Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jane pauses for this public service announcement

Pleomorphic adenoma. (Say that three times fast - I dare ya.)

So that's what I had and one of the reasons Jane took a sabbatical.  It's actually a tumor of the parotid (salivary) gland...and/or possibly a new totally unexplored galaxy in the new Star Trek movie.  If you Google it, you find that there's not a whole lot of helpful information out there on either the tumor or the galaxy.

I guess that this is my attempt at a public service announcement for those of you out there searching for more information.  Not that it will be scientific or helpful or anything. 

But the more you know..

My little journey started last fall.  I'd been sick for a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and at some point during this period, I felt a lump on my jawbone, directly in front of my right ear.

I had a cold.  People with colds sometimes have swollen lymph nodes.  No biggie.

But the cold went away and the lump did not.  In early December, I went in to my primary care doc for an unrelated issue and asked about it.  She immediately sent me out for blood work and an ultrasound.  Ok...

I show up for the ultrasound, and 30 seconds in, the tech starts making bug-eye faces at the monitor and firing questions at me.  "How long have you had this?"  "Has it grown?" "Do you have cats?" "Does IT HURT?"



More scary faces.  "You must wait here!  The radiologist needs to see this NOW!"

So much for bed-side manner.  My heart is now beating through my chest.  WTF?!

The radiologist calmly comes in and takes a look and asks me the same questions and then sends me for a CT scan and a mammogram.  When I finish up this trifecta of paranoia, the radiologist pulls me aside and hands me her card.

"I'm going to refer you to an ENT.  And, hey, when you find out what this is, give me a call.  I've never seen anything quite like it."


Thus begins a marathon of tests and waiting.  I was referred to an ENT, who ordered another battery of tests...another CT scan, a fine needle aspiration (like a biopsy for sissys), and an MRI.

There were second opinions and lots and lots of waiting.

Waiting sucks.  I don't like it.  I like to have a plan.  I can deal with anything if I have a plan.

My ENT decided that, although she believed everything was benign and groovy, it was a tumor which needed to come out.  Evidently, these things can keep growing until it looks like you have two heads (if Google images is to be believed).  Regardless, they can get large and angry and cancerous and mean.

I've got enough shit to deal with without having to deal with a grumpy tumor so I said OK.  Yay surgery!

I had a plan!  I can deal with it if I have a plan.

So then I started to do the research, like any paranoid, control-freak, internet junkie.  Like real research - not like the earlier self-diagnosis searches I had conducted on WebMD to validate that I did indeed have brain cancer and 6 months to live.  I never said that I didn't have dramatic tendencies.

I found out a few things, but not much.  I found out that it's not very common and recovery takes about 2 weeks and you should not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EAT ANYTHING CITRUS-Y OR HARD OR SWEET OR FOOD-LIKE after surgery.  Oh, and you get lots of cool painkillers.

I found out that Lebron James had the same surgery.  I dislike him marginally less now, I guess.

I found out that sometimes they take the damn thing out and it's cancerous after all.  And I found out that there are some WICKED pictures of actual surgeries on the internet that will only make you vomit a little.

As those of you who have had surgery before know, once you and your doctor decide on surgery, you actually have to schedule the surgery...and then wait for the surgery.  And wait.  And wait.

I actually only had to wait about 3 weeks.  I pulled the "your tumor is actually looking kinda pre-grumpy so we're going to fast track you" scheduling card.  Awesome.

Right before surgery, my parents flew out from Ohio to take care of me and the Princess.  The Princess, being 13, was semi-oblivious to the whole ordeal.  As soon as I confirmed with her that I wasn't going to die or anything, she returned to her shell of "I'm 13, bitches...don't talk to me unless I address you first...and...oh, can you give me a ride?" 

And the Boy...bless his big awesome Boy-heart...flew all the way in from Spring Training in Florida for exactly 24 hours to hold my hand.  24 hours is evidently the maximum amount of time that one can leave Spring Training before one is called back to address end-of-the-world-triggering baseball-related mega emergencies...or to throw baseballs.

The Boy kissed me on the forehead.  My mom and dad squeezed my hands for luck.  I went back into the surgery room and placed my not-so-well covered bare ass on a table about the width of my leg, laid back VERY carefully and reluctantly let them strap me in.  My doctor glanced up from her notes long enough to make sure that I wasn't going to bolt at the last minute and then, apparently satisfied that I was adequately imprisoned, went back to her note-taking.  The last thing I remember is my anethesiologist telling me...and I quote..."I've got some goooooood stuff for you...."  And he was so right.

