I have a fat lip – and it’s making me nervous.
Yesterday I discovered what felt like a small lump below my lip. It was painful to the touch. It felt like an ingrown hair along the shaving line of my bottom lip. Throughout the day I felt it and it was sore, but there was no visible sign of the zit or ingrown hair.
Then, last night, my lip started to swell. Within an hour it looked like I has been punched square in the mouth. The entire right side of my lower lip was puffy and swollen. It was not sore to the touch, but it looked really bad.
The swelling starts right where the “ingrown hair” is and spreads to the the entire right side of my lip. Coincidentally, it’s swollen in exactly the same spot I had a pretty painful cold sore a few month ago. That got me to thinking; I have squamous cell carcinoma. I have cancer – it started in my tonsils and spread to my lymph nodes. As those of you know who follow my blog you know I had surgery, chemo, and radiation and have had two clean scans behind me since.
I have another scan coming up in 30 days; my next 6-month set of scans. Readers of my blog know that I get really anxious at about this time. I start seeing cancer in everything. I freak myself out with even the tiniest of symptoms. This is no different.
My fat lip has me really freaked out. I couldn’t sleep last night, at all. I was up all night looking up signs of lip cancer. You probably won’t be surprised to know that lip cancer is squamous cell carcinoma – the type of cancer I have. Lip cancer is also called “lip gloss” cancer because too much lip gloss on the lips over time magnifies the sun’s harmful rays on the lips and can lead to this cancer. When I found that out last night that lip cancer is the kind of cancer I have, around 1:00am, I really started spiraling into anxious despair.
I went to a website and the key sentence that started freaking me out was:
The most important lip cancer symptom is the presence of a lump on the lip. The lump may be painless or may cause pain sometimes. Any sore may appear on the lip or inside the mouth which doesn’t heal at all. (source)
Wow. My cold sore never seemed to have healed completely. It healed, but the skin/scar seems a lot “weaker” than the surrounding skin on the lip. So I went looking for pictures of lip cancer. I found a lot of obvious and disturbing images which don’t look at all like my lip, but then I found a picture like the one depicted to the left. The scar let by my cold sore almost looks like this.
So you can imagine what was going through my mind last night. I saw another bout of cancer treatment on the horizon. I saw more surgery, more radiation, and maybe even more chemo.
I have no qualms about the battle if I do have to start again. I have cancer. This is what I do. I am a survivor. But I realized a couple of things that really worried me:
- I don’t have disability insurance any longer. I am on my wife’s insurance right now. As CTO for a small company I could price them completely out of being able to provide other employees insurance. If I took company insurance, their rates would skyrocket and they would be forced to stop offering it to anyone. All because I have cancer. (this is why we need healthcare reform, people.) My wife’s healthcare coverage is excellent, but since I do not work for the company I do not have disability.
- If I do have cancer in my lip, I am nervous about the surgery to remove it. Part of my lip would be taken away. I don’t want to look like Quasimodo. Shallow, I know, but there it is. I dread the thought of having surgery on m lips and the body image I will have afterward. It would not be at all like the body image issues I had with my radical neck dissection. It would be worse.
As the day has gone on I have seen a reduction in the swelling. The ingrown hair is hurting like hell and I can see that the swelling begins from exactly that point. I think I am freaking myself out for nothing – the more I look at it the more it does seem like maybe it is just the swelling from the ingrown hair pushing blood and fluid into the lip.
Rest assured though that I will be calling my doctors on Monday. Even if the swelling goes away it is vitally important to notice, log, and inform my doctors of any abnormalities in my ears, mouth, nose, and throat. I have cancer – I have to suspect EVERYTHING.
I hope this is just another case of pre-scan anxiety. But whatever it is, with my wife, family, and friends behind me I will face it head on.