Hey all! Rosie here, writing from back home in bed, propped up with loads of cushions and dosed up on paracetamol!
I wanted to write a blog about my experience with the hospital, my surgery and my lump - I was quite embarrassed when I found it due to the personal nature of the area I had it, but having loved and lost someone to cancer around this time four years ago, I know that any lumps are worth seeking answers about pronto!
So - onto the lump. I’m going to be sharing some quite personal pictures which I don’t really feel comfortable putting on social media, so hoping anyone that’s clicked through to this link will be kind about them! I’d like to help anyone else who gets one of these badboys in the future feel a little more armoured and ready should they find one. Personally, I’ve never had anything like this before, so I was very worried at first.
I found the lump towards the end of April while having a shower. It was somewhere between my bum and my lady bits - and it seemed a bit odd. At first, I wondered if it was some kind of Transformer Mega Hemorrhoid, as it felt about the size of a conker. I made my boyfriend feel it (as you do) and since it didn’t hurt me at all, I thought it might resolve on it’s own after a day or two.
Spoiler: It didn’t!
Here in Exhibit A, you can see visual imagery of my now non-existent internet dignity :-) What a sight. But as you can see, the lump was pretty prominent. It was tender to touch, but didn’t cause me any pain sitting, standing, and I didn’t feel unwell within myself.
I took this picture the day I called the doctors, 3/4 days after I found the lump. With everything going on with Corona, I was dreading having to facetime my privates to someone, but they said a picture was fine, and I managed to take one which didn’t make me feel too exposed. Not that they made me feel in anyway uncomfortable, had I needed to, I should add :-)
The doctor had a look and called me back. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a personal email address, so I did have to send this beauty of a photo to the entire GP surgery, but I’m sure no one blinked an eyelid at it.
My Dr told me it looked like a perianal abscess, and that he was going to prescribe me a week of Flucloxacillin antibiotics, in hope that it would respond and clear up. I went to the pharmacy for a socially distant collection, and made sure to wipe the packaging etc down when I got home. I could not wait to take them. I had to take 4 per day, on an empty stomach, which made me feel unkeen on eating, so I felt weak and hungry a lot throughout the first week. Before I started the antibiotics, I’d say the lump felt somewhere between a conker and an egg. The abscess seemed to get smaller each day, until it got down to around the size of “a big grape” at the end of the week.
Here it is at it’s smallest! I felt really relieved at the end of week one, and called my Dr back on the Monday morning, explaining that the lump seemed smaller and wasn’t giving me any trouble. He prescribed another week of Fluclox, which by the way, smells like cat wee. REALLY STRONGLY.
The lump didn’t change much in size the first few days, still a grape. A couple of days before my antibiotics ran out though, it started to swell. I felt awful, really exhausted and poorly. I spent a lot of the day in bed. The next morning, it felt the size of a tennis ball, and being the weekend I wasn’t sure they Drs would be open, so I called up. Instead of sending me straight to surgery (another Dr has since said that this should have really happened straight away if it weren’t for COVID), I was prescribed some new antibiotics - Metrodiazole. AKA The Hard Stuff. These didn’t smell of cat wee, and I again hoped the thing would go away after the swelling seemed to go down a lot overnight.
^ My cat wee pills and The Hard Stuff.
At this point I started googling other people’s perianal abscess stories, and almost immediately succeeded in freaking myself out. Surgery seemed like the only course of action unless the abscess was small, so my tennis ball-egg-conker-grape shaped thing suddenly made me take it a lot more seriously. Towards the end of my 3rd week of antibiotics (two days ago), I felt seriously exhausted again and called my GP. I spoke to a lady Dr this time, who told me I needed urgent surgery and that she’d get me booked into the hospital ASAP. With everything going on with COVID, I thought that might mean waiting another week, but no - within 30mins she called back and said to go down to the hospital NOW.
I hurriedly packed a bag (this is my Tog LDN fancy camera bag - turns out, it also works brilliantly for hospital emergencies) as I wasn’t sure whether I’d be in over night. I started to get freaked out about being in a hospital whilst COVID was going on. I’ve been severely anxious about it since it started to spread in China in Jan - my Dad has Microscopic Polyangitis, which is something COVID would just feast on, so I’d been extra careful about using hand gel between touching surfaces for many months.