Just shy of 5 hours later, they wheeled me into recovery and thus began the long road of strange and fun sensations.  The right side of my face was dotted with large bruises from the nerve zapper/sensor things that had apparently been, like, nailed to my head so that the doctor could make sure each nerve was still working.  The parotid gland is located in a fun place on the face where many of the facial nerves meet, chat and mingle.  Unfortunately, operating in this area can be a little dicey because these nerves are like little personality nightmares.  Some of them are ok with a little movement or a shove to the side.  Some are ok with some light petting.  Some are a bit tougher - look at them sideways and they go all "oh hell NO" and then shut down for 8 months.

My doc told me post-op that the tumor had grown around several of the facial nerves and essentially shredded them.  She said it was like operating around dental floss and that she tried not to look at them sideways or cop an attitude, but they were a surly bunch.  And the tumor had grown all the way down to my jawbone.  Just tumor on jawbone - which would actually make a way cool band name.

I stayed overnight in the hospital and the Boy stayed with me all night.  When I asked him why he wanted to stay, he said "because you would do the same for me."  I nodded and pretended to know what he was talking about.

And everything was benign.

So despite my surgeon being a super suck-up to all of my facial nerves, a few of them decided to go on strike.  I discovered upon waking up that I couldn't move my right eyebrow or the left side of my lower lip.  I was ok with the eyebrow thing, because it left this totally smooth ageless area on my having Botox on half your face.  I just told people it was actually the look I was going for - the poor man's facelift.

The lip was a bit more traumatic because I actually had to pull one side of my lip down to take bites of anything wider than .00005 inches.  Not that I could actually eat anything for awhile.  That whole bit of advice about not eating food-like substances after surgery was right on.  And HOLY HELL were they right about not eating or drinking anything sweet or sour or marginally tasty.  Anything with salt, or sugar, or alcohol or citrus would make my face feel like it was going to burn up and combust.  I think my only nourishment for a week was graham crackers - which I sucked on because chewing was out of the question.

I was down for the count - tired, sore, and just generally out of it - for almost three weeks.  And then one weekend, I felt ok.  It was like a giant exhaustion cloud had moved on.  Just like that and Jane got her groove back.

Three months post op...

I still don't have a lot of sensation in my ear lobe or down the curve of my cheek - although heavy earrings are no longer an irritant (cuz, um, I can't feel 'em).  Sometimes the whole area feels like a switchboard that's lighting up - but I've been told that's good and the nerves do weird things when they stop being anti-social and rejoin the group.  My smile is almost back to normal - although the lopsided thing was kinda cute (the Boy gets paid to tell me these things).  My eyebrow has some movement back - a lot more than where I started - and someday I'll have to freeze them on purpose. 

My scar is actually kinda badass and I almost wish it was more visible because then when people asked about it, I could be all "yah...knife fight".

Three days post-op vs. three months post-op.  Gnarly, right?!  I think they peeled half my face off!

My doc says that it could take up to a year to regain all movement and sensation.  And, you know, I'm kinda cool with that....because the alternative could have been so much worse.

So massive thanks and eternal gratitude to my family and the Boy and my completely awesome doctor, who will evidently be my BDF (Best Doc Forever...duh) for awhile because these stupid things like to come back.

And if you've made it this far, you are likely dealing with the same thing.  Because nobody who isn't desperate for information would have read all this.

It's scary.  It sucks.  You wonder why this is happening to you.

But then you realize it could have been so much worse.  In the grand scheme of things, this is manageable.  I got lucky.  Some folks have to deal with radiation or permanent nerve damage...or worse.

Long story short - if you're looking for information, go to  It's the only place where I found useful (i.e. patient-centric) information on all types of parotid gland tumors.  There are pictures and first-hand accounts and post-op checklists.  There's also a very active forum, where every question I could possibly come up with was asked and answered by fellow patients, based on their own experiences.

Shoot me an email if you have more specific questions.  I'm not a doctor, but I can at least relay my own experience.

The more you know.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Google says my target audience is porn-loving volcanologists...Hooray!

So it seems that a lot can happen in two years.

I took a sabbatical from all things fun and internet-y and -- geez -- I missed some good stuff.  For example...
  • Donald Trump (in general)
  • Anthony Weiner's junk
  • Arnold's love child
  • Occupy Everything
  • Lindsey Lohan's arrest(s)(s)(s)
  • #Winning
  • Mitt Romney
  • Hulk Hogan's sex tape
  • Octomom porn (unrelated to Hulk Hogan - pity)
I seriously didn't log on to Blogger or look at "Jane" for over a year.  When I did decide to go back, it went something like...

