Friday, July 5, 2013

Baldness May Have Saved My Life

Around 2003, I decided to end my battle with a receding hairline and accompanying bald spot and shave my head.  Hence began the last hairstyle I would ever have.  I was going bald.  It was a fact.  And I didn't want to be the type of guy who tried to hide it with tricks like comb-overs and toupees.  I just accepted it and dealt with it by taking it off completely.

Going bald sucks.  It means I'm getting old.  It also means I'm losing my sex appeal (not that I had much to begin with).  Think about it...when you picture a handsome guy, does some bald guy immediately come to mind?  Probably not.  And the ones that shave their heads by choice have huge muscles (I'm talking about  you Vin Diesel).  I don't.  However, going bald also means I don't have to spend money on haircuts, shampoo, or hair gel.  Less time is required to shower too.  So there ARE some good things that go along with it.  Little did I know that about 10 years later, I would discover that going bald may have saved my life.  That's a REALLY good thing.

When I first started shaving my head, I noticed a red splotch right in the back.  Supposedly a birth mark.  But right in the middle of the splotch was a soft, circular bump.  I just assumed it was a normal part of my weird shaped, bumpy, splotchy head.

As the years went on, I kind of thought the bump was getting larger but the only time I ever saw the very back of my head was when I shaved it (and used a hand mirror to see what I was doing back there).  My wife thought so too.  Over several years, I had a total of two physicians and one dermatologist examine the bump.  All three said it was just a benign fatty growth called a lipoma (I'm probably spelling that wrong).  All of them said it was nothing to worry about and I should leave it alone.

But as time went on, the bump got more annoying.  It never hurt, but was uncomfortable when I would lay my head back against my bed's headboard to read or play on my iPod (which I pretty much do every single night).  Plus I admittedly got more and more self-conscious about it.  I love wearing baseball caps, but I would wear them ALL the time because I didn't want people to see the bump.  Keep in mind that this bump was inside a large red splotch.  It stood out.  I'm a teacher and every year at school, where I cannot wear a hat, I would always get asked by students (and sometimes even their parents) about what happened to my head.  Questions ranged from "did someone hit you in the back of the head with a bat?" to simply "what happened to your head? It looks nasty." Stuff like this made me think about it all the time.  I even wondered what the people who sat behind me at church thought when they saw it.

So after years of dealing with the self-consciousness, embarrassment, and discomfort, I decided to seek a plastic surgeon to remove the growth.  His diagnosis was the same as the two previous physicians and dermatologist: a lipoma. He said it would be a simple surgery to remove so we scheduled it.

I had the surgery on May 15th and things did not go exactly as planned.  During the surgery, the doctor discovered that the growth was more fibrous than anticipated.  This meant two things:

1. I bled a lot more than expected, making both the surgery and recovery longer and more difficult than anticipated.  Not a huge deal.  But here's the biggie...

2. What was thought to be a harmless growth could have developed into something much, much worse in time.  To paraphrase the doctor, it was good that I chose to get it removed now before it potentially turned into something bad later on.

The doctor sent a sample of what was removed off to be tested (just to be safe) and sure enough it was benign.  But I can't help but think about what could have happened if I had just left it alone and not opted for the surgery.  I also think about how I probably would never have even noticed the bump had I had a thick, luxurious, covering of hair.  Perhaps I would have noticed it eventually, once it had gotten much, much larger.  And by that time, it could have developed into something very bad.

So if I wasn't balding, I wouldn't be shaving my head.  And if I wasn't shaving my head, I may never have noticed the potentially dangerous growth on my head.  It is July now and my scar is still healing.  Still pain and discomfort.  Because of all the unexpected bleeding, I have had to return to the surgeon three times to have my head drained of fluid.  Obviously things did not go as expected.  But even with the continued discomfort (which I was told will go away within a few months time), I am thankful I had it removed instead of waiting.  And I'm thankful for going bald.

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