Two weeks ago I had surgery.
It required general anaesthetic and was bloody painful - much more so than I anticipated. Even with pain relief, for about a week I could barely walk. Sitting was a nightmare.
If I'd had a broken leg or my wisdom teeth removed, I would have had no problem being open and honest with my colleagues and the public about why I was out of action.
But I didn't feel comfortable. Why?
Because the surgery was vaginal surgery.
Essentially I had a very large cyst in one of my Bartholin glands. (It affects two per cent of women.) I'd had it for months and it was affecting my life. The surgery required a technique called marsupialisation (slicing the cyst open and then stitching the edges of the cyst to skin).
I had to tell people something, but I was deliberately vague. The general line I gave was that I was having surgery on my "upper upper thigh"...
Me being coy might come as a surprise based on some other topics I've been open about. But it felt a little bit different to talk about something that was happening to me right there and then rather than something I'd dealt with in the past.
Since the surgery I've started to be more open about it. But I've also been giving a lot of thought as to why I was so shy and secretive about it all. I think the answer is that I subscribed to a bit of stigma around it. That this "women's issue" was too private. And it being "invisible" made it easy to be vague about or downplay.
But not being totally upfront about it made it very hard for people to understand exactly why I was in so much pain for so long.
It's a bit late, but I figure it's time to be open about it. So here you have it.
This isn't a pity post. I'm doing heaps better and the pain is largely gone.
But it's been a stark reminder for me that there's still a long way to go in being open about health issues, particularly when they are "invisible". Often those "invisible" health issues are related to women's health or mental health.
It's been a reminder every day there are countless people who are in ongoing pain or recovery - physical and mental - but you'd never know.
I don't expect everyone to speak up about what's going on for them.
But I hope that in being honest about my experience, it might encourage more open conversations about health matters.
Because health matters.
PS. I am happy to answer any questions.
PPS. Thank you to Dr Alex at the Canberra Sexual Health Centre for diagnosing me and for referring me to a specialist.
PPPS. All my talk about pain might give the impression that I didn't have a great surgeon or wasn't warned about what it would entail. I definitely had a great surgeon. She stressed it would be painful. I just chose to hear 'but you will have pain relief' 😅