Sunday, April 15, 2007

Living With A Parotid Tumor

I've been pretty busy working lately, which accounts in part for why there haven't been any new diaries, but there is also the knowledge that in a few days I will be having surgery for the fifth recurrence of a medical oddity known as a parotid tumor. For all the normal people out there who have never heard of the parotid gland, it is the largest salivary gland in the human body, a matching set on each side of the head, and is perilously close to the facial nerve and nerves controlling things like eyelids and ears and whatnot. Four times I have had a form of tumor called a pleomorphic adenoma, a benign and largely painless thing which just keeps growing until it is taken out. My four surgeries took place starting in 1974 and continuing to 1983, with varying degrees of success. After nine years of surgeries just about every other year I decided to simply ignore the next recurrence, which started when I was about 26 years old and when my family and career were just getting started, and has been growing inexorably to this, my fiftieth year. Time for it to go.

The problem with parotid tumors is that sometimes they can "go south". In other words it is possible for my benign pleomorphic adenoma to become a carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma. This, and the fact that the darn thing is really sticking out of my head now, covered only by a hank of my graying, thinning hair, means it is time to take out the trash. The surgery is on April 19th. In a few months I will undertake radiation treatment, whether or not the biopsy is bad, in order to try to prevent or at least delay another recurrence. Each recurrence increases the possibility of a malignancy developing. The problem with radiation treatment is that there is some research indicating that a recurrence after RT is more likely to be malignant than it would have been if the RT hadn't been undertaken, but by the same token that is only if there is a recurrence. At this point the likelihood of a recurrence if I do not have the RT is 100% and if I do have the RT it's more like 50%. I'd rather take a chance of a bad recurrence for the opportunity to have no recurrence, instead of sitting around waiting for the inevitable next recurrence without the RT.

So the tumor's coming out in an outpatient procedure. If all goes well I'll be up and running around after a few days. If not so well, then I may have some problems with my eyelid - the transgenital nerve which controls the eyelid runs through the tumor - and my eyelid would not be able to close. There's always a danger of facial paralysis, but for some reason this does not bug me as much as the thought of having a Pinkerton eye (we never sleep!). If my lid is affected then it may affect my sight, which will in turn affect my ability to do close work. If the facial nerve is damaged I may look like I have Bell's Palsy, but as long as I can talk, see, and swallow I can live with the idea. It no longer frightens me, as it did when I was a young litigator starting out, that my looks could be so affected. Guess we'll know after Thursday.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Hoping all goes well
CommonSense

Catzmaw said...

Thank you for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Wondering how things are going? My husband's tumor was CA, and his facial nerves were severed during surgery, but Sloan Kettering (NY) was able to graft a nerve from his neck back up behind the ear, and Praise God, he almost has his whole smile back!!! However, we were told after a CT scan of his chest that their is "suspicious" activity going on there, so now back to a Pet Scan this month. It's so good to hear other's stories that go through similiar situations. It is now almost April of 2008, how are you doing? Take Care, WordWalker

Anonymous said...

I can sympathize with what you are going through as I am looking at my third surgery for removal of the same tumor. I am going to have to think long and hard about radiation as my doctors don't want me to have it for the same reasons you talked about. Best of luck. I live in Chicago and hopefully I have a great doctor. My thoughts are with you. KKH

Catzmaw said...

Thanks, Anon. I did have the radiation treatment, which is dealt with in far more detail at my other blog. Here's the link: Parotid Tumor BlogMy surgeon at Johns Hopkins disapproves of Radiation Therapy as a form of treatment, but there is statistical support for it in some quarters. I can only hope that this time I've got a few years until my next recurrence. It's pretty certain that I'm not cured, probably will never be cured, but it would be nice to have a few years between each occurrence.

If you haven't been to the Patient's Forum on Parotid Tumors, by all means drop in over there. It's a terrific resource. Here's the cite: Parotid Tumor ForumI did a lot of followup commentary on my recovery from the July 2008 surgery in the forum. If you do a search under the name Carla FW you will find all my posts discussing recovery from the surgery and what it feels like to have a fat transfer. I call it the alien fat blob. It still feels pretty weird to me, but I've got better facial definition now than I had before the April 2007 surgery. Very pleasing.

sheila olson said...

I would like to suggest that before doing any surgery you consult with parotid md as they are providing the treatment of salivary gland and I have recently found this site on internet.
Deep Lobe Parotid Tumor

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