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The Saga of the Salivary Gland

Look, it’s not a tumor.

Image of white kitten on top of a larger white cat that is grumpily saying

Not that you’d know that from the reaction. You know how they tell you to see your doctor if your sore throat doesn’t go away or worsens? Well, going in to week three of this wretched illness, everything was improving except my throat, which was busily getting worse. My regular doctor has taken a sabbatical to be with her kids, and it seemed rather asinine anyway to drive all the way to Totem Lake and see a real doctor over a silly little illness like this, so I went to our on-site clinic. One torture session with a cotton swab and a needle-stick later, we’d decided it wasn’t mono or strep, just a persistent virus. No worries. Come back if it gets worse.

Later that night, I got a sharp pain in the roof of my mouth where the hard palette meets the soft, near where all that crap drains from your sinuses down your throat. Felt like a canker sore, and there was a little bump that night that was a large painful bump in the morning. Well, figures. So much shit was draining it was coming out of virtually every orifice, including my eyes, and that was bound to irritate sensitive tissues.

But then it started being as painful as strep, and interfered with swallowing and spitting, and made talking painful, and if my period hadn’t started early and thus had me taking my usual high doses of ibuprofen, I’d probably not have been able to function at all. So when that didn’t resolve after a day, at a time when my nose had decided it could cope without full-time hard-core decongestants and I was no longer pouring mucous everywhere (sorry for that image), I decided another visit was in order. I expected them to tell me either no big deal, or no big deal and hey, have some antibiotics.

The physician’s assistant on duty freaked. the fuck. out.

Her eyes got huge when she saw the swelling, and she went galloping through large and imposing medical tomes, and took photos and consulted colleagues, and fussed over the fact I’d been a smoker. She didn’t say, but I could hear it plain: tumor. Lots of structures there, she said. Better see an ear, nose and throat specialist. Do you have good insurance? It’ll be expensive. See one this afternoon.

I talked her down from the ledge. Cancer, I figure, would probably take less than two days to go from nothing to big ol’ lump. And yes, I have good insurance, but would prefer not to pay huge copays for nothing. She called an ENT, who said virus or abscess. We decided to keep an eye on it overnight, and I could see a specialist if it got worse.

Between menstrual cramps, emotional misery, and mouth pain keeping me up for all but two hours of the previous night, I was too tired to see straight, so I went home at lunch and slept until eight. When I woke up, the ibuprofen had worn off, and everything hurt like a fury. I hadn’t eaten more than a few bites, I was frustrated and tired of it, and there was an urgent care clinic open in Redmond. Fuck, yes, let’s go see an actual doctor.

The doctor was an older man with copious ER experience who took one look at the swelling and freaked. the fuck. out. Instantly. Snapped a picture, talked about how if the CT scanner had been open he’d have me in there, mused over sending me direct to the ER, talked about how strange a place this swelling was in and how you don’t want to fuck around with something that close to airways and blood vessels, and mused over wanting to stab the thing with a scalpel immediately. If he had me in the ER, he said, it would be straight to the ENT for me as well as pumping me full of IV antibiotics, and no mistake.

Gray kitten in scrubs walking toward right, caption says, "Dr. Tinycat to the OR, STAT!"

At this time, I became a bit nervous.

(And please do give Starspider a big ol’ round of thanks at this point for being ready to arrange rides at in instant’s notice at midnight on a work night, just in case I had actually ended up in the OR – it’s good to know that there are people who will come rescue your poor ass at all hours.)

He kept me there until midnight, pondering, and consulting with the nearest ER, and finally decided that since the swelling hadn’t worsened over the previous twenty-four hours, I could talk and swallow and breathe, it was safe enough to send me home with antibiotics and steroids and a strict order to see an ENT first thing in the morning. They were to get me in no matter what. And if I noticed the slightest change, I was to zip straight to the nearest emergency room.

So I went to the 24-hour Walgreens, which had only one frenzied pharmacist on duty, nine million people in line, and my insurance company was playing silly buggers and denying to cover my meds. Do you know how much plain ol’ amoxicillin costs without coverage? 80 fucking dollars. But the steroids were cheap, and the pharmacist kindly gave me two antibiotic pills for free until I could yell at the prescription insurance folks, and I made it home in the wee hours of the morning with enough medication to begin the battle.

