What being chronically ill taught me…

Dedication: To the women who have suffered alone while battling with Bartholin cysts.

I’m deep in the demanding process of transformation. From August 2020 till October 2020 i was away from social media, was missing from most family & friends gatherings, switched two jobs & made a few major decisions in my life.

It has been two full months of battling a chronic, incredibly painful labial cyst. I underwent two (one minor, one major) surgeries and two extremely painful procedures. I developed my first Bartholin gland cyst last year in November that abscessed. I have a nagging habit of googling everything so i researched about it and found out it was a Bartholin cyst. I went to see my obgyn, she confirmed and i was put on antibiotics and that one drained on its own after 6 painful days.

November 2019 till August 2020, i lived a complete normal life until this monster showed up again in August 2020. This time, even more painful. It was the size of a cricket ball. I could barely walk, stand or even walk. I went to see my doctor again, she wasn’t available this time so i had to see a different gynecologists’ in emergency care. I was in so much pain that i told my obgyn to cut the cyst open and drain it because my body couldn’t take the pain anymore. I was taken to OT and i underwent incision there.

One week to recovery & i thought i was back to my normal life only to wake up one morning and realize it was back again. I went days and weeks working my ass off with a cricket ball sized cyst down there because i didn’t want to undergo incision one more time and i also didn’t want to take days off work as that would have affected my work greatly. Antibiotics stopped working, i tried all holistic ways to get rid of it but no avail. It was there like a stubborn baby.

I was back to research again, i joined Facebook support group for Bartholin gland cyst, i read articles to satisfy my thirst for knowledge and information about my illness. There’s only 2% research currently available on the internet on this, 50 case studies, 1 book and some 80 vague articles with no actual information on why do they occur and what’s the best way to get rid of these. The only surgeries mentioned for recurrent BCs are incision, marsupialization and if all else fails, gland removal surgery.

When i was done taking sitz bath, antibiotics weren’t working even warm compresses seemed to fail, i went to see my doctor again. That day i underwent my first extremely painful procedure without any anesthetic. She pricked syringes into my cyst for aspiration, took the fluid out, pulled my stitches from my previous surgery and made a 3cm deep cut into my skin. No anesthesia.

One week to recovery and another cyst. Went to see my doctor. Same painful procedure. I came home. I was mentally, emotionally exhausted. My body was done taking the pain, anxiety, antibiotics, home remedies. I thought maybe this time it won’t occur again so i decided to give healing a chance. Took necessary medicines, turmeric tea, loads of walk but deep inside, i knew my body was constantly telling me “Hell no, even this won’t work” The picture attached was taken the day after i underwent my second painful procedure. I wanted to look better to feel better. It was Sunday, i was home. I told my khala to do my eye make up so i can take pictures, update my DP and feel better.

One week down, dang! Another cyst. I called my doctor right away and asked her about the complications if i decide to get my gland removed entirely and she told me none. Apart from less lubrication. My mum has her own myths about gland removal so i finally decided to have a talk with my body. YES! An actual talk. I recalled my ordeal, asked three different doctors about complications regarding gland removal, my own research and stories from Facebook support group for BC. After one surgery, two painful procedures, gland removal was an incredibly scary thing to walk into but i had a full body yes.

On October 6th, i went to the same obgyn and told her i wanted to get my gland removed. She told me she recommends marsupialization (another surgery where they cut the cyst open and the cut stays open for a week until the cyst is drained completely) i told her i don’t want to undergo another surgery that doesn’t guarantee recurrence. I just want my gland removed.

Walking into what I knew was going to be a very painful recovery after months of chronic pain felt overwhelming. I was worn down and worn out. But i had faith in Allah. I walked into OT silently praying to Allah that Oh Allah may this be my last visit to a hospital for this. I’m done crying, i’m done with the surgeries, the procedures, the medication.

What was supposed to be a 30 mins surgery ended up being an hour long surgery because when the doctor cut my cyst open, they found out it was a multilocular cyst that had many roots and pockets inside hence a complicated one so they ultimately had to remove the gland entirely.

Your illness teaches you a lot and it taught me a few valuable lessons. I haven’t had the words to share the darkness that I have been dancing with this year. There was a point when i didn’t know who i am anymore. I was constantly battling a cricket ball sized cyst down there, working my ass off at work, trying my best to look better to feel better, pretending to be fine.

Our body is amazing. Amazing in a way that it constantly drops you signals as to what is best for us. Always always listen to your body. I never knew my body was capable of putting up with so much pain.

I learnt, even Science is scared of certain societal pressures. During my ordeal, i came across doctors & nurses (female) who said mean things like oh you want to undergo incision? Damn! That would give you scars and you better know the trouble you’re going to face in your married life. And then there was a nurse who had the nerves to say oh did you tell the doctor you’re unmarried? Because you know during marsupialization we got to make sure your hymen doesn’t rupture. (Even though the hymen has absolutely nothing to do with a cyst in labia)

Never ever be scared of any deformation or any scar that guarantees you a normal life. And most importantly, don’t pretend. Don’t pretend to be okay when you’re not okay. Take time to heal, cut off, go missing in action if you have to but never pretend to be okay when you’re not. That would only make things worse.

Now when i’m done with my gland removal surgery, I will never know exactly what caused these cysts. I will never know whether or not it will happen again. I do not know for sure that this surgery is going to be successful, but I believe in the power of not giving up. So, while I do not have any guarantees, I still have hope. I do not give up when the going gets tough. I keep going.

If anyone of you is battling with Bartholin cysts right now and or has been through the same journey, i’m sending you love, hugs & prayers. ♥️

Photo credit: Images courtesy of the storyteller.

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Hira Suleman

An aspiring writer and a passionate Digital Marketer by Profession. Writing fuels my passion for Digital Marketing. I'm currently working for an Orphanage in Pakistan as a Manager Digital Media Marketing. My illness changed my perspective about life, faith, pain and hope.