December 23rd, 2010


Medical Week

A couple of months ago, I noticed an odd lump on the back of my neck. Felt like maybe a mole, or a large pimple. Unfortunately its being on the back of my neck meant I couldn't see it at all, just feel it with my fingers. It wasn't painful, and didn't seem inclined to "pop", so I didn't worry much. I made a mental note to ask M to have a look at it, and moved on.

It took me awhile to remember to ask M about it, until about a month later. The lump started feeling larger under my fingers, and it became tender as well. It was right after my Chicago Thanksgiving trip. We'd spent a few days shopping downtown, going in and out of stores on very cold days, so I was taking hats and scarves off and on frequently. I thought perhaps all that had irritated it, but it was still worrisome that it had started hurting. This time I was bothered enough that I remembered to ask M about it.

He inspected it, and reported that it was completely invisible to the eye. It was skin-colored, no sign of a mole or infection or anything. However he could also feel that there was a lump there, and thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a visit with a dermatologist.

A week later, he asked me about it again. I said I hadn't made an appointment, but I thought it might be getting bigger. He checked, and said that it was definitely bigger. At this point he was more insistent that I have it checked out by somebody who knew about skin (he's a joint guy). He was worried, since it was growing and still tender. I wasn't pleased with the lump myself.

I made myself an appointment with a dermatologist I'd seen several years ago. When she checked it out, she diagnosed it as a pilar cyst. Happily she said it wasn't something to worry about, as long as it didn't get infected. I could have it removed if it bothered me, but it wasn't dangerous. Removing it would involve a 30 minute surgery. She recommended against removing it prior to my wedding, because she was concerned about scarring. She injected it with a steroid to reduce the inflammation.

I went home relieved, but after another week, it still hadn't shrunk. If anything, it was a little bigger, and it remained tender. I started to get annoyed. Did I really want to leave this thing on my neck until after the honeymoon? It hurt, and I kept worrying about it. M said that he thought I should have it removed. It occurred to me that if I did decide to remove it pre-wedding, I should do so as quickly as possible - to allow the scar more time to fade.

Last week I had about 80% decided that the cyst needed to go. I didn't want that thing on my neck anymore, and the scar would be mostly covered by my hair. M pointed out that the Christmas holiday was a good time to take a couple hours off of work, and I'd have time to heal. I decided to call the dermatologist.

Of course, that was when my tooth fell out. Okay, not my tooth - I'm being overly dramatic. However on sunday my tooth was bothering me all day. That night I decided to give it an extra-vigorous flossing, and out popped a filling! Actually, on closer inspection, it was a crown. Fortunately the tooth didn't really hurt, but it did now have a gaping hole in it.

"I guess you need to call your dentist, instead of the dermatologist," said M. Well crap! Here I'd finally decided I wanted the cyst removed, and now I had a dental issue the schedule instead. Thus it was that monday found me visiting my dentist at 3:30pm, to have my crown replaced. Fortunately she was able to replace the crown I'd saved, so I didn't have to get a new one fitted. Unfortunately there was some drilling involved, since there was decay under the crown that had probably caused it to come off. I came home numb and uncomfortable.

However despite all that, despite having already taken some time off work during a really busy schedule, I still wanted the darn cyst off. Tuesday morning I called the dermatologist, and discovered that she had a fluke opening on wednesday at 3:30. Despite reservations, I decided to schedule the appointment.

Work was not pleased that I had to take yet another afternoon off, but they wanted me to look after my health anyway. Wednesday I scurried out of work and headed to the dermatologist. I'd been warned that it would be a 30 minute surgery, and I was nervous. The cyst felt large, and I knew there would be quite a bit of digging to remove it. I was concerned about my one-hour drive home after surgery -- quite minor surgery, but still. I didn't want a scar, but I didn't want that stupid cyst in my neck either. The cyst was right below the hairline, and I didn't want to have any of my hair shaved or trimmed.

My dermatologist was pretty cool. I asked if she had to shave my hair, and she responded, "That would be barbaric." That was a relief! I lay on my belly, and patiently waited as the numbing shots did their work. In the end, it was a lot like having a tooth drilled. Several shots to numb the area (ouchy), then I could feel a lot of tugging and prodding, but no actual pain any longer.

Thirty minutes and a single stitch later, I was cyst free. I was a little shaky but feeling okay to drive, especially after I stopped for a hot cocoa. I came home numb and uncomfortable - much like monday.

Last night M removed the bandage and took a look at it. He pushed, then unexpectedly said "Oops, it's bleeding. Stay still, let me get something." I sat there on the couch, my head tilted down, holding my hair out of the way, hoping I wouldn't bleed onto anything useful. "Do we have any gauze?", he called from the bathroom.

"I think so... look in the closet," I told him. I continued to sit there, uncomfortably holding my hair off my neck. He took awhile, but eventually came back. "Did you find any gauze?"

"Well, sort of. This is absorbent, at any rate."

"Uh-oh, what did you do?"

"You don't want to know." When he was finished cleaning me up and rebandaging me, I looked around. Much to my surprise and amusement, he was holding a newly opened feminine product! Heh... it had done a very tidy job of soaking up the (small amount of) blood my incision had produced.

Today I'm still feeling very sore. I'm exhausted after working all day, but doing better than last night/this morning. The cyst must have been nestled into my neck muscles. She had to scrape it out, so they are grumbling quite a bit. On the plus side, the incision was very small, and I only have a single stitch in my neck. I don't think anyone will see it at all at the wedding unless they look very carefully. I'm so glad I had this done now, instead of waiting until after! No more weird lumps to worry about, when I have more important places to focus my attention.