I have a tumour; the good news is that the doctors believe it is benign. The bad news is that while it may be non-malignant it definitely isn’t benign (at least not by any reasonable definition of benign).
I have a facial nerve schwannoma. It is a slow-growing, rarely malignant tumour growing around my left facial nerve in and around the middle ear and ear canal. It is already causing the left side of my face to become weak and have restricted movement, on top of that it is causing hearing loss, mild ear pain and non-stop tinnitus.
The treatment options aren’t very good (hence me not liking the term benign).
The most likely option is surgery, but the several doctors have repeatedly told me that the surgery is very tricky and that the tumour is very extensive; things you never want to hear from your doctor. The surgery is likely to leave the left side of my face paralyzed and recovery is not guaranteed. My ear canal will likely have to be closed up which will significantly reduce hearing in my left ear. There is also a moderate risk to my cochlea and vestibular system in my inner ear and a small risk to the nerves that control some of my tongue and throat movement.
Another option is radiation therapy, but that poses many similar risks, and doesn’t actually remove the tumour, it just slows/stops its growth. The negative effects of the radiation wouldn’t show up right away but over time could become very serious. For this reason it is usually not recommended for people my age who expect to be around for several decades. It is also possible that my tumour is too large and extensive to be effectively treated by radiation.
None of these options are particularly encouraging, but leaving the tumour alone would lead to an even worse fate. So something must be done. What? I don’t yet know. I have been meeting with several specialists to get an idea of what the best course of action would be.
Personally I am getting by with equal doses of anxiety, denial, and fear. The next year will be difficult but I will get through it. I am lucky to have a very supportive wife, family, friends, and employer to help me through this difficult time.