Just for a brief summary: I had found a small bump behind my right ear. I forgot about it, and then rediscovered it after Christmas-time. It seemed larger so I had it checked by my primary care doctor, who referred me to an ENT. The first ENT I saw did the ultrasound and saw a tumor sized just under 1cm. They also did a fine needle biopsy which showed certain salivary cells but was inconclusive. They said most of the time these were benign so we could just watch it. Upon my own research though, I also found that #1. These particular types of mixed cells have a high occurrence of degenerating into malignancies if left alone, and #2. These particular type of tumors, even if benign, can continue to grow and increasingly threaten facial nerve bundles that run right through the same area. I had asked about having it out and the ENT was ok with that but I wasn't comfortable with how they would do the surgery and where, so I went to a second opinion.
The second ENT surgeon I saw was amazing. To recap, he said he wouldn't watch it, but definitely have it removed (for the reasons I stated above), and he also would try to remove it a different way so he could completely avoid my facial nerves, something important for my musicianship, and also just to me as a person. He was booked and then out of town so we had to wait until this past Friday to have the surgery. But boy am I glad I waited for him.
Fast forward to this past week. I went to my pre-op Tuesday. Dr. P went through all the usual paperwork and talk-through about surgery, what it would entail, and the possible outcomes. He was confident everything would go well. Based on the scans the tumor looked relatively small and easy to navigate. I got a call later that day that surgery would be Friday morning so to arrive early to the hospital. I was told to pack a bag because he may want to keep me overnight depending on how things went.
My in laws had been helping me the entire first part of the week to help me with all my pre-op obligations, and so I could easily pop in and out of Meagan's GI appointments..etc...We had a mini birthday celebration on Wednesday night since they would be leaving the next day. My father in law cooked Fajitas and my sister in law made the most incredible Margaritas. My mother in law helped with the kids and we had a great night of fun, talking, eating and spending time together. I got some nice gifts and some good family time. Overall it was a really nice night.
He said once they got me opened up, he knew it would be a longer surgery. He said the tumor was actually quite a bit larger than they had anticipated. They were expecting a mass under 1cm, and instead found a tumor that was over 2.5cm large. He said it also had uneven borders on the back and was growing aggressively into my surrounding lymph nodes and tissues. He said the initial frozen section did come back benign, but, because of the way the tumor looked and its aggressive growth pattern, he decided to not only take the tumor out, but also some lymph nodes, and a large margin of surrounding tissue. He also ended up taking about a third of my entire gland. Dr. P said we should have full and final results in 5 days but he was hopeful since the frozen section was benign the rest of it would be too. That's the way I'm feeling as well - I'm just glad he did what he did in the OR. The type of tumor it was, although mostly benign, have the highest rate of degenerating into malignancy, and also the way it was growing it would have soon impacted my facial nerves. I'm so happy I went with a surgeon who was not only experienced, but who also made the best split second decision for me and my long term health when faced with a little different scenario than anticipated in the OR. He said because of the large margin he is sure he got all of the tumor, and for a tumor that has a normal recurrent rate of 20-40% he feels my recurrent rate has been cut to 4-7%. All good things to hear when you come out of surgery, especially considering what the consequences could have been if I had stayed with the first surgeon who wanted to "watch and see."
Because of my little breathing issues, I had to stay until 5pm surgery day, but once my vitals stabilized, Dr. P said I could go ahead and go home. He said that I would be pretty sore from the surgery as it was more invasive than they originally thought so to make sure and take my pain medication. He also said my throat would be sore from the breathing tube and that my face may start to feel bruised over the next few days from all the nerve monitoring needles they inserted. He also gave me instructions on how to care for and empty my drain and said I can come back on Monday to have the drain removed. Dr. P said I was to be on a two week liquid diet. He wants to minimize to eliminate any chewing because it will stimulate saliva production which could lead to cysts being formed as my surgical site is trying to heal. The nurse then wheeled me out to the car we headed out. Of course in true "Molly" fashion, Brian and I made a stop at Walgreens for some cold drinks and my medication. Anyone who knows me knows I have a big problem with just laying around in bed for prolonged periods of time. :)
I am so so thankful I decided to listen to friends' and family's advice and go get a second opinion. Dr. P truly knew what he was doing, and knew in that instant what he needed to do to protect me from the tumor doing any further damage down the road. I will feel completely at peace in a few days once I have those final results in hand, but, for now I feel pretty good that no matter what he did a great job and we are rid of that awful thing. It is still so random this happened, but, I am better for it. If I could tell anyone a lesson from this it would be to know your body - and if something doesn't seem right, by all means get it checked. Further, if you aren't comfortable with one doctor's answer, go to another until you have your answers. It could very well save your life.
Now I look forward to healing, some final good news from pathology, and turning my focus back to Meagan where she will need me most. Thank you all for the prayers, support and love.