Parotid Patient Journeys
Our shared experiences unite us as a parotid community. Learn from other patients and read their inspiring stories.
We hope you will consider sharing your story to help support fellow parotid patients through difficult times.
"Faith Over Fear"
Hello! My Parotid story has kind of just begun. Back in June of this year (2021), I noticed a small bump right under my right ear lobe. I thought that it may be a lipoma, because I tend to get lipomas. But, I have never gotten one on my head or neck. So, I decided to have it checked out. At that time, I didn't have a PCP because mine had left the medical facility that I go to. So, I saw a NP instead, just to have it looked at. She sent me for a CT scan. She knew that it was something of concern, but didn't know exactly what it was.
So, she sent me to a ENT. As soon a he saw my "bump", he knew exactly what I was dealing with. Of course he had also seen my CT scan. When he first started explaining what it was. (Pleomorphic Adenoma). I could feel myself starting to tear up once he mentioned the word "surgery". I fought back the tears, and l listened to him carefully. Absorbing all of the information that I could. I felt very comfortable with him. I found out that not only is he an ENT, but he is also a head and neck surgeon, with plastic surgery, reconstructive experience. I looked him up on Health Grades after my visit. I compared him to other doctors in my area. I still feel comfortable with him. I do wish however, that I had the option of going out of state with my insurance and choosing a doctor at a cancer specialty center, just in case. The Dr. sent me for a MRI and Biopsy. The biopsy results came back as benign. We discussed the surgery further, he answered all of my questions. Then, he set me up for my surgery.
I am scheduled for surgery on October 26th 2021. I wish that I could ignore it, and make it go away. But, as the doctor told me, and many have expressed online, it is best to have it removed asap to avoid other complications. I should mention, back in 2002, I had a major surgery (resection) where I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. It was my first ever surgery, and was hoping, my last. I remember feeling so thankful that I didn't have cancer back then, and survived that surgery, and had a second chance at life. Life has taken me in many different directions since then.
My kids are all grown, (21-23-33-35) and out of the house. We now have an empty nest per se'. I have one grandchild that is 11 months old. Who is a bright light in all of this. I do have my elderly father who is living with us. His health has been a crazy roller coater since last Summer. He has been living with us since February 2021. Life is pretty crazy for most of us these days, with Covid etc. It is especially crazy adding in a surgery. But, I am trying to keep the "Faith Over Fear" mentality. I have been focusing on my health such as rest, vitamins, diet, and skin care. Doing all that I can that IS in my control. I've been trying to avoid stress. I'm finishing up household projects that need to get done before surgery. Planning way ahead to be prepared, so that I can truly rest.
I'm the one that is usually always caring for others. I have been praying for my surgeon, and the care team, for clear minds & steady hands. I've done my research, and have been following many Parotid group pages. So, I feel like that's all that I can really do. Everyone elses stories really do help so much! I hope mine will help someone in some way. I love what Heidi is doing with the Parotid Patient Project. It is bringing us together so we don't feel so alone. Thank you Heidi! Best wishes to all of you on YOUR Parotid Journey!
P.S. My pic is from my wedding in 2012. I plan to add some pictures on the Facebook group page post surgery!
Power of Positivity
I'm a 62 year old male on day six post- op parotidectomy with tumor excision. Fortunately, the mass was benign. The hardest part was waiting for the biopsy results and spending a lot of time reflecting. Every individual has their own way of accepting the outcome and as family members and friends go, I would say it's better to talk with people about it instead if internalizing it. Doing so for me allowed me to more easily accept what was happening and what could happen and how I would deal with it. The surgery was explained to me as more of a nerve isolation process to insure protection of the facial nerves.
I was fortunate to have two surgeons, both ENT's and one with additional plastic surgery under his belt. The incision is plentiful and very well closed. So day six. Swelling was the worst on days four and five and today is a bit more comfortable. The drain was in for 24 hours and I spent the night in the hospital. Staff was excellent. Very comfortable. To the families and friends- please practice empathy and help as much as you can. It's difficult to see changes in your face with an incision and taking pain killers can be a bit challenging for others as well as yourself. Looking back I would not change anything. The entire process brought me closer to family and friends and know that as difficult as it may seem, your very likely in good hands and will be well cared for.
