A rising number of hits (yes, I am still addicted to statistics) have resulted from people searching on lipomas, perhaps much as I was doing back at the end of August having first heard that word at the doctorʼs office. And I have also been asked in comments and e-mail about my situation. So as a kind of public service (mildly ironic there) and to collect the information that I have scattered all over posts from the past month or so, I thought I would compose one last reflection on my own luscious little fat tumor. (And my apologies to faithful readers for whom all this is simply a review of what you have read already.)
I first discovered I had a lipoma, without knowing what it was, when my wife noticed a lump on my left shoulder blade back in late August, I believe the evening of the 27th. At my age, nearly 57 (but I guess at any age), lumps make you worry about cancer, so she got me to go to the doctor first thing the very next morning to discover what this thing was. I wrote about that session in some detail here and here. Our doctor said he was sure it was a lipoma and told me what that was, a fat tumor, benign, in which the fat collects in a lump instead of spreading out in a layer as fat usually does. However, to be certain (and to be careful), he referred me to a surgeon for further investigation (perhaps a biopsy or full excision, depending on the surgeonʼs judgment). On our own, Janet and I investigated lipomas, and I found the Wikipedia article and the Mayo site most informative. Then I visited the surgeon at his offices in our local hospital, Wednesday, September 1. He made very cursory examination (even needing me to tell him where to look), noting the lump did not push out much but was what he considered large — about seven centimeters in extent. And he decided right there it had to come out.
As my wife and I had some concerns about our insurance paying for this procedure (lipoma excision is frequently branded as “cosmetic” by greedy insurance companies, and I suppose for some people, unsightly lumps need removal just because they are unsightly), I was pleased he wanted to remove it for what he considered medical reasons. (None of my bills has as of yet come in, probably in the conduits of the insurance claims process still, so I donʼt know how much all this — doctor visit, surgeon visit, outpatient procedure and follow-up with the surgeon — will cost, both me and our insurance company. Perhaps that will be the final word on the whole thing one day when I do get the bills — total cost.)
We had our vacation to Alaska planned, so the surgeonʼs nurse slated my procedure for the day after our return home, Wednesday, October 20. Before my wifeʼs observation in August I donʼt think I had any pain or discomfort from the lump. Afterward, probably psychosomatically, I felt a dull ache, like a heaviness there on my mid back. And I may have felt that mild weight or ache for some time and just ignored it, but I think the sensation was mostly my reaction to the knowledge the lipoma existed. During the two weeks until the surgery, some days I felt that very mild ache, other days and times not. My conclusion for those who might wonder: no pain.
The surgery was uncomfortable but no problem. The doctor gave me a local (repeatedly as I made a conscious point to complain of any actual sensation of cutting or pain other than the pressure I could feel of him at work). He had to work more and longer than he had anticipated (evidently most lipomas kind of just “pop out” once a small incision has been made), as my lump lay low and adhered tightly to the muscle beneath. He also had to extend the incision because the lipoma was larger than he had anticipated. The most unpleasant part for me was feeling him tug and tug at me as he stitched me up (on, I believe, three levels). My appointment was at 2:00 PM; he began actual work by a quarter after, and I was being dismissed from the office almost immediately after 3:00.
Once I got to see the oblong lump itself (dull white, covered in watery red, about three inches — less — by not quite two inches), the staff took it for shipment to a lab for biopsy.
Recovery was mild and easy. The rest of that afternoon and evening, the painkiller kept me from feeling any issues at all, and my only problems were trying to sleep on my right side, forcing me to recline on a sofa to rest my back and side simultaneously for two nights. Periodically and briefly, about a half dozen times a day for not quite a week I got a flash of bight pain along what I assumed was the healing wound, but that was basically mild and very brief. They had prescribed extra-strength Advil for pain, and I only ever took one tablet at night to help me sleep easily (sometimes extra-strength PM). I had to keep the bandaged wound dry, and my wife changed the bandages after three days (twice before my return visit). I also was advised (and felt the need) not to move my left shoulder blade too much, particularly to avoid reaching overhead and also to avoid heavy physical exertion, like lawn work; and I noticed reaching behind me with my left arm could cause a stab of pain for a while. I avoided my usual exercise routine, jogging, and carried my arm as if it were in a sling until my wife observed that I did need to use those muscles as everything healed. The tug of the bandage tape was probably the most noticeable symptom all week long. I showered without turning my back to the water.
Exactly a week later, on September 27, I returned to the surgeon at 3:00 PM to have the stitches removed and get the lab results. This was a very brief visit, only about ten minutes altogether. The surgeon covered the healing scar/wound with “sterile strips” that I was to leave in place until they came off on their own (which I anticipate will be about a week or a little longer). Exercise was okay now, but weight lifting was not advised for a while longer yet; mowing the lawn should be fine, and I did that job with no problems last Friday. I write on Wednesday, October 6, but all seems fine. I anticipate being fully back to normal (well, as normal as I can be) easily within three weeks from the surgery. This past week I havenʼt really noticed anything at all with the healing incision.
I hope that the whole thing is now behind me.