For about two years, I had a parotid tumor directly under my left ear and behind my jaw. It was small enough so that it wasn’t noticeable unless you were really looking for it, but it was slowly growing and had a chance of becoming malignant.
When I first noticed the lump, I thought it was a lymph node that had swollen. I tried lymph massage and detox baths, but it wasn’t going down a bit. My ENT doctor did a biopsy on it and extracted some fluid (which was horribly painful) in order to known what it was, but she said that she thought it was a parotid tumor because of where it was located. I didn’t really believe it was. I didn’t want to even think about it being something more serious. She called a few days later with the results and had mom and I come in right away, but she wouldn’t say why over the phone. In her office, she told us that the lump was indeed a parotid tumor and would need surgical removal but it wasn’t malignant. I started to panic.
She began to tell us about the process and how large the incision would be and that it was a pretty intense surgery because she would be working right next to a main facial nerve and paralysis- permanent or temporary- was a possibility, though not probable. She had never had anyone become permanently paralyzed but she told us that the nerve was very finicky and if they touched it one too many times or it didn’t like the air on it, it could just shut down for a while. That meant the left side of my face would look very odd. I started to cry. As if I didn’t have enough health issues to deal with, now I had a tumor that had to be removed by process of a very scary and possibly life-changing surgery? Mom and I both cried a few tears and my doctor was just awesome through it all. She was very sweet and supportive and made me feel like everything would be okay somehow. She told us that it didn’t need removed right away, I just needed to come in so she could measure it every six months to make sure it’s not growing really fast. And it didn’t. Benign parotid tumors are slow-growing but they have a small chance of turning malignant and the longer you leave it, the higher the chance. I never had another biopsy on it. My doctor just measured it via an ultrasound every six months and told me how much it had grown. It started out the size of a dime and a half. And each time I had it measured, it had grown a tiny bit.
I didn’t even want to think about surgery. But I knew it was there. In my future. Waiting for me. And anytime I felt like I was right at the brink of despair, ready to just curl up and cry, exhausted from dealing with serious and debilitating health issues, all I had to do was remember that tumor to feel completely hopeless. For those two years it acted as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
I was fighting chronic Lyme, taking high-dose antibiotics through a PICC line, and struggling to survive. Surgery was the last thing I needed or wanted.