It started with a cat.
I bet you weren't expecting that, were you? But as far as we can figure, looking back and piecing together events to injuries: a big, mean cat named Whiskers may have started the whole series of events in motion, simply by being a cat. And living in the wrong home.
Whiskers wasn't a bad cat. And he probably wasn't mean at all, because cats don't know concepts like "mean", " bad" or "fair". Cats know things like "food", "sex" and "territory". And other cats. And Whiskers was a big cat, white with black and gray patches; an un-neutered male cooped up in a little apartment halfway up a high-rise building in a very, very bad part of town. In that apartment also lived my aunt and her four small kids. Sometimes her husband showed up too, but is was mostly her and the four kids. And very often: me. Me in my teenaged & alienated-hating-everyone years used to visit her quite often, and she was good enough to house my sullen and disagreeable self in her already cramped place.
Whiskers wasn't built to be an apartment cat. He was big, restless and very smart. He would have been ideal in a farm or somewhere where he could roam free and kill small things (and bigger things!). Although I imagine the farmer would have been be quite confused at his ability to use the toilet (but maybe Whiskers would have forgotten that skill on a farm). Whiskers would have thrived in the countryside. Instead, he was stuck in the wrong place; a great hunter with no grounds and no prey; surrounded by squealing children with grabby hands. He seemed to spend his waking house oscillating between boredom and torment.
Things continued in this vein for some time until I befriended the girl in the apartment next door to my aunt's. Not that Whiskers had any problem with Jenny at all. He had a problem with Jenny's un-neutered (and considerably smaller) male Tom cat named Tiger. Whiskers and Tiger had lived in relative ignorance of each other's existance until I started spending a lot of time in Jenny's place. I guess Whiskers got a whiff of Tiger from me, and decided it was War.
He started trying to sneak into Jenny's apartment at any opportunity he could get. Unfortunately, teenage girls are not great at following directions like "close the door"; and as we were in and out of each others' flats very frequently, opportunities presented themselves relatively often. Whiskers outweighed little Tiger by about 40%, so no-one -including Tiger- had any doubt how a match-up between them would end. Whenever Whiskers managed to get into Jenny's apartment I had to get him out as quickly as possible, because Jenny and her mother both turned into blubbering masses of panic whenever they found him stalking down the hallway of their apartment.
So Whiskers didn't like me very much. Especially when I tried to deter hm from his Tigerhunting missions. Once he wrapped whimself around my entire head, sinking in twenty claws and several teeth. Amazingly, he missed my face, but I was picking blood out of my hair for ages afterwards. And the One Time... The time that we finally learned to close the door: Whiskers opened his big mouth as wide as it would go and clamped down hard on my left hand. And wouldn't let go. I had at least 5 puncture wounds on my hand, front and back, including one right below my thumb, just before hand meets wrist.
My hand swelled up like one of those surgical gloves when you blow it up. I had to explain many times in the ER: "No. It wasn't a dog, it was a cat. ...Yes I know that looks too big to be a cat bite, but it was definitely a cat. I was right there and I know the difference. ...I know the cat! His name is Whiskers..." That usually convinced them because no-one in their right mind would name a dog "Whiskers". Not that it suited the cat, either, but nevermindaboutthatnow. There were young children involved in his naming, and he had been much cuter as a foofy little kitten....
I was given several shots and the wound was cared for on an outpatient basis and my hand seemed to heal quite well. I still had several small scars (and still do) but there seemed to have been no real damage done (luckily) and I more or less forgot about the incident, which happened sometime in the early 80s; -in case you are curious about the timeline here.
Sometime in the late 80's I started noticing that my left hand hurt when I moved it a certain way, particularly if I extended it and put any load on it, like pushing open a door, or leaning on my hands on a table. I also noticed that if I flexed my wrist forward, this odd bump would appear, right in the place that hurt while doing those tasks I just mentioned. I didn't think much of it. I just started using my right hand to push open doors.
By the early 90s it was bothering me most all the time, so I asked my then doctor (#1!) about it. Oh he said, that's a ganglion cyst. they are harmless. Smash it with a book and it will go away".
So I read up a bit about it, and sure enough the old-time remedy for a ganglion cyst was to hit it with the family bible or other heavy book. We chose the New Doubleday Cookbook as the heaviest book in the house at that time. I held my wrist extended over the kitchen counter, cyst bobbled out as much as it would go, while Himself thwacked my wrist with the book.
He didn't hit hard enough the first time. The second time, the cyst seemed to break, although, with the additional trauma from being thumped twice with the book, there was no relief to be had at all. In fact, my wrist it hurt like a bastard for days afterwards.
