12 March 2021, by Patrina Tan

Let’s be Cyst-rious

As you grow older, the phrase “Health is Wealth” resonates with you deeper. You start to realise how important your yearly check-up is and look forward to it just to be sure there’s nothing wrong with you. 

 

The discovery
In 2018, I did my first health check-up. I was nervous and did not know what to expect. I was more afraid of the pain (from drawing blood) than the results. But that kinda changed after my first visit. What is scarier is the look on the doctor/nurse’s face as they did a scan on me. And whenever they stop to measure something in the ultrasound, my heart raced faster. 

During my first check-up, a 2.8cm cyst was discovered in my left ovary and a small (can’t remember how small but it’s negligible) cyst in my right breast. I remember tearing to John and my best friend Priscilla as I described it to them. The doctor/nurse was not supposed to disclose more because they have to analyse and give a full report on their findings. I guess they didn’t want to scare their patients either. So I went home thinking it’s the end of the world.

A few weeks later, I received my report and was told to go for a review. Thankfully, the doctor said it’s benign and I just have to monitor its growth in 6 months time. I was relieved. It was also then that I learnt having a cyst is fairly common. So I left it alone.  

 

Update after 6 months
6 months later, I went to a gynae for an update. She did a more invasive check (using a scope up my vagina) and measured the cyst to be around 2.3 to 2.6cm. She also asked if I intended to get pregnant soon because if I was, then I didn’t have to treat the cyst immediately as the doctor can clear it during delivery. So again, I left the clinic with no resolution of treating the cyst. 

Cyst spotted, they are the dark patches you see in this image.

 

The cramps
In April 2020, I went for my second health check-up. Knowing the existence of the cyst this time, my only hope was that it didn’t grow. And thankfully it didn’t. Again, it seems like a regular check-up. But what I didn’t foresee was the severe cramps that came after that month. Each time my menses was due, I suffered severe cramps that would either paralyse me or paired with a fever. I have never been through such cramps in my entire womanhood. So that was scary. I’ve never labelled the cyst as the culprit because it has been there for 2 years and everything was fine. So I ruled that out. Every month, I would make a mental note to cut down on cold drinks and “warm” my body. But still, I get slapped with bad cramps. So last December 2020, I decided to get it checked again. 

No change in the size of my cyst.

To my surprise, the cyst was the same size as before. No signs of rupture or growth. But this time, after telling the doctor (a different gynae) about my cramps, he suggested having it removed. He mentioned that it was right to ignore it back then because it wasn’t growing or affecting me. But since I’ve been experiencing severe cramps, one way to identify the source is to start with removing the cyst. He also mentioned that since mine was a fluid-sac cyst, I should have passed it out during my menses. But the fact that it is still there after 2 years, I should consider the surgery. I was apprehensive at first. Then came the time of the month again and that was my last straw. The pain was so bad that I couldn’t walk. I took it as a sign and called to book an operation date the next day. 

 

The removal
D Day – Admitted into Gleneagles with John and I’m thankful that my company insurance covers Class A wards. This means John could stay in too. Phew. After prepping me, they wheeled me into the operating theatre. I’ve heard stories about doctors asking patients to count to ten. So I was waiting for the instruction but nope, the nurse told me to breathe while the anaesthetist injected the anaesthesia, and the next thing I know, I woke up in another room waiting to be wheeled back into my room. The procedure took an hour. 

Spent the next 2 days in the hospital so that they could monitor my bowel and wound. I wasn’t allowed to eat until I passed gas. The doctor just wanted to make sure my bowel system is working fine before I started eating so that I won’t purge. I couldn’t feel any pain and I must give credit to the nurses for managing it so well (painkillers were in my drip, topped up every 3 hours).  

The scary part was when the nurse had to remove the draining tube. It was inserted to drain the “dirty” blood. It was at least 10cm long… I swear. Although it only took 3 seconds to remove it, that’s the most pain I felt in the whole ordeal. The nurses encouraged me to take walks and ensured I was functioning well before they could discharge me.

 

The recovery
Recovery was smooth and I only had to go back to the doctor once, to remove my stitches (zero pain). My mother-in-law took care of me like I was in confinement and that gave me a sneak peek into how confinement would be. Not bad I’ll say. Hahaha! The only problem I have is really, the look of the scar. It is 8cm long. I was shocked when I first saw it because I had the impression it was going to be a keyhole surgery. I should have probed more before I signed up for this.

Today (a month and a half later), my scar is not completely healed. It looks like a fresh cane mark. But I think I can live with it. My life is back to normal except I am still not exercising because I’m afraid vigorous movement might cause harm to the wound. I was also told that, after such surgery, one can be extra fertile in the next 2-3 months. So John and I are really counting on it and hope this will be it. Fingers crossed.

I hope my sharing will be helpful to those who are contemplating the surgery, although it is still best to heed your doctor’s advice. Here are some personal takeaways.

  1. Find out what your insurance covers (Company and personal)
  2. Be prepared to stay more than 2 days in the hospital (I stayed for 3 nights)
  3. Don’t expect to go back to normal after a week. Minimum 3 weeks.
  4. Having the surgery doesn’t eliminate the chances of another cyst appearing. 
  5. If your cyst is bigger than 5cm, you should consider surgery even if it is not affecting you because there is a chance of rupture. Seek your doctor’s advice.

All the best, ladies!

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