Archive | October, 2015

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

28 Oct

my why

July of 2007- A few months prior I felt a small lump on the side of my neck. I didn’t think much of it, but my dad encouraged (read MADE) me go get it checked out. He found me the best head and neck doctor in the state (some would argue the country). After biopsy and MRI it was determined that I had Pleomoprphic Adenoma, a benign tumor that had invaded my parotid gland, salivary gland, lymph node and facial nerve. Surgery was scheduled for June and I was ready to get this tumor removed.

Well, it didn’t quite go according to plan (what ever does?). In my pre op appointment they did some routine blood work and SURPRISE! It turns out I was pregnant with my son, Nikkos. What a way to find out you are pregnant. This of course caused my surgery to be delayed.

September of 2008- Surgery was rescheduled as this tumor kept fiercely growing inside of me. This time I was NOT pregnant and surgery went as scheduled. What was supposed to be a 1 1/2 hour surgery turned into a 4 hour surgery. The tumor was far more complex than MRI showed. Recovery wasn’t terrible. A week or so later I was mostly back to normal and a few months later I had a faint scar that went into my hairline. I had minor nerve damage to my ear, but who needs to feel their ear.

Years passed and I thought I was in the clear. I was done with this stupid diagnosis.

Wrong.

July of 2015- As I was surfing Pinterest (literally) I felt a few very small bumps on the side of my neck. I brushed them off as being maybe the start of pimples or something. But they didn’t go away and they didn’t turn into pimples. My husband and grandma encouraged me to make an appointment with my neck doctor to just get things checked out and to (ideally) rule out a recurrence of my Pleomorphic Adenoma. I scheduled my appointment and the next one they had was 2 months out.

September of 2015- I finally had my appointment. It felt strange to be back at that same doctors office years later. The doctor remembered me. I remembered him well. After about thirty seconds he confirmed my worst fears. It was back. Recurrence of this particular tumor growth is troubling as it generally means the new growth is cancerous.

I hated giving this news to my family. I hated the unknown. Many tests were scheduled. I went to Missouri to visit my brother and his wife the weekend I would find out if this tumor was or wasn’t likely to be Cancer. When the doctor called and said it likely wasn’t cancer I was both relieved and still very worried. The only way to truly know was to biopsy the tissue and glands during surgery.

October 16th 2015- Surgery day. Tom and I got to the hospital at 5am. Neither of us got any sleep. I was oddly calm. I think the nurses enjoyed joking with us. My mom and Tom were there for the surgery. I don’t remember saying anything terribly stupid under the influence of anesthesia, but apparently I kept the nurses entertained. My two hour surgery turned into a four hour surgery which turned into six. This tumor was far worse than the last one. I remember waking up after surgery nauseous and drenched in sweat. They gave me every anti nausea medicine they could. I remember laying in the post op recovery room and seeing the clock. It was 2pm. I was coherent enough to know I should have been in my hospital room hours ago. I knew that was not a good sign.

They finally rolled me to my room. I was very disoriented. I felt really, really carsick. When I got to my room my mom, husband and step mom were all waiting for me. They all stood at my bedside probably not really knowing what to do. I burst into tears and said I wanted my dad to be there (he recently moved to Oregon). That is when I realized my face didn’t feel quite right. I was slurring my words. A mixture of morphine and… my facial nerves were very badly damaged. The left side of my face would not move at all.

Over the next few hours the nausea subsided, but I still didn’t want to eat. I finally settled on a chocolate shake and some mashed potatoes. The next 24 hours in the hospital were as good as can be expected. I was in pain, the nausea came in waves and I was really tired. The staff at the hospital was top notch which really helped my recovery.

Tom went home the night of the 16th and my mom stayed with me. Tom brought the kids by to see me the 17th. We all had lunch together (another chocolate shake for me). Nikkos took things in stride and Ariahna was definitely scared. My mom took the kids and Tom stayed with me. I was released that afternoon.

The next week was kind of a blur for me. I felt like I got hit across the head with a baseball bat. My grandma came out to help us with the kids. It was a huge help. Over that week I slowly felt more like a human and with each day I gained strength.

Then we went to my appointment to get my staples removed.

I was on the verge of a panic attack thinking about them taking staples out of my neck. It ended up being for nothing. My face was so numb that I didn’t even feel it. The doctor was still worried that my eye won’t close on it’s own. Cornea damage is a real fear. When I am outside I am under strict orders to wear glasses to help protect my eye from debris. I have to have eye drops multiple times a day and an oil put in my eye at bedtime that renders the vision in that eye completely useless.

At my 1 week post op appointment my doctor explained that my tumor had malignant tendencies, but was not cancerous. The cells of this kind of tumor are known to morph into cancerous cells. We luckily caught it before that happened. That being said, when this tumor comes back (yes, when) it will very likely be malignant…cancerous. He told me he wants me to have 30 rounds of radiation treatment to my neck…starting four weeks from now. Radiation. I am 27 years old and generally incredibly healthy. It was a big this-only-happens-to-other-people kind of slap in the face.

So that is where I am right now. I still have no feeling to the left side of my face. That makes eating, drinking, brushing my teeth etc very hard. I meet with the radiologist Friday to get the ball rolling with my treatment. Personally and professionally this is going to be a trying experience. This is the busiest time for our business and I won’t be able to work at full strength. Thank goodness my husband is a rock star and can help offset the fact that I won’t be at full strength.

This holiday season will be very modest for us. Things like this sure put life in perspective and make you see what really matters most.

But even with all of this going on I can’t help but feel so blessed.

Blessed to have my husband who loves me through the good and the bad

Blessed to have two children who make me laugh when I am feeling down

Blessed to have family who flies halfway across the country to help

Blessed to have friends who brought us meals

Blessed to have one of the best doctors in the country

Blessed to be alive

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