I’m sitting in the outpatient surgery waiting room right now. Eve is in the OR right now, having a “bump” removed from her ear. I have been reluctant to write this post, I’m not sure why. As the kids get older I feel more reserved about the private information I post. I realized I’ve already posted a ton of private info, but it’s starting to feel different. Anyway, I’m going to write this while I wait because I want the details for my own memory, and I’ll see how I feel about posting it when I’m done.
When Eve was four she started to develop a “bump” on the back of her right ear. The “helix” according to a random page I found on the Internet.
I asked the doctor about it at her 5yr well child check up and the doctor said it looked like a mole, nothing more. She recommended I take a picture and we keep an eye on it.
Over the next year or so it swelled up to about the size of a slightly used pencil eraser (how’s that for specific) and then shrunk down again, like a wrinkled raisin. Then it swelled up and grew another bump on top of the original bump. Weird. At her seven year check up (or thereabouts, I’m forgetting the details) the doctor recommended we see a dermatologist, just to have a second opinion. The dermatologist (who is awesome, btw) determined it was a “growing and changing mole” and suggested we keep an eye on it, but we’d likely want to have it removed at some point, for cosmetic reasons if nothing else. After two appointments, with the bump-on-bump still growing, we decided she was old enough and we just wanted to have it removed.
This February we went to the dermatologist for the in-office procedure. The whole thing took about five minutes and the doctor talked to Eve about American Girls and suddenly it was over.
The worst part, according to Eve, is that we had to keep Aquafor and a band-aid on it for a few weeks to keep it moist and soft. She didn’t like the bankd-aid process.
The doctors did their medical thing and studied the bump thoroughly. The called it a “spitzoid melanoma of childhood.” The dermatologist said they used to call this type of thing “childhood melanoma,” but now that sounds too scary so they changed the name. I’m not sure “spitzoid” sounds any less scary! The docs were concerned that it might be a bit more than a normal thing and there was some discussion about what to do. They sent the “specimen” to Sloan Kettering for further analysis and eventually the doctors all agreed that the remainder of the “bump,” the part still inside her ear, should be removed. I had a long talk with our dermatologist about the pros and cons and ramifications of surgery or “leave well enough alone.” She also recommended an ultrasound of Eve’s neck because if the ear issue had extended into her body further it would likely show up in the lyphnodes in her neck. I think that was the “sentinel lymphnodes” part. We decided to go ahead with the ultrasound as a baseline (they want to repeat again next year to see if there are changes) and the ear surgery. It was a hard decision, for me, because I don’t want to do unnecessary surgery and there were so many maybes involved. However, I also don’t want to bury my head in the sand and avoid the problem until something else happens, potentially more internally where we won’t catch it quickly.
So, we did the ultrasound last month. It was a tough experience because the only time I’ve been in an ultrasound room was for baby peeks, and to see MY baby on the table was a little disconcerting… and also because the last time I was in that room was when we didn’t see a heartbeat and that was pretty traumatic. Anyway, it’s not about me. I had both kids with me at the time and you can’t get too sentimental with two silly kids around. Eve was perfectly still while the ultrasound tech did her job, then did 200 jumping jacks while we waited the the tech to release us. We all agreed that inside the neck looks like a raging river with some boulders (lymphnodes, I presume) in it.
The dermatologist called me that afternoon (did I mention she’s awesome!) and said that the lymphnodes look fine and there is no cause for concern there. Whew!! There had been talk of removing a swollen lymphnode during the ear surgery, if necessary, and I was VERY glad to hear that wasn’t necessary!
Alan and I decided it was still a good idea to go ahead and have the remaining part of the “bump” removed from her ear, just to be sure there were no more bad cells in there. It was hard to explain that to Eve though. She understood the initial removal of the bump, but she wanted nothing to do with this second procedure. Leading up to today I have asked all the questions I could to various people and feel as prepared as possible. In the past few days I tried to talk to Eve about what to expect, but she kept insisting that she didn’t want to know. She didn’t want to hear about it. I let the issue rest.
Last night I was combing her hair and noticed that the bump area is starting to bump up again. That effectively cleared away any remaining hesitation I had about the surgery. Clearly it is still “active” and therefore potentially troubling.
This morning we had a 6:45am appointment with the surgery center. Eve wasn’t allowed to eat or drink beforehand, so I let her sleep as long as possible, waking her a little after 6:00am. That’s when her true feelings came up. “Mom, I don’t want to do this. Please can I just stay here in bed. Why do I have to have surgery? Why don’t I get a say in the matter?” My heart broke at 6:10am. Sigh. I hugged her and tried to explain a bit, but mostly just empathized. I acknowledged that she is getting older and should be more involved in the decision making process. I was able to get her out the door, if not happily at least peacefully, and we headed to surgery. By the time we got there she had built up her silly defenses and was pure sweet and silly. She did a great job with the process and everyone involved was super nice and caring and sweet. I was really impressed.
At this point I am actually home now. The surgery was scheduled for 1hr 45m, but only lasted about 25 minutes. Good news! The surgeon told me that he didn’t have to take any cartilage, which is good, and was able to get out as much as the “specimen” as he could see. He said he took a few extra millimeters all around, so hopefully it’s all cleared out! I was able to go into the operating room with her and hold her hand while she sang “Let It Go” with a Child Life Specialist. She was asleep before the end. I cried a little on the way out. I knew she was in good hands and it wasn’t a major surgery, but the emotion is still a bit overwhelming. I went back to the waiting room and was surprised to hear them calling my name 25 minutes later! I talked with the doctor, then went back into the recovery area (the same place as the pre-op area) to talk with the nurse and be present when Eve woke up. She rebounded quickly and in no time was eating popsicles and telling the nurses silly stories. We left a short time later and headed to the store to buy her more popsicles, and Cheetos (a treat she never gets normally!) and granola bars. Basically whatever she asked for I said yes. She was driving the cart down the aisles like a drunk person. Alan met us there to say hi and we both had a good laugh
at with her.
We came home and spent the next few hours on the couch watching Dinosaur Train, a PBS preschool program that she loves but that Lex refuses to watch anymore and therefore Eve rarely gets to see. This morning I promised her all the Dinosaur Train she wants, which is partly why she got out of bed in the first place.
Now we wait for further lab results to tell us… well, I don’t really know what they’ll tell us. I guess some sort of reassurance that this whole experience is over.
And we wait for this monstrosity to heal. The doctor assured me it would look pretty good in the end. He’s a plastic surgeon and that is his job after all. So far, in the past few hours, it started bruising and looking even worse. Fortunately she seems to be feeling fine, full of energy and insisting there is no ear pain. I’ll probably give her some Tylenol before bed, just in case, but she definitely bounces back quickly!
Eve told me she didn’t want me to take any pictures in the hospital (I snuck that one above while she was still sleeping!), but when she saw me looking like this she decided it was worthy of a photo. Whatever it takes to make her smile. :)