Have you ever had your world rocked upside down? Come on, you all know the song from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Recently, I felt like Will Smith. A few days ago, I found myself sobbing in my car. I had just found out that this bump that I thought was nothing was something!
Okay, maybe I was in denial? But, I had reason to think it was nothing. When I brought it up to my doctor, she dismissed it. “I can’t feel anything” were her exact words as she touched my jaw line. I was sick at the time, so maybe it was a swollen gland?
It never went away, so I went back to my primary care doctor a second time. This time they tested me for mononucleosis (mono) and the mumps. The tests came back negative. I was fine. It was probably a swollen gland and my sinuses acting up again. I almost felt like a hypochondriac worrying about this stupid little bump!
My chronic sinus infections brought me into one of the top hospitals in Boston. I was lying back in the chair with this doctor looking up my nose; you can imagine how fun this was… I decided to ask her about this little bump that showed up months ago. Maybe she would have an idea why it didn’t go away.
When I mentioned it to her, she was VERY concerned. I was sent for a MRI, a biopsy, and to a specialist. Honestly, I still wasn’t worried. I am healthy, so I couldn’t possibly be anything serious. I was about to compete in the CrossFit Games!
The results from my biopsy were inconclusive. They said the cells from my “mass” were atypical. They didn’t know what it was. This information was relayed to me during a phone call from the specialist. I remember feeling like I was hit by a frying pan. My ears were literally ringing. The doctor was explaining that I should get surgery to see what the tumor was. I was trying to collect my thoughts. I couldn’t believe this. I thought I was healthy?
I was trying to focus on all of his medical jargon. I focused intently on the risks because of the complications I had with my last surgery. What I retained was that there was a small chance that it was cancerous and there were a number of risks to this surgery. How I interpreted this was, “you don’t have cancer.”
The risks of the surgery were nerve racking. The one risk that resonated with me was the chance of him hitting a facial nerve. He said that I could wake up from surgery and there was a chance that my face could look different. They could hit a nerve and my face would never be the same. I was on information overload. I wanted another opinion.
Well, I got another opinion and it was pretty much the same. You have a mass of cells. Hmmm, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Where could I go to hear what I wanted to hear? Couldn’t this thing just disappear on it’s own?
This is where I really slipped into denial. Surgery was scheduled for December of 2012. I figured this bump couldn’t be that bad if they didn’t schedule me for surgery right away. They actually let me pick the date. I decided I couldn’t do September because I didn’t want to interrupt the school year. I love teaching. And, I really believed in my heart that it would disappear by then. That’s it, I had decided that by December my bump would be gone.
My plans changed rather quickly. One night I started feeling an annoying pain in my jaw, my teeth, and my gums. It was so painful that I thought about going to see my doctor. I knew in my gut it was the little bump. But, I didn’t want to face that reality.
The following morning I had a dentist appointment. I brought up this annoying pain to my dentist. And, my world was changed forever. I realized for the first time that I do in fact have a tumor. I have a tumor and it is growing. They confirmed that my teeth, my gums, and my jaw hurt because of this mass. It wasn’t anything dental, and it wasn’t going to just go away. WOW! My denial was over.
I called the specialist to tell him about the pain I was experiencing. I no longer had the option to wait until December. The risks are higher if this tumor is growing. I have to have surgery in two weeks. I can’t even begin to tell you how scared I am. I have had about eight surgeries in my life but this one scares me the most. Why? Why is this so damn scary? Is it because I could wake up looking differently? That’s scary to me. I kind of like my face… Is it because of the complications I had with my last surgery? That wasn’t any fun! Is it because I thought I was SO healthy and was blindsided? I eat the right foods, I am supposed to be one of the fittest people on earth, but I have a tumor. How did this happen?
Don’t ignore any signs from your body. Whether it’s a small pain in your knee, an ache in your wrist, or a little bump on your neck. Our bodies give us signs for a reason. Our bodies are machines, but they are smart, delicate machines. I put my body through the ringer and it responds. It always just works. This time it is different. I realized that I can eat as healthy as I want and I can work out multiple times a day, but sh*t happens.