Healing with Humor
My parotid gland tumor was an incidental finding during a CT Scan for other purposes in August 2020. I was completely asymptomatic. The CT Scan revealed no other problems which helped diffuse the various emotions of this finding. My wife found a surgeon experienced in parotid gland tumors in Kansas City. I had surgery on October 20, 2020.
The procedure was successful and the tumor was relatively small at nearly 1.5 inches wide. Pain subsequent to the surgery was delightfully minimal. The worst was the drain tube that stayed in place for 72 hours. I ceased taking pain meds subsequent to its removal. Five days after surgery, the hole from the drain tube somehow reopened, dripping saliva through the hole. Consultation with the doctor's office revealed this phenomenon is unusual but not unknown. It finally closed three days later.
Long term affects have been minimal. The right side of my face, particularly my ear, is still numb nearly 13 months later. Given the size and location of the tumor, nerve resection was part of my surgery and I had been warned about possible long term to permanent numbness prior to the surgery.
Numbness is a small price to pay. It could have been cancer.
Plus, I have treated this ordeal with some humor. I have joked about how this surgery allowed me to rediscover my long lost, well-defined jaw line at age 48.
Answers through Advocacy
I was first diagnosed with a pleomorphic adenoma in my parotid salivary gland when I was 20, in 2002, but it had taken over a year to get a diagnosis after I had discovered the lump. It was a relief to have answers and a solution after going through that period of having the symptoms being either ignored or misdiagnosed.
And then I found multiple lumps again around 19 years later. I had an excellent surgeon the first time around but all it takes is just a single cell being left behind.
I wasn’t about to go through the mess I had gone through before, so even when an ultrasound came back with a report of "swollen lymph nodes" I requested that I see an ENT. After a CT scan report said "fatty hematoma" I said I would feel more comfortable with a biopsy at least.
There were at least 20 pleomorphic adenomas in the left side of my face and neck. The largest was 3/4 of an inch thick and attached to my facial nerve. The surgical team at the clinic I went to was able to remove them all with no permanent damage to my facial nerves.
I am grateful that I listened to my body and that I have the luxury of doctors willing to take those extra steps, particularly given my history.
Teaching Lessons Learned
In March 2021, I discovered a small lump behind my right ear. From years of working and teaching in the dental field, I knew this was not good. I had to convince my physician that it was "something" as she could hardly palpate it. Her first impression was that it was a lymph node, that it would go away, and she prescribed antibiotics. I visited my dermatologist who also had difficulty finding it and thought it could be lymphoma. I believe if I had not been a dentist my physicians would have asked me to monitor the lump, but they knew I was concerned so an ultrasound was ordered. I’ll never forget the face of the ultrasound technician. While she did not say anything, the fact that she kept going over the same area and kept quiet spoke volumes. The radiologist that interpreted the ultrasound then recommended a fine needle biopsy and the diagnosis started coming into focus.
By the time my MD referred me to an ENT, I had found the Parotid Patient Project website and joined the Parotid People Facebook group. I knew enough to know the odds were on the side of a benign tumor but also knew the surgery would be tricky depending on the tumor location. I poured over the information provided on this site, asked for a CT scan prior to meeting with the local ENT and formulated a list of questions. There are several surgical options and I decided to seek a second opinion as I preferred an outpatient procedure, that the drain be removed soon afterwards, preservation of all nerve function, and a near immediate frozen pathology report from the operating room. I wanted the tumor gone entirely with no chance of recurrence!
I encourage anyone with these types of tumors to get a couple of opinions and make sure all their questions are answered. The surgeon I eventually chose was to the point, confident and reassuring. Experience is key and after all the angst, seeing the surgical team brought me a sense of calm. The surgery was in May and the outcome was successful with complete tumor removal, clear margins and no permanent nerve damage. The pathology report confirmed pleomorphic adenoma, and it was such a relief to hear that as I came out from the anesthetic. My earlobe felt “different” for nearly six months but that resolved and the incision is not noticeable.
The photograph with this story was taken four months after surgery! I specifically give credit to this site for linking me to the appropriate experienced and caring surgeon. I was also fortunate enough to meet the site’s founder the day before my surgery, and she is a wealth of information. As odd as it may sound, I asked the surgeon to take pictures of my tumor and he obliged. I now show these photos to my students and colleagues to reinforce the necessity of thorough head and neck exams during dental visits and to tell them to listen to their patients! These tumors are rare, and it takes some sleuthing to diagnose them. Most lumps are not good lumps and even the good lumps can lead to long term problems.