Almost two years ago I had a mild ear ache for a few days in my left ear. Nothing big, just annoying. Then in the course of only a few days I developed a small lump on my face, directly in front my ear. I did not hurt to touch, it was firm and could be slightly moved when I tried . Also it was not noticeable to others unless I pointed it out. I went to the doctor and they thought it could just be some kind of gland infection and gave me antibiotics. This of course did nothing. Then they wanted to get an MRI. The problem here was that I have terrible insurance, being self-employed. So being that it did not bother me I just left it alone.
I did however try using heat bags to see if the lump would go down and I also tried ice bags to no avail.
Long story short, it was a parotid tumor.
The Rest of the Story:
After I quit being stupid and realize that every time you hear a cancer story, you hear “if they had only caught it sooner”. So after having this lump in my face for over a year I went to the doctor and just figured I would pay the medical bills somehow and someway. After all I am a father and a husband; it is more important to be alive and broke. Sure enough the cat / MRI scan showed I had a parotid tumor. They then proceeded to draw out fluid from the lump to see if it was cancerous, it was not. Of course that does not mean that it would not become cancerous and therefore had to be removed.
This is not really a fun option being that the tumor is connected to the nerves in your face and if anything goes wrong you could end up looking like a stroke victim on your face. Along with the idea that you could lose not only control but sensation in your face.
I had a very talented doctor here in Salt Lake City that does about 1 of these surgeries a month, his name is Dr. Sharma.
His primary interest is head and neck oncology. Dr. Sharma has special interest in the surgical management of head and neck tumors, including cranial base tumors, thyroid/parathyroid tumors, and head and neck melanoma. He also specializes in reconstructive surgery, including microvascular free tissue transfer and facial reconstruction.
The fact that there might be a dent in your face after removing the tumor, I was glad to see that he specialized in facial reconstruction.
I spent about 3 days in the hospital. Went home and felt like hell. The reason for this was three-fold.
- The pain killers I was on, Lortab, worked great in the hospital. However slowly over the first few days I had a harder and harder time urinating and of course I did not really start to feel the effect until after leaving the hospital. So the answer to that was: “Stop taking the the Lortab!”. But realize that you will have to wait for it to leave your system (about 24 hours) and slowly… slowwwwllly you will get your ability to urinate back. Thank god that I figured this out before I needed to get a catheter.
- Not only did I have the tumor removed, but my surgeon also did a muscle flap procedure from neck to help fill in the dent now in my face. I am glad I did it because I look normal in the end, however this seemed to prolong my recovery. There were times that my face was so swollen and well, just a damn strange feeling. I mean I wanted to literally pry that muscle back into place, I swear at the time it would have felt better. In time I felt normal (a few months).
- The side of my face was swollen for about a month. After I gained some feeling back in my face, I realized that the swelling was really fluid. It felt gushy is I pushed on it and it also made my neck swollen on the same side because the fluid with pooling there. After about 3 weeks I went the the doc and they drained it out with a needle, it was a yellow-ish fluid, but instantly I felt somewhat normal again. Went home happy that morning, but by evening it was all back again. After about 3 drainings in 3 days with the same result we gave up. In about a week or two the fluid was reabsorbed by my body and I more and more my face started to look normal.
Six months later my scar looks pretty good and I have most of the feeling back in my face. I still have a strange and uncomfortable tingling sensation in my neck and along my lower ear, but my guess is that is just the feeling coming back.