50 milligrams of Prednisone, 875 milligrams of amoxi, and a few hours of sleep later, I woke up to… a very mild ache in the ol’ swollen bit, and the happiest throat I’ve had for two weeks. Solid food did not daunt me. I popped out of bed, warmed some chunky steak-and-potato soup, added some bread and cheese, and proceeded to feast. Said, “Fuck the ENT this morning, I’m going back to bed, and the afternoon will definitely do.” Promptly fell back to sleep. Got up mid-morning and made my appointment. Sorted out the insurance problem with a very nice and competent woman who left me happy to be a Caremark customer. Waltzed in to the ENT’s office. Saw a wonderful young man in a lab coat, who flashed a light in my mouth… and promptly freaked the fuck out. Quietly. One thing you do not want a specialist to do is get those concerned-eyebrows going on the instant he take a peek at your little swelling.

But after a bit of pondering, and taking into consideration how quickly meds were working, and hearing that the swelling had gone down, and I’d had no fever or any other major issues, he decided it was just an infected salivary gland. It’s just that the ones at the top of your mouth usually don’t get infected, so everybody was a little disconcerted by the placement of the thing. He decided there was no need for stabbing it, or otherwise worrying – the antibiotics and steroids should do the job nicely. We’ll make sure the thing completely clears, but there’s no worry at this point of dying suddenly of asphyxia, bleeding, or cancer.

So you can expect to finally see more of me round here. Recovery is in sight. There are no huge sewing projects with serious deadlines on the horizon. And I’ve had plenty of time to read and think in between bouts of passing out, so there’s a lot for me to share with you!

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    there’s no worry at this point of dying suddenly of asphyxia, bleeding, or cancer.

    Here I was ready for the sweat pumps to go into high speed and you say there’s no worry? You never let me have any fun. :-(

  2. insipidmoniker, 37th Emu of the Mild Dyspepsia says

    I don’t know if you have Meijer where you live, but they have a really nice free antibiotic program. It doesn’t cover every antibiotic, but it really takes the heat off self-pay patients. I hope you feel better soon.

  3. Funny Diva says

    Oh, holy crud, lady! You HAVE been through the warz, innit?!

    Glad it’s not seriously serious, but really sorry it was so painful and awful for as long as it was!
    I’m glad you have a Starspider to rally ’round in the long, dark midnight of the…salivary gland (and other times, no doubt).

    So, when you’re feeling much better, and ready to perhaps jaunt around Sound-side near Edmonds/Richmond Beach/Golden Gardens, perhaps we could arrange to meet and follow that jaunt with a scratch margarita or two at a place I know as does ‘em really, really well?

    Whew. You take care. And send up a flare if you need anything. If I had any mineral/rock specimens hanging around my place, I’d send ya a CARE package, but everything I have has been polished to more conventional decorativeness, usually with a hole drilled through it…

    How does something as old and generic as Amoxi cost $80?! Even with an enteric coating or sustained release?!

    Have you taken prednisone before? Did they warn you that insomnia is a very common side effect? iirc, 50 mg isn’t a “massive” dose, but it isn’t exactly minimal either…

    OK, enough clucking and Mother-Henning from me.
    Just feel even better soon!

  4. rq says

    Oh I’m so glad you’re ok!
    I’m in the persistent-throat-virus stage right now, enough so I probably won’t be able to sing on Monday (sorry, mr. conductot), because it is in my voicebox and I can’t speak. I can eat, though, and London is great, even without talking. :)

  5. Funny Diva says

    rq @#4:

    clenched tentacle fistbump of solidarity from a fellow singer.
    haet the onez that take my voice even moar than I haet the ones dat stuff up ma heid and make me sound funny to myself!

    Enjoy London extra for me, pls. Been tooooo long since I was there!

    • rq says

      *fistbump*
      I sing alto in a non-professional choir. And, as a hobby, I actually need my voice to yell at the kids. Double-hit! (Haha.)
      Also, my first time in London. :) But I’m definitely going back one day (hopefully) soon, one weekend is waaaay too little time for that city!

  6. says

    80 buck for amoxicillin is pure bullshit. Find one of those pharmacies what give away standard antibiotics free if it ever comes to that.

    But I’m so glad to hear you are feeling physically better. Steroids can be super awesome in such circumstances (did the right trick for me when I was covered in poison oak, and removed the only symptom I had from mono). Woot for meds!

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Phew! I’m glad you’re okay. That sounds like quite a scary day and night or two – and gather things haven’t been going well lately? Hope that marks a turn around and they improve for you from here.

    The US medical system sucks, no doubt ’bout that. Obamacare seems a step in the right direction. Not sure if that’s already working for you in this case or not.But people deserve better and deserve not to be bankrupted by getting sick, that’s got to be an axiom surely!

  8. moarscienceplz says

    Too bad you’re not a Christian, Dana. You could have prayed away the infection and saved all that hassle.
    /snark

    Glad you’re feeling better!