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Adventures in Medicine
by Jenny Wray

Remember those sickly kids from elementary school? You know, the ones who always had cotton balls protruding from their ears and patches over their glasses?

Well, I was never one of those kids. But through the years I’ve managed to rack up an impressive number of random medical problems. I’ve had my tongue clipped, a blood clot sucked from my septum and a mole removed from my nether regions. I’ve had ringworm, a broken nose, a broken arm, and three black eyes. I’ve had mono, lice, and a lazy eye. But of all my maladies, the one that struck me my sophomore year of high school was the most impressive.

At my school everyone, with the exception of the freshmen, was required to have some sort of internship. Mine was a bit of a cop-out: building sets in my high school’s theatre along with other slackers too lazy to look for something better. As the only girl around, I bore the brunt of the abuse. One day, my abuse consisted of getting kicked in the ass over and over and over. I tried to give it out as good as I got it, but the crew kicked my ass in every sense of the word. By the end of the day, my backside was tender to the touch.

And it got worse.

A few days passed, and the pain grew so intense I could hardly walk. I moved around like an old lady, hobbling from class to class, my knees bent and splayed out to either side. Trying to sleep at night was hard, too. Sleeping on my back was out of the question, and sleeping on my side was almost as bad. Nights became long sessions of tossing and turning as I tried to make myself comfortable. I became convinced that my tailbone was broken, so I made a doctor’s appointment. My doctor looked at the purple lump that had blossomed from my butt crack like some sort of misshapen, misguided tulip and diagnosed me with a cyst.

I was apparently born with some sort of hollow space above my crack and below my skin. When subjected to prolonged trauma (like getting repeatedly hit in the bootie), it became infected. The solution, said my doctor, was long baths, as hot as I could take ’em, until the cyst, to use a fancy medical term, exploded. Then, I’d go back to the doctor to get the dang thing drained.

So I took baths so hot that they left my skin looking like I was wearing a pair of transparent red pants. I waited and waited for my ass to explode, but my cyst stayed stubbornly solid. And then, during my internship, it happened. I first thought that someone around me had farted. It seemed like some sort of lingering, sulfuric cloud was surrounding me. But I realized, as the back of my underwear got wet, she who’d smelt it had dealt it.

Crying, I called my dad, who gave me a Valium as we drove to the doctor. The procedure itself was pretty simple. As I held my dad’s hand, the doctor cut into my skin, tender from the infection. The pus was drained into a pan, and the doctor stuffed a thin strip of cotton in the now-empty cyst to keep it from becoming reinfected.

But the cotton couldn’t stay in there forever. I would, my doctor told me, have to pull out 1/2" of it every day as the incision healed. (A brief note–a friend once had a cyst like mine his freshman year of college. But unlike me, he couldn’t remove the cotton by himself, so he enlisted his roommate. I think that’s the sign of true friendship–being willing to pull something from someone’s ass not once, but day after day.) I looked like some sort of demented bunny with my new white tail. I would stand naked in front of my bathroom’s full-length mirror, marveling at the sight of my short little tail. I kind of liked it, actually. It gave my butt character, setting it apart from my classmates with their run-of-the-mill asses.

Eventually, though, the cyst healed. I pulled out the rest of the cotton, a small scar formed and the purple mark faded. My "butt fungus," as my classmates lovingly called it, was gone. Now all that remained was s a small scar where cotton once protruded.

Sometimes I miss the tail, actually. It made me feel unique, but it’s for the best not to have one–I don’t have the insurance coverage to deal with so much as a paper cut. Still, who knows what the future may bring. Someday, as my dad pointed out, I could get the cyst again.

Keep hope alive.

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