I remember the day like it was yesterday, it was June 5th, 2010. I woke that morning at 3am to start my annual surgical mission trip to Guatemala. When I finished showering, I lathered up to shave and immediately noticed a bump on my left side near my ear when my razor went over. If anyone has ever experienced finding something that doesn't belong, you know exactly how I felt at this moment. That week of all weeks in my year is the one where I need to not think about myself and concentrate at the task at hand. This was challenging to say the least.
I knew I was traveling with several good friends and great surgeons, so I brushed it off and figured I'd have it looked at when we arrived for our mission. So I proceeded to wait till the last day of the week to gather several opinions from the medical group. Everyone thought is was not invading my parotid gland, therefore must be a preauricular cyst. The best option was a round of antibiotics. You have no idea how relieving this was to hear. Take some pills for fourteen days and all will be great. You need to understand, I've worked in surgery for over 20 years at this point. I had no desire for someone to heal me with steel.
Well guess what, 2 rounds of antibiotics and no change, my little friend was still there. Back come the feelings of the "C" word. So I sought a out a local surgeon who I knew well and asked her for an appointment. Dr. Patti Gilroy in St. Petersburg took me in and suggested a CT and FNA (fine needle aspiration). FNA was inconclusive but showed no malignancy. Most likely a pleomorphic adenoma but only pathology after surgical removal would confirm. She explained about a 5% conversion rate to malignancy if left untreated.
I face most obstacles head on, and this one was no different. I scheduled surgery immediately (or as fast as her schedule would allow) and was operated on December of 2010. I was pretty fortunate, a 5 1/2 hour procedure, minimal blood loss, facial nerve intact, and no drain. Was able to go home and sleep upright in a recliner the same day of surgery. Fourteen days later the pathology report showed…wait for it….pleomorphic adenoma!
To this day I have no idea how my little friend arrived, I have a hypothesis, but will really never know. The only lasting result of surgery is the "wooden ear", and I do occasionally experience Frey's syndrome. So I'm a blast at parties when my face starts dripping saliva and I use a napkin more for my scar area than I do my mouth. Honestly if this is the worst part of the whole ordeal, I'm a very lucky man.
If I can offer anyone a piece of advice it's this: if you find something on your body that feels out of place, get it looked at. I have 2 little girls and a wonderful wife with whom I want to experience everything that life has to offer, or in this case throws at us.