Ok, I remember the name of the site, but where do I log in?
Shit, what was my password again?
Wasn't there an email associated with this?
Wait while Google resends password.
Wait some more....
Still waiting...
Google sucks.
I'm IN!
WTF?!  Everything is all moved around.  Fucking Blogger. 
People still visit this shit?  Shut up!  Ummm.....why?
So Facebook doesn't think my 15 "likes" is enough to keep up my inactive, unvisited page for 2 years?!  Fucking Facebook.
Ooooo...audience statistics! Say huh?? (Or in Wayne's World - Asphinctersayswhat???) 

It turns out that there an enormous entertainment/learning gap out there for porn-loving volcanologists.  And I know this because Google says so.  AND I AM HERE TO FULFILL THEIR NEEDS.  Because that's how I roll.

For reasons unknown to Jane and/or mankind, far and away the most popular post over the last several years on My Life As Jane (from a sheer visits standpoint) has been the volcanologist post.  Go figure.  You just can't plan for these things.

I think that once the excitement of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption in Iceland wore off, the volcanologists had nothing else to do but to scan the internet for any mention of their
Eyjafjallajokull glory days - or just validation of the existence of their chosen career path in general.  And porn. 

So imagine their delight and surprise when they found reference to all of the above on one site.  Score!

Until, of course, they realized that there really wasn't any ACTUAL porn. 

Alternate theory...

There also seems to be a large percentage of visitors from the Ukraine.  "Eyjafjallajokull" and "volcanologist" could maybe be mistaken for Ukrainian-sounding search terms.  "Porn" is universal.  So maybe I'm just drawing horny Ukrainians who can't spell.


I am dedicated to providing entertainment for both volcanologists and horny Ukrainians.  But I think I need to broaden my reach to maybe include seismologists too.  They seem like a larger, harder-working, more socialized group as a whole.  Not that they're cooler than volcanologists....but, well, they're cooler than volcanologists.  And they have better job security.

So...volcanologists - I am here for you.  Truly.  I will post weekly pictures of exploding volcanoes with subtle porn innuendo just for you.  But can you bring along a seismologist friend?  I need to expand my demographics.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A repost in honor of Cinco de Mayo - "Why yes, my 10-year old WOULD like a beer can necklace...thank you!"

In honor of Cinco de Mayo - and the fact that I don't have anything fresh to put out there because I'm trying to prepare for my thesis defense ("trying" being the operative word here) - I'm re-purposing a post from a couple of years ago.

And because beer bottle necklaces are always relevant and fun...

So yesterday was Cinco de Mayo.  The Princess had been doing Mexican-type things at school all day to celebrate (like learning how to carry identification papers and stuff like that), so when I went to pick her up, I thought it might be nice to take her out for dinner at the local Mexican restaurant/chain.

It was only 5:30.  "It's early", I thought..."we'll get in and get out before the party crowd shows up."

And I could get myself the "margarita as big as your head" that this place was known for.  Bonus.

There were still parking spots and we were seated right away and it was mostly families.  The revelers weren't there yet.  I'm a genius.

We order and we're just sitting and chatting about school when all of a sudden the Princess spouts off with an "OMG"  (no, not "Oh My God"...literally "O-M-G"), at which point I start looking around for our waiter because I think maybe she's just commenting on the size of the margarita I've just ordered.

She takes off across the restaurant and disappears for a few moments.  When she comes back, she's grinning from ear-to-ear and wearing some shiny gold beads.

"Look what they're giving away, Mommy!"

"Oh, cool.  Let me see."

She hands me the beads and I realize that I have failed to notice the blinking LED Corona beer bottle dangling from said beads.

"Wow.  That's entirely inappropriate."

"What is Mommy?"

"The beer bottle hanging from your neck, sweetie."

"But I like it!"

Before I can utter another word, she has darted back across the restaurant and disappeared again.  Thankfully, my ginormous margarita shows up and I nervously begin shoving chips down my throat.

It's during this pause that I start to look around.  And I notice now that there are indeed many families there in this Mexican restaurant enjoying Cinco de Mayo.  And I notice that their children are ALL wearing gold beads with blinky Corona bottles around their necks.  Teenagers, toddlers, tweens, babies...all of them.