After the bruising faded, It did seemed to get a bit better for awhile.
Except it came back a few years later. We were now in the mid-90s and I had changed doctors. My new doctor (#2, who is still my primary doctor) emphatically did not recommend a repeat episode of the book-smashing exercise. He suggested I see a surgeon. Then I got pregnant with Joe and everything was put on hold for awhile.
When Joe was about six months old I almost dropped him. I realized (too late) that my cysty wrist had weakened to the point where it couldn't support its share of a 20lb baby. Luckily I was standing near the couch at the time, so Joe fell down onto the seat cushion in a semi-controlled manner. It dawned on me then that this wrist situation was getting no better and Joe was certainly not getting any lighter. So I decided to have a surgical evaluation. It was late 1998.
I can't remember how the subject arose with my ob-gyn, but as he had recommended a good pediatrician, I guess I asked him to recommend a good surgeon. He suggested a prominent hand surgeon, one who had operated on his own hand (not sure what for), and I went along to be evaluated.
They did a series of evaluation in the hand surgeon's office, which I have not seen before or since (and I have seen a different hand surgeon since) They tested my range of motion relative to my other hand, and my grip strength among other things. They recommended surgery.
The surgery was done on an outpatient basis in the hospital and went very well. The surgeon explained that my cyst had been like an iceberg. Only a tiny portion was visible when I extended my wrist. The rest of it was many lobed and had insinuated itself throughout the bones of my wrist, slowly forcing them apart. He said that had I done nothing, I would have eventually lost use of that hand.
He said that I also had a torn ligament in that wrist, and he thought the ligament had been the source of the problem. I asked him how I could have torn a ligament in my wrist? He shrugged. I asked him to point to the place where the ligament was torn. He pointed. It was right where one of Whisker's teeth had penetrated all those years earlier. There was (is) still a little scar there.
I asked if he thought a cat bite many years earlier could have been the problem? He shrugged again. "It could have been. These things can grow very slowly. Although hitting it with that book certainly didn't help matters. I think that made it spread more."
It took awhile for my hand to recover after the surgery. I had quite a lot of pain and I lost a lot of range of motion. I was recommended a very excellent hand physical therapist, who helped to recover post-surgery. It has now been 11 years since the cyst was removed and I have never had a lick of trouble with it since.
Of course, now I just said that and something will happen...
I told this story because I get a lot of hits from people looking for non-surgical solutions for ganglion cysts. I get a lot of hits for known scam ganglion "treatments". I hope some of the people who are looking for these treatments will find this story and know two things:
- Most of the "treatment" products out there are scams. See below for a list of the ganglion cyst scams that I have previously outed here on OSM.
- Surgery works. I know it isn't an option for everyone, but I do urge anyone with a painful ganglion cyst not to listen to quacks that say there is no treatment or to hit it with a book (don't!). Instead, seek evaulation by a good surgeon. There are more treatment options than ever available these days. The only regret I have surrounding my surgery is that I didn't have it sooner. I walked around with a painful problem for almost ten years until it became virtually untenable.
is the list of scam products I have found for "Ganglion", The
product name is linked back to their site. If you click on the company
name, you will be linked back to my article on the particular company
selling that product and why it is bad. Please be aware that most of these companies advertise directly on WebMD and other legitimate medical sites.
This does not make their products legitimate. Contrary to what WebMD
would like you to believe, they do not verify all of their advertisers,
due to a loophole in their advertising policy.
Anglitin by Berlin Homeo Products
Please don't buy any of the above products. They are all scams. None of them are based in the country they claim to be based. All of the addresses are mail forwarding services. If you receive any pills, they will arrive from Pakistan. I have received tons of feedback from readers who tell me this is so.
The other type of scam site is more sneaky. These are the so-called "philanthropic" sites, the ones which want to "help" you find the "correct" cure for your "problem". These sites will list between two or four herbal treatments (all of which you will find listed above) in varying order, and will make an "independent recommendation" of which one they think is best. Of course, the catch is that the "independent" evaluator actually owns all of the bogus cures in the first place, so they don't care which one you choose, as long as you choose one. They get the money regardless.
(And they think we are the ones who are sick?)
Here is a list of the scam evaluators, along with the link to my background info on them.
ganglion-options.com run by The Society for the Promotion of Alternative Health (SPAH)
If you have a ganglion cyst and are looking for a real solution: I politely suggest that you get off the Internet, pick up the phone and call your doctor.