Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Two worlds collide

So for many years (at least six) I've had a small pea-sized growth (at biggest) on my left cheek, down near my jaw. It was essentially invisible and never caused me any pain or grief (most days I didn't even remember I had it), so i just let it go. I'd had a couple cysts as a kid and so i figured that that's all this was. Well, this is the story of all debts coming due.

May 24ish (the Monday before the Memorial Day Holiday weekend) I notice that it seems to be getting bigger. Not much but enough that it's visible to the casual glance (as opposed to the deep stare) and that it's kinda tender when I touch it. Feels like a black and blue. At work on Tuesday I ask my boss for her doctor's number and explain the situation to my co-workers. They're of course concerned but given the holiday coming up, my sister visiting and then me going off on vacation that following Sunday (june 6), I tell them that i'll call the doc when i get back from Buffalo (June 14).

The rest of the week it keeps growing. From one day to the next I cannot tell if it's growing or if I'm being paranoid, but every two days I notice that it's definitely growing compared to two days prior. Co-workers start expressing more concern. And the bump on my face (underneath the skin, not like a pimple) is starting to turn a different color than my skin (a little darker). I figure that I should call the doctor next week (the tuesday after memorial day).

So my roommate and his girlfriend are growing more concerned and so am I, to be honest, but it's now Saturday and there's nothing i can do, short of going to an emergency room until Tuesday. So when I get home from work Saturday I go over my insurance policy and realize that at minimum like $250 plus 30 percent of whatever tests they run, I am not going to the ER for a little swelling on my face. I mean, it still only hurts when I touch it and i haven't noticed anyone staring.

After looking up the info I go pick up my sister Katie at the airport. I tell her about it and not to tell my mother if mom calls. Sunday rolls around and we go see a performance of Thorougly Modern Millie (which was fantastic, but please don't bring young kids to the #%^&*#$ theatre, they don't belong). It's bigger, says Scott (roommate) and his girlfriend, Shelley, and Katie. I am not sure, but then I think, yeah, it's at least bigger than it was Friday. So I spill the beans to mom and tell her that I'll also call my insurance company's 24-hour-nurse-on-call line.

Monday, we hang out in Melrose, Hollywood and Santa Monica. We also go looking for Jennifer Garner's house (one of my students have provided intel about it's location, but we came up empty there). No news really about the bump. I did call the nurse line and they recommended going to the doctor to have it checked out. They did ask if it had been pulsating. Fortunately it wasn't.

Tuesday morning (we're supposed to head to Magic Mountain, which opens at 10 a.m.). Instead of leaving at 8:30 to be there when the gates open, we cannot leave until after I've made an appointment with Dr. Betty Fletcher. So I call the office at like 9:02 a.m. and they can see me Thursday at 9:45 a.m. I'm happy that I finally at least have an appointment and we head to Magic Mountain. The park was great except for worst pizza ever, not enough employees and banging my face against a restraint on a roller coaster (that #^&*#$ hurt).

Wednesday I go to work and Amanda (one of my co-workers, who went to UofA by the way) notices that it's bigger. I tell her that I'll be hitting the doc's on thursday and she's in favor of that. I also tell her that i'm prepared to postpone my upcoming vacay if necessary. She agrees with that, too.

So Thursday comes and I go to the doc's. As she's asking me about it, she asks me if it's warm. I tell her that I cannot tell, b/c any paranoia gets in the way. She touches it and let's me know immediately that it's warm. "it's a hot spot, medically," she tells me. Diagnosis: an abscess, which is some kind of infection, that needs to be taken care of ASAP. She refers me to a ear/nose/throat (so i thought) doctor that can see me the next day (Friday). It's with a Dr. Ruder in Beverly Hills (which is weird, because I've heard of a Dr. Ruder in BH. He performed a nose surgery/job on one of my students). I wonder....

Well, turns out, it's him. I have officially gone to see a "plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills" (with the exception of Jennifer Garner agreed to marry me, those are the words I've most wanted to say since moving to L.A.). The office is really nice, small, but nice. Very clean, the staff is well-dressed and there are brochures for every kind of procedure imagineable. Also, there's an article about him from the 1994 L.A. Times about how he pioneered an ear replacement surgery. It's pretty cool. The operation costs like $19,000 and insurance coverage is spotty so he asks many families to pay what they can afford and he'll take the rest in kind or for cookies and stuff. He seems like a pretty all right cat.

So one might expect from this medical pioneer in Beverly Hills some kind of super high-tech surgical procedure. Maybe he'll sonically reduce it like they do with kidney stones? or something with a laser, right? I mean he's a plastic surgeon in Bevery Hills. Or maybe he'll bust out some Star Trek medicine (just waving a salt shaker type thing over my face and call me cured). Um, nope.

It was pioneer medicine, as in Willa Cather (19th century American author) O Pioneers! medicine. Essentially, he made a small incision on the bump and squeezed and pressed my face until the infected cyst (i was right about that part anyway) emerged or was "expressed" as he referred to it. Now, this took about 10 minutes of him just kneading my face, like he was making pizza dough. I must say, as he was doing this I was forced to wonder... is this the best option in 2004 in Beverl Hills?

Fortunately, it didn't hurt that much, but it did hurt at times. Enough that I winced a couple times. But i knew what he was doing so it was cool. If it had been excruiciating he would've known that, too. At the end he complimented me as stoic telling me that he probably didn't have any other patients who could've withstood that. i thank him for the compliment but mostly for getting rid of this thing. He does tell me that my follow up is the next Monday (or the day after I'm supposed to get on a plane. so hello postponed vacation. but it's just a week so it's all good.).

The first follow-up exam was good. I am still awaiting the biopsy, but no reasons to be worried. THere's an 80 percent chance i'm good to go and a 20 percent chance it might come back. He said he went with those odds, because if they have to cut in surgically I end up with a scar on my face. so who knows? but I have confidence. Things look good now.

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