An Update on the Fiendish Thingy

As  friends and family are aware, I had surgery one week ago today to remove a benign tumor from my upper jaw. I’ve written about this tumor before, a couple of times. It may be too much information, but here is a health update on the ameloblastoma that I refer to as “the fiendish thingy.”(And thank you to George Harrison for coining this phrase in Help!)

fiendish 2

One week ago today I was wheeled into the operating room humming “I Want to Be Sedated.” Actually, I remember hearing the long version of “Light My Fire” as they moved me onto the table, and wondered if it was intentional. Probably not.

My surgery lasted over five hours and was a bit more of a challenge (and a couple of hours longer) than the docs thought it would be. Trying to get at the tumor required great skill and patience. I asked how big it was at the follow-up appointment yesterday, and my doc replied, “lychee.” I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at another lychee without thinking: one of those (expletive) things was growing inside my cheek???

Anyway, I am grateful that my doc was able to reach it the way he did instead of cutting through from the outside. (Think of that scene in “Witness for the Prosecution” where the woman pulls back her hair to expose a scar and says, “Want to kiss me, ducky?”)


As of today, the right side of my face (all of it: nose, lips, cheek) is either numb, or swollen and quite tender. The numbness will last a while longer, possibly months. What that means is I can’t tell what my mouth is doing, and my ability to swallow is compromised, which makes eating a real challenge. Forks are lethal weapons in my hands.I put food in, but, just like Costner says about Robbins here, “I don’t know where it’s going to go. I swear to God.”

Thanks to my husband Bruce and some of my local pals, I have been able to enjoy a variety of pureed soups, etc. Each bite (or slurp) is a negotiation. My jaws are still not functioning. Solid food? Nothing chewing. Sounds like fun, right?

Tomorrow I see the prosthodontist who will be tinkering with the prosthetic device I’ll be wearing in the future. This cross between a retainer and a denture (four teeth, I think, to replace the ones I lost in surgery), called an obturator, will be my BFF from now on, keeping the right stuff in the right place up in there. As a result of the surgery, I now have a sizeable hole in my palate, so without the obturator–well, let’s just say I could do some extremely gross party tricks if I wanted to.

I’m adjusting to the weird numbness. It hurts when I laugh or smile, sadly. My speech is affected, so I’m not doing much talking. I can certainly type, though, and appreciate all well-wishes and atta girls.

 I’m so grateful to everyone for the support. From here on out, it’s just going to be a long slog of healing and adjusting and getting used to my very own personal new normal, with its odd sensations and food restrictions.

One more thing: If you want to kiss me, ducky, please aim for my left side.

Hospitals are busy, noisy places. It’s good to be home.


7 Responses to An Update on the Fiendish Thingy

  1. Sheila Hardy says:

    Risa…so sorry to hear of your “situation”. I’m confident you will find many ways to compensate. Perhaps you could compose a written journal for the “gazillion” photos Bruce took on your Antarctic adventure.

    You asked for my reaction to your book….I saved it to take on our last cruise to Panama. I started to read on the flight from Manchester to Florida…finished it before the ship left Ft. Lauderdale!
    Knowing the cast of characters (although some only slightly) gave it a sense of the familiar. I could picture John in the kitchen…Marilyn setting the table and you…..running in at the last minute…..late for dinner.
    I enjoyed your story telling and was fascinated by your ingenuity in dealing with everyday activities in a complicated life. You and Bruce must look back on this experience with great pride. You kept a “normal” schedule in a chaotic circumstance and brought your family full circle back home. (Proverbs: 31 comes to mind.)

    • Risa Nye says:

      Sheila, thanks so much. This will be a long haul, and normal will never be “the same.” Thanks for your kind words about my book!Glad you had a chance to read it on your cruise.

  2. Cathy Sweetman says:

    They may have taken some teeth and part of your palate, but they couldn’t take your sense of humor and unique ability to put life in perspective. Hang-in there, Risa. I believe you are unstoppable.

  3. Kate Mayer says:

    glad you are on the mend. i’d make you soup if there weren’t 40odd states (no pun intended) between us. Instead, i’ll email you a recipe. xo from CT

  4. Risa Nye says:

    Thanks, Kate! Great idea!!

  5. Kathy Selleck says:

    What an ordeal you’ve experienced, Risa. I was on vacation and missed your original post. I’m so glad the tumor was benign and you’re back written in your own inimitably entertaining way. I’ll sign up and bring you some soup. Would you like to borrow my Cuisinart Smart Stick? It can pulverize the hell out of anything.

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