I'm not quite sure this is what the Corona company had in mind when they sent their giveaways to the Mexican restaurants to distribute on Cinco de Mayo.  Or maybe they did.  Start 'em early!

At this point, the Princess reappears with a gift for me and I become the proud owner of a Dos Equis laser key chain, which when pointed in just the right light at just the right angle, shows a "XX" logo...kinda like the Bat Signal.  For my own sanity, I'm assuming that the "XX" stands for Dos Equis and not X-rated.

She's so excited about how cool this keychain thing is that she goes back and grabs one for herself.  I guess because she has super-secret invisible keys that need chaining.

I'm not really taking breaths between margarita sips now.  Chips are forgotten.  Straw in mouth, I'm internally debating my obligation to be a good parent and take this beer-labeled crap away or just let it go.  Or keep if for myself.

I compromise and tell her she can keep the beads as long as she doesn't wear them.  I'm starting to dig the keychain.  The "XX" is a lot funnier after half a ginormous margarita.

The restaurant host stops by our table.  "How is everything?"

"It's good, fine...everything is peachy."

And then he grins stupidly and hands us an "XX" branded maraca and something called a castania drum - also Dos Equis branded.

The Princess is ecstatic and immediately starts up with her own double-fisted percussion section.

Every kid in the place looks at her enviously and the stampede to the host begins.

I am now the proud owner of one string of gold beads with a blinky Corona, two laser "XX" keychains, one "XX" maraca (which the dog HATES) and a Dos Equis drum thingy (also not popular with the dog).

Yes, I know...the irony of "This is not a Toy" sticker has not gone unnoticed

I should know better than to try to do something wholesome on Cinco de Mayo.  It's like trying to take your kid to Vegas without running into hookers (I have a story about that too...don't judge).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

So I told y'all I was going out for a pack of cigarettes...

...and, hey, I didn't come back.  I feel a little bad about that since, actually, I don't smoke.  I live in California and if you even try to smoke here, Gov. Jerry Brown will find you, body slam you and pin you down until you promise to never EVER even THINK about smoking within the boundaries of the state.  Pot smoking, however, seems to be a-ok.

But I digress.  Why did I take off for almost two years?

So many reasons actually.  Sometimes the things you have to do take precedence over the things that you want to do.  And then other things that you want to do pop up and you have to take advantage.

Long story short...Jane got tabled.  (That sounds sexual...I swear it's not.)

But I was really really really busy.  Pinky swear.  To wit...
  • I took the Princess to Europe for 2 weeks.  Italy and Germany.  There's at least one or 15 blogs in there somewhere.
  • I got back together with the Boy....which actually happened about 0.5 seconds after I stopped writing Jane.  Completely unrelated.  I think.  (Actually, it was the Boy who told me that I should start writing Jane again.  However, I suspect that it had more to do with the fact that the day after I turned in my masters thesis, I was all "I'm booooooooooooooored" in my best whiny Fran Drescher voice.)
  • They found a tumor in my neck and I had to have surgery.  It was benign and everything, but I think it might be worth some future commentary and/or a public service announcement.
  • I discovered that going back to school is WAY UNFUN!  But it's also almost over.  I just have to defend my thesis next month.  And I will do everything necessary to defend the damn thing - even if it involves boxing gloves or lightsabers or those way cool flaming swords I just saw on Game of Thrones.  May the force be with me.
  • I worked.  I drank.  I survived another year(s) of teenage angst.  I went to a bunch of baseball games.  I only have FIVE more baseball stadiums to visit to before I have them all.  
But I missed writing for writing's sake.  Does that make sense?  I mean, I've been doing a LOT of writing for school.  More than I have in a very very long time.  But it's all writing that's grammatically correct and cited and researched and, ugh, defensible.  In other words, completely painful.  It's also a really a hard habit to break, and if I knew how to add footnotes in Blogger, I'd be citing the shit out of this just cuz I could.

So read it, or don't, but I promise not to go out for cigarettes for awhile.  I'm afraid of Jerry Brown.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Resurrection of The Jane or something like that... there anybody out there (said in best creepy Pink Floyd voice)....

I just finished my Masters degree, the Princess is kind of self-sufficient, and I've run out of things that I absolutely HAVE to do.


But to do what?

Work.  Meh...ok.  And what else?

Leisure time is for sissies!

If Jane came back, would anybody read her?  Has she broken your trust?  Did she prove unworthy?  Or is she dead to you?