Seven Months Later

On March 23rd, 2009, seven months ago today, I had an operation to remove a tumor that had mysteriously grown in my left parotid gland. I failed to write a blog entry after the fact, so it’s about time for me to get caught up with pictures and the story. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the genius hands that performed my surgery, Dr. Patricia Gilmer, general surgeon and plastic surgeon. She was truly amazing in every way, but alas no pictures of her to share. The results will be her calling card. Thank you Dr. Gilmer!


This is my Prep Nurse, Heidi. She was so great in getting me all prepped and ready to go into surgery. My scheduled surgery time was supposed to be at noon, however there was another emergency surgery that came in about the same time so they pushed me forward to a bit before 3:00pm. Kathy and Bill, my best pals, were with me the whole time so we just talked and hung out until it was time for me to go in.

Dr. Conklin

Dr. William Conklin was my anethesiologist. He was awesome, funny and professional all at the same time. Here he is briefing me in the holding area before my surgery. It’s hard to tell how my tumor looks on my neck as my chubbiness keeps getting in the way.

It was during this talk with Dr. C that I asked him to take my camera into the OR and snap a few pictures of the procedings. He took my camera, put the strap around his neck and said all he needed was a “Press Pass” for The Olympian newspaper and he would be set.


Michelle was my “personal” nurse in the operating room. I hadn’t been one bit frightened about the whole procedure until I was lifted onto the operating table. My eyes started to well up when a kind voice came over to sit with me and said, in essence . . . hi, my name is Michelle and I have only one job today. That job is to take care of you and make sure all goes well. Your best interests are paramount to me. I won’t leave your side throughout the whole surgery. I will watch carefully to make sure there are no problems whatsoever. You can go to sleep now and know that I am here with you as my only focus. How comforting that sounded to this old girl. I closed my eyes.

Here are some of the pictures Dr. C took in the OR. You can see he wanted to be part of the action as well so must have handed over the camera for a candid shot of himself.





The surgery took nearly four hours. I woke up in the recovery room with kind and wonderful people hovering around making sure I knew where I was and what was going on. Of course I was foggy but nothing out of the ordinary. Not far away I could see Kathy and Bill waiting patiently for me.


Soon thereafter Kathy was briefed on my incision, homecare, the drain tube, etc. and I was released to go home. All in all Kathy and Bill were there with me for nearly 12 hours straight. That’s pure love!


Here is my post surgery scar. I was given a prescription for painkillers, however I never bothered to fill the script as I did fine without them. I was on the couch or in bed for the first week off and on. Kathy rigged me up with a support as I had to sleep sitting up for the drain to work properly. Kathy and Bill were there to help for the first half of the week, then my son, Bob, came from California to take over my care for the rest of the time.


Bob took me out for little drives each day and kept me wonderful company as well as attended to my neck. It was so wonderful to have him here. And then Andy surprised us by driving down for two days to help and to be reassured that I was fine. The other three boys called to check in for a progress report regularly. I also have a whole host of friends who came by with meals, fun and curiosity, so my recovery was well attended to by some great people.

Here is Jasmine, my furry nurse, keeping track of my recovery while I lay on the couch.


By Day Four, you can see that the brusing was manifest in all it’s glory. It didn’t hurt if you didn’t touch it. By the time the week was out I could lay down on my opposite side to sleep, which I loved. I couldn’t really eat properly for the first while, but managed with lovely soft foods and beautiful soups. It didn’t take long before I could eat just about anything if I chewed it on my right side.


After 10 days Kathy and Bill took me back to Dr. Gilmer’s office to have my stitches removed and for a post surgery examination.

Dr. Gilmer was pleased with my progress and the overall look of my wound. She told me that she got all the tumor out plus a bit more tissue surrounding the gland and said there was likely no chance of a recurrence. She assured me that feeling would come back to the area a little at a time, as the nerves knit, but that it could take up to a year for full feeling to return. Also she let me know that there is one spot, the size of a half dollar, that may never recover feeling as she had to sever a nerve to untangle the tumor.

Here is a picture of my actual tumor. You can see that it is about the size of a large golf ball or an egg. When my Dan saw the picture, he said it looked like an octopus was growing in my neck. Happily all tests found it to be benign, so no further worries on that front.

Only puzzle that remains is why it began to grow in my neck in the first place. I have since learned that it is more common than you would think, but of course once it happens to us we see it everywhere. There is even a website for people throughout the world who are going through this same scenerio. (It’s replete with graphic pictures and descriptions to put dreaded fear into most patients.) I am so blessed that my story has had such a happy ending. Blessings on those who are not as fortunate.


Now, here I am seven months later. Earrings in, hardly a hint of my scar. The only thing I notice is how much whiter my hair has become in that length of time. Most feeling has returned to the affected area, with the exception of that half dollar sized spot just at the bottom front of my ear. No complaints whatsoever. I feel great in all ways!




3 responses to this post.

  1. Looks like it has healed beautifully.


  2. Incredible! It must have been so scary at times, I’m so glad your friends and your boys were there for you, such a comfort.


  3. Wow, you can barely see the scar! So scary. I love the fact that they had someone there in the operating room to hold your hand and pet your head. It’s interesting how just knowing that someone is there to make sure that everything goes well while you are most vulnerable sure is comforting.


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