Illustration by Nicholas Gazin
We know you're busy. You probably didn't have time to read every article we published on VICE.com this year. So we've compiled a list of some of our favorites and will be re-featuring them on the homepage through the end of 2014. This one originally published on April 1st.
Most of us have some body part that we're self-conscious about. I was born with a dangling piece of cartilage that looked like a third ear—it was cut off and now resembles a zit. I think it's our insecurities that makes us so fascinated with other people's abnormalities, especially when they open themselves up to the bizarre and diverse circus that is the internet.
One man, TBoneTheOriginal, exposed himself to all kinds of intimate questions and attracted considerable attention after he wrote a post on Reddit last January titled "I have no buttcrack." The post included a picture of the jagged scar where a plastic surgeon sewed his butt cheeks together. The operation was necessary, he told curious readers, because several cysts below his tailbone were so severe that the doctor couldn't just cut them out and let the wounds heal. They had to be sealed shut. The condition, known as pilonidal cysts, is thought to be caused by loose hairs that push into the skin and become infected, causing painful boils.
I contacted TBone, who only wants to be identified as Tim because the internet is full of "weirdos," to find out why he made his condition known on Reddit, what he thinks of Obamacare, and, most importantly, how he poops. We had to communicate via email because Tim said he had bronchitis (can someone please give this poor man some vitamins?), but he did manage to take a picture of his derrière while holding a paper with "VICE" written on it, just to prove he's not talking out of his ass.
VICE: Why did you decide to post your condition on Reddit?
Tim: I decided to post my condition to Reddit on a whim. It was my "cake day" (Reddit birthday), where you traditionally post something out of the ordinary, so I figured why not? I certainly never expected it to blow up the way it did, but I'm glad it happened. I had dozens of people message me and thank me for educating them on a condition that they didn't even know they had until seeing my post. They said they were too embarrassed to get it checked out, and my post convinced them to get it taken care of.
A lot of Reddit users asked you how you poop. Is it very difficult?
Going to the bathroom can be a delicate procedure because the last thing you want is fecal matter getting into the wound. Believe it or not, it was a challenge to switch from wiping from the back to wiping from the front.
Are there any other activities that you have difficulty doing or can no longer perform?
Mostly any activities that require sitting for long periods of time. One of my favorite hobbies was playing drums, which I sadly don't do much anymore. Drumming requires long periods of sitting and bouncing up and down. After doing it for 30 minutes or so, the wound tends to get irritated and flair up. Recently, I went on a seven-day hiking trip through the Paria Canyon in Arizona. It wasn't an easy journey due to having no access to a shower and having to keep the wound clean. I wasn't even able to get in the river with the rest of the guys because if any of the sand got into the wound, I'd have been screwed. Sleeping on a hard ground wasn't easy either.
Has the operation affected your sex life at all?
Other than a couple weeks after surgeries, it hasn't affected my sex life in the least. My wife isn't bothered by it.
How long have you had the pilonidal cysts? When were you first aware of them?
I've had the pilonidal cysts since seventh grade or so, when I first noticed them. They're hereditary, so I wasn't surprised to see them after knowing my mother, aunts, and cousins all had them. But since they flair up temporarily and then go away for a while, I never had them checked out professionally until I was 23 or so.
What did your doctor say when you showed him your cysts?
My doctor was shocked to see my cysts. So much, in fact, that he called someone else into the room and said she needed to see it. I asked him how severe they were, and his response was, "Do you fish? Because if you did, this would be considered wall-mountable." The wound had to be sewn shut instead of being left to heal from the inside out. The reason for this is because my case was so severe that my doctor had to bring in a plastic surgeon to help close the wound. They ended up removing so much that my tailbone was exposed when they were done. He told me that he had done dozens upon dozens of pilonidal-cyst surgeries and mine was by far the worst he had seen.
How far down are your butt cheeks sewn together?
My butt cheeks are pretty much sewn down to right before they curve into my legs. The wound between my legs is still open to this day because it is having a hard time completely healing due to the nature of its location. It is extremely close to my anus, so it's a sensitive area.
You have said that you delayed seeking treatment because you changed insurance plans? Can you talk about that?
Insurance wasn't an issue until after I'd already had three surgeries. The problem was that, after five years, the wound was still open and needed regular maintenance to prevent infection. Part of the maintenance was laser-hair removal to prevent future cysts from forming. So when I changed insurance companies, I was told that the wound was a pre-existing condition and would no longer be covered for a minimum of two years. So the wound hasn't been looked at by a doctor in more than a year, which is why The Doctors TV show provided me with free treatments.
Given what happened with the insurance company, what do you think about Obamacare?
I do not support Obamacare, even with my condition. While it is true that my condition would not be considered pre-existing (and that would have been great), my personal views are that the pros do not outweigh the cons. That said, the end result of my butt cheeks being sewn together wouldn't be any different regardless of the health-care system. My case was simply so bad that the doctors had to remove a lot more "meat" than normal. Therefore, the wound had to be sewn shut instead of allowing it to heal like most pilonidal-cyst operations would be handled.
Is the operation permanent, or could it be reversed?
My plastic surgeon said they could do reconstructive surgery to "give me back my butt crack," but honestly, I don't think I'll ever do it. There's no guarantee that the cysts won't come back one day, and if that happened, we'd be back at square one. On top of that, my wife isn't bothered by it. I'm happy with who I am no matter how ridiculous I look naked.
The cysts are hereditary, and some of your family members had them too. Do you ever talk about it with them?
I don't talk much to my other family members about my condition for sympathy because none of them have had the condition as badly as I did. My wife has been my shoulder to cry on as she has seen me at my worst, so she knows exactly the pain that I've been through. Honestly, I don't know how I would have gotten through the mess without her. I certainly didn't want someone like my mother to maintain the wound at home. That's some territory I just didn't want to cross into with anyone but my wife.