I do not have a long neck. It is not slender nor elegant nor beautifully curved. A standard neck with no frills, my neck has a round, medium sized mole on the right side and a small freckle sized mole at the base. Since my birth my neck has done what all good necks are designed to do, it has supported my head, protected my throat and given me range of motion.
Way to go neck!
My neck has brought me little thought. It exists and it does its job well and therefore I need pay it no mind. But that has changed. My neck and myself are at odds. We are not on the same page and that’s not fun. Nobody wants that.
In the span of 102 days I had 3 surgeries performed on my neck, one on the inside and two on the outside: a tonsillectomy, a neck dissection and a thyroidectomy.
“What’ll ya have, sugar?”
“I’ll take 2 ‘ectomies and a dissection, please!”
* * *
In my family the code phrase to describe a story or situation that is ridiculous or too much or just absurd is an exasperated, “Oh, my neck.” Like a verbal eye roll, this is used to signify the listeners disbelief in the speaker’s tale and the strain caused to the listener’s neck by the vigorous head shaking taking place. “Oh, my neck” has long been an in-joke for me and those related to me, but now I say “Oh, my neck” not to be funny, but as a way to describe my current life happenings.
The first surgery, the tonsillectomy s-u-c-k-e-d. Sucked. If you’re one of those people who are like, “Oooh, I’ve heard adult tonsillectomies are terrible..” then you’ve heard right, it is terrible. Man, oh man, the worst. I lost 8 lbs. in 2 weeks because I could not eat food and I could not drink drinks because my throat was like ‘NOPE, fuck this tonsillectomy bullshit!’ It was horrible. In Spanish, I would say it was muy, muy, muy, muy mal.
But like all things in life time passes and things get better and such is the tale of the tonsillectomy. And silver lining, I had to take a shit ton of Percocet during that time, and who doesn’t like the occasional Percocet high every now and again?
There is no outward marking from the tonsillectomy. If you look in the back of my throat, and I’d rather you not, you will no longer see tonsils, but that’s it. No new addition to my body to mark the occasion.
Since the beginning of this journey I have learned about so many things that I never knew existed before. I’ve learned new terms, I’ve learned new units of measurement, I’ve learned how truly amazingly terrifying the human body can be. I’ve learned about so many things I never knew existed before, things like parathyroids and neck folds.
Neck folds are the thin creases that encircle a person’s neck. A fun game I’ve begun to play recently is called spot the neck fold. I’ve become acutely aware of people’s neck folds and take unnecessarily long and assumedly creepy glances at stranger’s neck folds.
Neck Folds: Everybody’s got ‘em!
When dissecting a neck, it is preferable to cut at the neck fold as to limit noticeable scarring. The scar from my second surgery is tucked neatly into my left neck fold. It kind of looks like a hair is stuck to my neck. A stray strand that can’t be brushed away.
My left ear, left jaw and left side of my neck are semi-numb from the dissection, but they are healing. At first everything was totally numb, and what a weird sensation that was!
I have one other numb spot on my body. A quarter sized spot on my right shin from a bicycle accident when I was 11. My downhill speeding bicycle collided with a jeep moving at a moderate pace and my shin seemed to have borne the brunt of it and ever since then I’ve had a small numb spot on my right leg. The day of the accident was incredibly memorable as it happened to be the same day that I got my first taste of the comedy stylings of Monty Python, instantly changing my weird little adolescent brain’s chemistry and giving me one of my first pop culture obsessions.
And while my Monty Python shaped numb spot may never change or go away, my jaw and ear have transitioned into only being somewhat numb. My left ear is now a pattern of no feeling and hot needles, numbness and pain swirled together making the ear feel kind of loose, like the foundational attachment to my head has been compromised and I must occasionally check to make sure the ear hasn’t move out of place.
The nerves are healing and stitching themselves back together, I can feel it. It burns and it aches and it stings, but that means its healing and to feel pain is better than to feel nothing at all.
My unassuming and average neck is now more adorned than ever before. In addition to the medium and freckle sized moles that dot its landscape, I now have 2 scars on my neck. One on the left side and one in the front.
My second neck scar is not in my neck fold. A foldless incision. The positioning of my neck folds were not conducive to my thyroidectomy needs. The cut was made at the base of my neck, right below the small freckle sized mole.
I have always been fond of this mole. It’s cute and positioned right in the middle of my throat and I enjoy that. I was happy to see that it had not been destroyed during the procedure and it now punctuates the thin red line that bisects my neck.
The third surgery that gave me my second neck scar was unfun. The recovery was also unfun. During both the procedure and the recovery things happened that weren’t supposed to happen and that added to the unfun theme that permeated the experience.
But eventually everything began to even itself out. About a month after the surgery I was feeling good and things were just dandy. But then the incision started to hurt again, it began to feel tight and uncomfortable. Swallowing started to become painful, eventually my neck became red and swollen and I couldn’t move my head any which way without terrible pain.
I ended up in the ER at 4am on a Thursday morning where I learned another new thing, I learned that I had developed something called a seroma. One of those things that I didn’t know existed in the world until that moment, a seroma is a pocket of fluid that the body creates to fill a void left after something has been removed, like tissue or lymph nodes or glands. A not totally uncommon thing to happen after surgery, but because of the placement of my seroma (m-m-m-my seroma!), right smack dab in the middle of my neck, there were some issues.
The seroma is now gone, but normalcy has not yet been fully achieved. My neck and I are not aligned. My shoulders and neck muscles are tense and sore, both the neck scars remain warm and tender, in different stages of healing. Sleeping is still an un-easy feat, the comfort and support once provided by my strong neck has diminished. Daily feats are less achievable now, my neck no longer comfortably cradles a cell phone between my ear and shoulder and the days of rubber necking cute butts on the street have been put on hold.
I’m so aware of my neck now, I touch it gingerly and attempt to treat is with softness and care. I think about it more than I’d like to. My mind is on my neck and my neck is on my mind until the day that my neck and I are re-aligned and once again in-synch with one another.
Oh, my neck.