A tale of two cysts

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When our son started sixth grade this year, he signed up to play the viola in the school orchestra, which is like the little brother to the violin. After a few weeks of learning the basics, Adam started wincing every time he plucked a string.

Somehow he’d developed the only “orchestra injury” I’ve ever heard of – a large, red, angry blister on his index finger. I put ice on it and gave him ibuprofen. A few weeks went by and the blister went nowhere. The orchestra teacher said this wasn’t a common occurrence for viola players, so I took Adam to the doctor.

After an X-ray, xray handthe doctor told us the weird bump was no blister. It was a “ganglion cyst.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, I nodded my head because suddenly it made perfect sense. I, too, once had a ganglion cyst on my wrist during my early 20s.

A ganglion cyst is only slightly less disgusting than it sounds. These type of cysts are usually on a joint – like a finger or wrist joint – and they often develop because of repetitive movements that strain the joint, causing some of the joint fluid to leak out into a small pouch-like structure that rises up on the skin like a blister.

All that viola plucking triggered Adam’s cyst. In my case, it was lots of typing as a young reporter that did it to me. I remember going to the doctor when my weird wrist bump first emerged, convinced I’d been bitten by a spider. When he told me it was a cyst, he said they’re sometimes called “Bible thumper cysts.”

The reporter in me had to know why, so he told me the old wives’ tale that says if you hit the cyst with a soft-covered Bible, it’ll rupture the fluid-filled sac beneath the skin and make it go away. He advised me not to try it, though, since smacking things with heavy books is generally not a good treatment option. He said we could consider draining it or removing it surgically – both of which sounded even less appealing than being hit with a heavy Bible.

I left the doctor’s office to consider my options for a few weeks. During that time, I served as a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding back in the town where I’d grown up. After a few champagne toasts at the reception, friends dropped me off at my parents’ house. Mom had already gone to bed but Dad was still up reading in the living room when I came in.

I’d had just enough champagne to say this: “Hey, Dad. I need you to hit this bump on my wrist with your Bible.” “Okay. Put your hand down right here,” he said.

(In hindsight, I should’ve been concerned about how quickly he agreed to hit me with the biggest book he could find.) bible2The first time he raised his well-worn Bible over his head and slammed it down, I jerked my hand away. I hadn’t had enough champagne to make me brave enough to hold still when Genesis through Revelation was hurtling toward my hand.

During the second attempt, Dad suggested I look away which gave him just enough time to land a solid blow to my wrist. It stung but nothing miraculous happened. But then two weeks later, the cyst was gone! Perhaps it was destined to disappear on its own or maybe the Good Book banished it for me. Either way, I was cured.

I told this story to Adam on our way home from his doctor’s appointment, which made him ask, “Are you going to hit my finger with the Bible?” To be honest, I considered it for a minute. But then a headline flashed into my mind: “Local writer arrested for hitting son with Bible.” I didn’t like the sound of it.

“No, it might break your finger, so why don’t you just rub the bump as much as you can, hold off on the viola plucking, and we’ll see if it goes away on its own,” I said. Thankfully, our treatment plan is working. The cyst shrunk considerably and will hopefully disappear altogether soon. And the best news? No fingers or Bibles were damaged in the process.

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