For those who read yesterdayʼs post (and an unresponsive lot you were, considering all my carefully cultivated literary suspense, although I did give away the “new word” through the link Janet had given me) the title of todayʼs post tells it all. But so does my continuation of my little narrative essay, so read on…

“A lump, huh? How long have you had it?”

“Janet just noticed it last night. I donʼt really know how long itʼs been there…”

“Well, letʼs take a look.”

So I pulled off my t-shirt (this was becoming a habit within ten hours) and turned around. No real reaction.

“Which side?”

“The left. On my shoulder blade.”

He prodded at me. “Here? On the scapula?”

“Feels like it. Janet said the bottom of my shoulder blade.”

“Uh uh.” He took my left elbow and pulled it back, then up, also pushing on my back, on the lump I assumed. He moved my arm some more. A minute or so passed. Then, “Crap…”

That woefully unmagical word! It made me freeze a little. No one wants their doctor, or their friend, saying that when examining something that might be wrong with you.

He kept manipulating my arm, apparently trying to get a good view of the lump by raising or depressing the scapula. After a couple more maneuvers, he told me, “Let me move it.” I tried to relax and let him take charge of where my arm went, including high over my head and back through some positions it had already been. Also more poking and massaging on my back.

Then he corrected himself, probably realizing what had slipped out of his mouth. “—Uh, not ‘crap,ʼ uh, ‘cancer,ʼ you know. Just… itʼs hard to tell… Itʼs not, not a tumor, not malignant or anything. Not cancer.”

Best words I had heard in many years. They probably even beat, “you have won the lottery” or “yes, we want to publish your story,” although I havenʼt had the chance to compare yet. At least now I might get to get that opportunity and take our vacation, finish the stories I have going.

“Thatʼs good,” I said.

“Uh huh. — Try crossing your arm over your chest.” I did. “And now, up over your head. High. Higher than that…”

Now I had control of the arm while he prodded at my back with both hands. We put me through quite a few contortions for a couple more minutes.

“Okay, you can put your shirt back on.”

I did and turned around to look at him.

“Itʼs not a tumor, not cancerous. Probably itʼs a lipoma.” I wasnʼt sure I heard the word correctly (this was my new word that I featured so suggestively to begin yesterdayʼs initial post on this medical session). I must have looked doubtful because he repeated the word at least five times trying to explain it to me. “A lipoma is a collection of fatty tissue beneath the skin. Theyʼre harmless. Itʼs just fat. Your fat usually flattens out into layers, like what gives us a belly, but in this case it just stays in a lump right under you skin.” Mr. Overweight here wasnʼt sure this new thing wasnʼt an issue with me being just fat in general. And he went on…

I am not even close on the explanation, so Iʼll just quit pretending that I remember what he said at all accurately. Heʼs really quite clear in his explanations of medical issues and I understood, but I am afraid that nervous tension put me in the wrong frame of mind — shocked pleasantly — to have taken full note of every word. I got the key information, though: the word, lipoma, and the diagnosis, harmless. The tougher issue, the reason for his exclamation, is that itʼs difficult to tell for sure without surgery if itʼs actually a lipoma. He told me an x-ray, even an MRI might or might not show the mass very clearly in my case. It was probably, probably even undoubtedly, a lipoma. But to be sure, I should see a surgeon, and he would make the referral for me.

Wrong shoulder and too high, but a lipoma

At some point in the conversation I had remembered to indicate my upcoming obligations — vacation, performances, possible substitute teaching jobs. He said it would probably be best to get me right in. If the surgeon, our local surgeon at the Jackson County Regional Health Center, Dr. Atienza, who has had the joyous opportunity of getting physically inside me twice already — once for double hernia surgery (thanks be to the novice doctor at the old medical office who finally determined that I had to get that operation, as our health insurance counted hernia surgery as cosmetic/elective and wouldnʼt have paid otherwise) in 2001 and again over Christmas break my last year of teaching, my celebratory end to 2008, when I succumbed to current friend doctorʼs blandishments to get a colonoscopy — , decided either to take a biopsy or actually remove the lipoma, I would heal in a couple of weeks (which is the same recovery time I was promised after the hernia operation, and I was still pretty feeble at the walking game more than a month afterward; itʼs the recuperation that really sucks with surgery, and no one ever talks about that).

And that was that. I remembered to bring up my inflamed toe (recovering from an ingrown nail, as I had diagnosed myself — still somewhat infected, though) and the fact that my meds were running low. He wrote out a new prescription for both blood pressure and cholesterol. I forgot the third item on my list was not the reason I had gone in (the lump) but the tinnitus, so Bill still doesnʼt know about that little annoyance/symptom.

Reminding me to razz Janet about that imaginary party, he took his leave. The nurse returned to call the hospital and make my appointment with Atienza (which will be tomorrow), and I was free to leave. Having walked down the hill to the office, I called Janet (as per my instructions) while walking uphill home. I think she may have been as relieved as I was.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

7 thoughts on “Lipoma

  1. I’ve never dreaded reading a blog post as much as I was this one. I can’t tell you how glad we are that the lump is nothing serious.

  2. Your walk home must have felt a bit like a victory lap. Very glad to hear the harmless prognosis. Hope your appointment tomorrow is also good news. Sending good “vibes” your way!

    • Yes, Kim, in a fairly mild way, it did (of course, no matter what, I didnʼt figure I wouldnʼt be walking home that day). I was thinking about friends who have had to face much less gratifying news in very similar circumstances, and that notion dampered my ebullience.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I have the same exact thing, in the same place. Did you have yours removed?

    Mine has gotten larger and is now very noticeable in a tank top, but I’m not sure my insurance will cover it.

    • Hi, Kathi. Because my surgery was outpatient from the surgeonʼs office, and because he insisted it had to come out (“large, very large”), as I noted in an entry earlier here on the blog, I am returned just within this hour from the procedure, which insurance will cover and for which we didnʼt even have to get clearance in advance, precertification (in other words, it wasnʼt considered a cosmetic operation). Good luck!

  4. Please share results of the aftermath! Pain, size, diagnosis confirmed by lab, etc. – How long it took for recovery. Hoping all is well.

    • The lipoma itself only caused a dull ache (a 1 on the medical 1-10 scale, perhaps). The surgeon agreed it was probably a lipoma, a rather large one. The surgery was unpleasant, being awake, a little more unpleasant than dentistry, but not actually painful. The white mass the surgeon showed me last Wednesday, 9/22, was about 7 centimeters long and maybe half that wide (3 inches by 1.5-2 inches). I go back to have the stitches removed tomorrow, 9/29, at which time I get the lab results. As I write today, 9/28, the restrictive tug of the bandage over the wound and not being able to fully shower (“keep it clean and dry”) along with a periodic flare of itch or pain (2-3 out of 10?) in the wound itself are the only issues. My wife, who has rebandaged me, says the wound looks clean (but bruised) and I seem to be healing; we find out for sure tomorrow. I am hopeful that a week or ten days from now all will be more or less back to normal.

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