heal I hoped that it would be the end of it. Eventually the hard lump that was left after the surgery went down too and I really really hoped that I wouldn't have to go through anything else. However, almost exactly a year after (August 2015) I was booked in to have a cyst drained again in the same place. I made sure that I went to a different hospital, but was frightened that my experience would be the same. The surgeon informed me that it might just be a sort of fluid filled sack sat on top of the gland and that it would be a quick and easy procedure to drain it. I asked whether I could have the gland removed if it was a cyst/abscess again, but she said that they do not recommend it because it is invasive and can cause a lot of blood loss and quite often results in having to be taken back into surgery. Well, the thought of that put me off and I hoped this would sort it out. My aftercare was a lot better, but maybe because I was fully prepared this time. I healed quickly and barely needed any painkillers and was really thankful for it all being over. For a few months it was fine - the scar tissue was sore at times, but apart from that it didn't seem like the lump was returned. But after sex one day my heart sank as I realised a lump was forming. It was more like the fluid filled sack and I was able to drain it myself. I should note that I'm convinced this gland has never worked properly. After the first surgery healed and ever since then I have been able to drain it myself, but I have to use a cotton wool bud and sort of wrap it around it as I pull it out. It's thick and stringy, like jelly but worse. Sorry if this is too much information, but I'd be interested to see if anyone else has this problem. Anyway, most times after I had sex I tried to drain it myself to stop it filling up and getting blocked and this worked for a while, however, as time has gone on I have become more and more aware that it is not gettnig smaller - in fact it is getting larger and feels like there are two lumps. One is very close to the surface of the skin due to the scar tissue sticking to the gland - it resembles a blister of sorts and I can quite obviously see the liquid inside. The other lump feels more like the gland itself. Yesterday as the day went on I realised that the area was swelling up a lot and I knew that it was probably infected. I barely slept last night because of it and it is no better today. I will hopefully be able to see a doctor before Christmas, but I am dreading being told that I need more surgery even though I know it's the only way for it to go down again.
I should say that although I managed to drain some of it myself over the years, they have never burst themselves which makes me feel like the gland never worked in the first place, or stopped working properly. The gland on the other side works completely normally which is why I've come to this conclusion.
I'm really unsure what to do now. Part of me thinks I should get the gland removed as I can't keep taking weeks off work to have it drained only for it to come back a few months/year later.
The whole experience has left me feeling quite depressed and I do not want to have any sort of sexual contact anymore as when I get even the tiniest bit aroused then the lump swells and I have problems with it. I was a very sexual person before my first surgery and without having that closeness and being able to do it when I want to, I just feel like a piece of me is missing. Some days all I want to do is cry, and some days I do cry because it feels like this is how it's going to be forever now.
I wonder whether maybe I should save up and go private if I were to have it removed, but right now there's no way I'd be able to afford it.
It helps knowing that other people are going through similar experiences, but I feel like it's not a well-known or well-understood thing and I've felt that hospitals in particular don't seem to care that much at all.
One day I want children and I am scared that the scar tissue will rip if I give birth, especially if I end up having the gland completely removed. If I knew that having it removed would stop it from returning and not come with any complications I would jump at the chance, but after all that's happened I can't help thinking that something else will go wrong and I wont be able to come back from it.
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