I masked up, walked up to the hospital and promptly got lost and couldn’t find the entrance for 30mins. I eventually found the right place, and was amazed when I was shown to a waiting room all by myself. The staff could see I was nervous and I noticed that 99% of them were social distancing with/for me, which helped me feel better. I washed my hands right away in the waiting room, and waited.
Within 15mins I had a surgeon come and assess me. He agreed that it looked like a perianal abscess which was a relief (in my head, since this was the first time anyone else had seen it, I was thinking it might have been all sorts of sinister stuff). Since I had last eaten a few hours before, my options were to stay in overnight and have surgery at some point that evening, or come back at 7.30am the next day. I chose the latter, I think it freaked me out being in there for too long.
What followed was a night of no sleep, tossing and turning, hoping the damn thing would just go away overnight. I got so worked up about the unknown - was I gonna die from the anaesthesia? Would I go in with my legs all propped up like childbirth? Would they find a fistula (something which causes the abscess to return), would they miss a fistula if there was one? Would they accidentally make a fistula with the op? So I did more googling, BAD ROSIE. Turns out they actually leave you with an open or “packed” wound, which essentially meant a hole in my bottom stuffed with (what looks like) cotton wool. Delightful. So then I began worrying about that being generally nightmarish. Then my period decided to start, and I had no idea what the hell to do, and wondered if they would cancel the surgery, as surely that’s pretty gross for the surgeon. Turns out, that’s ridiculous, and Surgeons are super cool people who DGAF. They just want to help you feel better.
And just when I thought things couldn’t get much worse, they did. I had to have a COVID swab before anything happened, which meant a swab at the back of my throat (grim) and a swap RIGHT UP MY NOSE to what felt like the back of my skull (super super grim). It look me a few minutes to gear myself up for it. I told Fraser, my nurse, that I was gonna do it for him, and I REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO. He laughed and was an all around 10/10 guy.
Once that was over and done with, I was called almost straight away to surgery. Fraser was equally surprised it was happening so fast too, and chucked me a gown, a thing to wee in and told me wee in it pronto. Fraser and I had become pretty close at this point, so I harnessed my emergency urination powers and he confirmed in minutes that I wasn’t pregnant - great! I mean, I could tell that from all the period, but great!
Then, I was wheeled through to the theatre by a lovely guy called Michael, and Fraser came along for the ride because clearly I’m just so fun to be around, and also I was crying my eyes out and shaking quite hard.
The surgeons came and say hello in their Chernobyl Reactor masks, and told me I’d have a tube put down my throat (another unexpected bonus) and that they’d be putting me to sleep in a few minutes. My legs were shaking badly, but I tried to concentrate on the nice view outside the window, the fact that the female surgeon had kind eyes, and that this anaesthesia was starting to feel pretty good…..
Aaand then I woke up! The first words out of my mouth: “I feel like I’m writing a facebook status!” Followed by: “Can I get a shot of tequila?!”
The nurses were so great, they were playing some cool tunes when I woke up, so I assume I thought I was drunk in a bar or something! Either way, it was a great time, we had a bit of a party dance and they told me everything had gone fine, there was no fistula found, I’d been out for 45mins, and how did I feel?
I felt frigging awesome. I have absolutely no idea what position they’d put me in to operate on, I had a slight sore throat from the tube, and I was told I’d be discharged following good blood pressure readings over the next couple hours.
In total, I was in the hospital for 5hrs. I felt so safe, so cared for, it was like I’d finally got to hang out with my pals after 2 months of lockdown. There was only one other girl in my ward, we chatted the whole time and swapped fun stories. The nurses let me keep me “gown” for a photo, too :-)
So there we have it - my lovely lumpy story. I’m currently at home, with Jim, in bed and wondering how horrendous it will be to have my incision re-packed tomorrow by my GP. BUT, that said, I now have the courage to know I can do it!
I hope my story raises a little awareness about perianal abscesses, I hope if you ever find one, that you don’t feel embarrassed, and feel more relaxed about what to expect than I did. Even in a pandemic!
And also - I think I received about 800 messages from people - thank you to every single person who sent me something! A story, a loveheart, a virtual hug - it made such a massive difference to my mindset at the scary points, and I am ever so grateful to have such a loving community around me. Including these guys - all the way over in Germany!!! Thank you so much to Kim for sending this picture!! *more weeping*
Over and out -
One Lumpless Rosie