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Sometimes Life Hands you Lemons... or Limes

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

When I started this Blog last year, I intended for it to be a place where I could share good things - however small those might be. Most of my "good things" involve food because, let's be honest, food is good. Plus it's what I'm best at. But the truth is that life itself isn't always good. Sometimes life hands you lemons - or in my case limes - and you just have to do your best to turn them into lemonade - or in my case margaritas.

One thing I don't write about much is my family's personal life. That's mostly because, well, it's no one else's business (in other words, it's personal), but also because I don't really like being the center of attention. I prefer to do my own thing and do it relatively quietly. But I've decided that there is value to sharing my lime story. Value for me in that it's kind of therapeutic and perhaps value for others if they find something comforting or funny or helpful in my experience. So, here goes... I'm about to step WAY outside my comfort zone here.

It was some time last Summer when I noticed a lump on my neck just below my left ear as I was putting on a mask to leave my house one day. (Can I get an amen for masks, by the way?!) It kind of felt like a swollen lymph node at first, like when you get a cold, so I didn't worry too much about it. But it didn't go away. So I scheduled a phone call with my doctor (because, you know, Covid), who was concerned enough to refer me to an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) specialist. He immediately sent me for an MRI, which confirmed that I had a mass that started just below my ear and extended up toward the bottom of my skull. You can see it below on the right-hand side of the image, just below my ear. (The little dot on the outside is a Vitamin E tablet they taped to my skin to mark where the tumor was.)

After two biopsies (the first one was inconclusive), I finally got the first good news since this whole mess started. My tumor was benign (not cancerous). That said, it was big - the size of a small lime - and growing and, if left alone, had a decent chance of becoming malignant (cancerous). So it was pretty much a no-brainer that the fucker (pardon my language) needed to come out.

My surgery was originally scheduled for the first week in January, but a local surge in Covid cases necessitated the postponement of all elective procedures. My surgery, although necessary, was still considered elective because my tumor was benign and could therefore wait. I was bummed but totally understood. Hospital personnel were being reassigned as necessary to deal with the surge in Covid cases. Besides, a hospital was the last place I wanted to be in the midst of a Covid surge, right? (As an aside, I have nothing but the utmost respect for people on the front lines of the Covid crisis. Everyone from doctors to nurses to admin staff to hospital janitors. Each and every one of them is a hero in my book.)

At the end of January, as the Covid surge subsided, I waited for the call from my surgeon to reschedule my surgery. That call came on January 30, and I was offered a surgery date of February 3, less than a week later. I may have literally jumped with joy.

Being the planner that I am, I spent the next several days preparing. I cleaned the house, did the laundry, and made a ridiculous amount of soup so that my husband wouldn't have to worry about figuring out what to feed us while I was in recovery. I stocked our freezer with over six gallons of soup in eleven different flavors and even made an inventory for him to make things easier. (Some chef instincts never die...) Let's just say it's a good thing we both like soup!

The day of my surgery arrived, and my husband dropped me off outside the hospital as Covid-related restrictions meant he couldn't wait for me there. I had a fantastic surgical team, and my surgery lasted about 4 hours. They got the whole tumor with good margins, which means it shouldn't come back. I'll spend a couple of days with my head wrapped up like a mummy, and I'll have some weakness in the left side of my face for a bit because my tumor was growing under my facial nerve, which meant that the nerve had to be stretched in order to make room to remove the mass. In other words, I've got a cock-eyed smile for a little while, but I'll take it.

So where's the good in all this, you ask? Well, I am tumor-free, of course. But first and foremost, I feel good about trusting my instincts and being my own health advocate. My lump didn't hurt, and it wasn't changing (as far as I could tell from what I could feel), so I easily could have just ignored it. But I knew something was off when it didn't go away, and I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Boy, was I right. So if there is one thing I hope you take away from my story it is this - know your body and trust yourself when something doesn't feel right. No one knows you better than you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I deserve a margarita.

UPDATE: A week after my surgery, I am happy to report that my recovery is moving along nicely. Pathology confirmed that my tumor was, indeed, a benign pleomorphic adenoma and that it is unlikely to recur. My stitches have been removed, my incision is healing nicely, and the movement in the left side of my face is starting to return to normal as my facial nerves recover. In other words, I'm not drooling on myself anymore.

I also convinced my surgeon to take a photo of my tumor for me. Weird, I know, but it's not like I asked him to put the actual thing in a jar for me or anything.

My best friend pointed out that it looks just like a Sea Hare, and OMG she's so right!!!!

Finally, I'd just like to thank all of you for your kind words and well wishes. My sea hare tumor is gone, and I am on my way to a full recovery. I have been extremely lucky throughout this situation - lucky that I found the lump, lucky that the lump turned out to be benign and operable, lucky that I am otherwise healthy, lucky that I have health insurance. But mostly lucky that I have such a wonderful support system to help me through both the physical difficulty and psychological stress of the whole situation. I am one lucky girl.

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