October 28, 2003

Wayward Parotid Gland, Part 2

I've turned off comments for this post. If you do have something to say or a similar experience, my e-mail is

Part One is located here.

I was in the hospital until midday on November 2nd. This is not very long considering the duration and seriousness of the surgery, but you get better care at home anyway. I was sent home with a prescription for Percocet, my drain (because it went where I went), 27 staples holding the incision together (forgot to mention those, didn't I), and whatever else my parents brought with us. I actually don't remember what that would be.

The first few days are a blur. I know there was a lot of Nintendo played under the influence of Percocet, and I know that relearning to sleep was interesting, to say the least. The numbness isn't like when you go to the dentist - at least mine isn't. This is all external, not internal, and it affects my face from about the midway point from my cheek near my nose to my ear. The ear is completely numb. Part of my face can detect cold, and everything detects pressure, even though it's numb.

Showering was an adventure. I basically had to shower backwards (face away from water) with my mother holding the drain over the shower door. We laughed through it because it took twice as long as a shower should, and, well, what else can you do? The drain came out on Wednesday or so, I think, so it wasn't that many days of incapacitated showering.

On Thursday, I decided I was going to class. Why on earth would I do that, you ask? That's a good question. The answer is: I didn't want to miss my Economics class, you know, the one where the professor didn't uderstand the meaning of the word "tumor." My poor face was still quite swollen, but well fixed hair covered that pretty well. The turtleneck obscured the Frankenstein neck, and if I cut down on the Percocet, I could actually sort of function. My kind father drove me to school (since I couldn't do that yet), and I sat in the back of the Economics class and listened to the professor explain the results of the test.

After class ended, I walked up to the front of the room, purposefully waited until just about everyone had left, and asked for the professor's attention. I said (with half of my face, of course), "Well, I had it done!" And I bared my neck - a 27-stapled, still slightly bleeding swollen mess. He turned slightly green and then recovered. In the end, he double counted my final and didn't make me take the test I missed. And it's a fond memory.

I returned to the dorm on Sunday, a week and two days after the surgery, starting to rebuild my life. I took a walk at the track - a couple of miles - a thinking walk. Classes would be normal for the most part. Well, not really. I was a music major - a trumpet player. You need your whole face for that. Same thing with my low brass class. I still attended, but I couldn't do much. For marching band, I just held the trumpet for the remainder of the semester and marched my spot. You do what you can.

That first week back, I had some trouble eating. The area where the parotid used to be decided to painful every time I tried to eat. It was actually quite excruciating to the point where I could only sneak in a few bites and then had to abandon the effort. But, this lasted only for a week, and then that too was just a memory.

It was soon time for staple removal. I saw Terminator 2 in 1994 in the theater, and I remember laughing when Sarah Connor removes the bullets from the Governor's back and drops them in a metal thing. Ching! Ching! That's what staple removal sounds like, so the movie had a whole separate meaning for me. No pain, though. Left some funny railroad tracks in my neck for a week.

And everything seemed to be on track for healing and adjusting. Until it wasn't. I had a doctor's appointment to discuss pathology results one night after class. I decided to walk from campus to the appointment, which was about five miles and right by my parents' house. This was something I did fairly frequently, get some exercise and go see my parents, and then one of them would return me to the dorm.

My father met me at the appointment. I don't remember much about it because the only remarkable thing was the drastic change in what I saw the next few months of my life to be. The pathology had come back, and the suspicious section was indeed malignant.


Posted by hln at October 28, 2003 12:00 AM | Anecdote