Diary #24 : Branchial Cyst Part I

So I kind of mentioned a few times now that I was having surgery this week to have a Branchial Cyst removed from my neck. As you can tell with me here writing this I survived with nothing major wrong with me.

I’ve decided to write a blog about it and follow ups with photos and recovery stuff because I couldn’t find much about it online at all and its bloody scary at times thinking about it. There won’t be any photos in this one so if you are squirmish you don’t have to worry.

There seems to be no real reason why people have these Cyst’s, the surgeon on the day of my surgery told me that the theory is that as we had gills once and whilst developing in the womb we have them and they slowly close over a Branchial Cyst is basically where the gill didn’t fully go and it left behind a little sack in the neck that can fill up and become a Branchial Cyst.

Most people who have them, and if you have one you were born with it, show signs of having them as a child or in late teen years or early adulthood. It isn’t so common someone my age would go all their life without knowing they had one.

They obviously live inside your neck where you would imagine gills on a human would be.

I got real bad tonsillitis the other year and then realised something was growing in my neck. Partly because getting a appointment at my GPs is a pain, partly because I worked a lot and partly because I just didn’t give much of a shit to begin with it took me till April of last year, so 4 months after it started to grow, to go to the GP. He instantly recommended me to see a specialist in the hospital and was pretty sure I had cancer. THAT was one of the worst waits in my life having to see the surgeon who poked me in the neck once and was like its a Cyst.

This then led to a whole bunch of tests including a MRI which is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

Let me tell you this it sounds pathetic but I believe that people without Claustrophobia would be a little tense being shoved into this tube. I was sure I was going to be like Winnie the Pooh at Rabbit’s house and would get stuck in there without being able to get back out, they couldn’t properly attach me to the table either because of my anxiety so that then freaked me out that I’d have to have another if the photos didn’t come out well.

The biopsy wasn’t too bad, it was uncomfortable as they are sticking needles into your neck and it does feel like they are about to pierce your throat and choke you to death. They do though drain it so that you no longer have a giant lump in the side of your neck.

I think the worst part of all of this is the waiting. Whilst going to the GP, being referred and then having the MRI and biopsy were all pretty fast it then took nearly 6 months to go back to the hospital to find out what these tests had found out. I’m guessing if it had been more urgent they would have rushed it but it felt like I’d been forgotten.

My cyst was close to a lot of things. Nerves for your jaw, your tongue and arm, the two major arteries up in your neck as well, and I only found this out on the day of my surgery, as the vagus Nerve.

Thing is they tell you all these things and then you are paranoid the whole time. What if they damage this or that? I had a conversation at work with people who asked whether I’d rather lose the use of my shoulder, my jaw or my tongue and I didn’t really know which would be worse. It plays on your mind and even when you realise that nothing bad is going to happen you still find yourself panicking anyway.

Again then it was the wait.

I think I saw my surgeon last in November before getting a pile of letters in March with my operation date, my last appointment with the surgeon as well as my pre-op. Obviously I got the letters in March and my operation was April 19th so for a lot of waiting around when the actual appointment came through it felt like you had no time left to do anything.

You just panic worrying that the worst will always happen. The constant visits to the hospital aren’t helpful as a hospital is one of the most depressing places you could possibly go, Derriford Hospital on the outside looks like a prison and on the inside looks like the Minotaur’s labyrinth, it is not somewhere you want to be navigating around when you are terrified. Specially as some of the places I had to go you’d end up on a floor and look around and think you were in a maintenance hallway, there is no signage and it turns out the elevator you just took doesn’t actually go to a part of the hospital connected to the ward you are looking for.

Can’t fault the people I came face to face with though, all the nurses and receptionist on Erme Ward, Freedom Unit, ENT as well as I think it was Lyhner Ward where I spent the night were amazing, friendly and helpful. It just isn’t a very nice place to be and from the outside… Boy does it look like you are marching to your death.

By far the worst part was sitting in Freedom Unit waiting for the operation. I had to be there at 12pm but my operation wasn’t until 2:30pm, you just sit in a waiting room being taken into side rooms every now and again to meet the people that are about to cut you up. Every single one of them was lovely but its so nerve wrecking, it got to the point when my sister could no longer follow me and keep me company and I just felt like crying. You hear so many shocking stories that just come running back into your head at this point that you can’t even remember if you ever verified them as true or not, every single “this could go wrong” conversation you’ve had with anyone during the process comes back in your head. The fact the Cyst has to be sent away to 100% confirm nothing nasty was attached to it meant I was panicking they’d open me up and find tumours all up and down my neck so I would wake up to a death sentence anyway.

In the end you get knocked out with gas and feel like you wake up instantly in recovery.

I felt no pain and spent the night on Lyhner ward just chillaxing.

I’ve been home for little under a day and other then the fact my neck isn’t very strong at the moment and I get tired pretty easy, not like wanting to sleep just not being able to move very far, I’m pretty much back to normal. Can’t move my neck too much and bending is a pain, getting up after long periods of lying down just doesn’t work, my arm doesn’t really want to support any weight at the moment. I had a shower before writing this and even though my scar isn’t covered it didn’t hurt or anything.

That’s another thing they like to staple the wound shut instead of stitch it together, apparently it helps it heal better but you won’t see the healing for at least a year.

I’ll have a more in depth and pictured up blog at a later date but that is pretty much my story as best as I can tell it right now.

The whole experience has been pretty traumatic for someone with as many mental problems as I have to be honest. In the week leading up to my operation I did so many stupid things that I can’t take back and that have ruined relationships with people I care about deeply. You all saw what I did, I wrote about it in the last of these blogs, I messed up big time and I don’t think I can ever take back what I did. I don’t even know where to start making things right.

As I sit in my sisters living room writing this I realise it was a big fuss over nothing. Whilst I have got problems that I’m going to have to deal with it was never as bad as I thought it would be and I’ve made me own personal life more difficult because of the fear of what was coming more then anything else.

So other then to tell a badly told story I guess the moral of all this is when you fear something so badly don’t act irrationally. Acting irrationally before a big operation will leave you with problems you don’t know how to solve afterwards and the knowledge that you were a absolute tool for making those poor decisions.


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