About three weeks ago, I had surgery to remove a large lipoma from the back of my neck. As I've detailed the first surgery I had, to treat herniated disks in 2010, and the second, LASIK in 2015, here on the blog, I thought I'd write about this experience once again.
The journey to this third surgical experience was a long one. I can't remember for certain, but I think I first noticed the lump forming in 2016, but it may have been earlier. I know that when I saw the photos from Hannah's bat mitzvah in 2017 that I felt like I was holding my head in a funny way. I'd kept bringing it up to my doctor, but she said it wasn't anything to be concerned about. In the summer of 2018, I met with a plastic surgeon about it, and he agreed, just leave it be. I asked my doctor again in 2019, and she scheduled an ultrasound that fall to get a look at it. The results were what she expected, just a blob of fat. But by then I was having more and more trouble with pain in my shoulders, arms and hands. I saw a dermatologist last December, who I hoped might be able to help me out (as I had seen many helped by Dr. Pimple Popper by then - and I won't post a link - you can Google that yourself if you'd like). But she took one look at me and quickly sent me on my way, saying I needed a plastic surgeon for sure, as the lump was now quite large. I found someone to do the surgery, who didn't second guess me one bit, saw him in February, and was scheduled for May 1.
I'd chosen the date carefully, trying to make sure the surgery and the healing process wouldn't conflict with any important work or family things that I wanted to be sure to attend, like a work trip to Minneapolis (the last trip I took) and show tickets Hannah and I had for April in NYC (which of course didn't happen). So much for planning. But one Monday in June they called and asked if I could come in that Friday. I was a bit shocked, and said no, but rescheduled for June 29.
And then the anxiety really escalated. While I wanted the surgery, and knew how happy I was with the results of my two prior surgeries, I was FREAKED OUT. Reading back on it now, the experience I had in recovery after my back surgery was really downplayed on the blog, and I was terrified to have a similar experience. Plus, now it was surgery in a pandemic. I had to get a COVID test, and I was really worried about that too. I didn't think I'd get the virus while in the hospital for such a short time, but it was an extra layer of stress. I spent a lot of time crying. I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing, because I could have just left it all alone too.
The morning of surgery was a fretful one for me. My emotions were right at the surface. When we walked into Beth Israel, I was suddenly overcome with memories of when I'd last been there, December 2007, when I was told I was miscarrying. I cried in the lobby remembering that day.
I met with the surgical team in pre-op, and I told them all of my fears regarding the procedure and recovery. They were great about talking me through everything (one anesthesiologist gave me a little too much detail, which I assured her I did NOT need to know), and they even took my iPhone with them so they could easily check my blood sugar through my continuous glucose monitor. They walked me in to the operating room, and I was given a tube to suck on to start the anesthesia, and then I woke up in recovery. Or at least, that's how I remember it.
I came to and kept tugging at my surgical mask. I couldn't understand at first what was on my face, and I wanted it off. But I quickly calmed down and realized I was alive and okay. I was scared, but not in that much pain. I had to have a surgical drain left in place to prevent excess fluid from building up, and it was gross but manageable. I didn't see anyone from my surgical team again, and Marc hadn't been permitted to stay in the building, so he was called and then picked me up at the curb. That afternoon, in my anesthesia haze, I told the kids I felt like I'd been hit by a bus and then somehow robbed a bank, and Marc was driving the getaway car. I think they liked the version of mom on heavy meds.
The rest of the week was basically lost. I was fortunate to not have to work, and we were closed on Friday for the fourth of July. The pain wasn't too bad after 48 hours or so, but it was hard to hold my head up the whole day. I was just exhausted, and I'm sure a lot of it was mental as well.
I had the drain removed at my follow up appointment a week and a half later. The doctor told me they removed almost 20 centimeters of tissue from my neck and shoulders. It was a lot.
I'm healing well and can definitely feel a difference, but it will take time for some parts of my shoulders to settle down after being pushed around for so long. It's hard for me to see it because I can't really see my own back, but Hannah says it looks a lot better. I've usually hidden it from the world by keeping my hair down in public almost all the time, but seeing as the pandemic has basically obliterated the need for blow drying, maybe now I'll feel better about putting my hair up when in the outside world. We'll see.
The one continuing downside to this is that it could happen again. If it does, hopefully now I know more and can speak to better doctors and not go through a years-long process again.
I'm glad I did it. I'm glad it's over. And I'm wondering what surgery I'll be having in five years time, assuming the pattern holds.
Oh, and wear a mask.