The lump is gone — finally!

A graphic with two overlapping speech bubbles and the caption Voices of Sarcoma.

By Roger Wilson

Accepting the need to have surgery and making a choice to have it when it is not absolutely essential are two different things. Surgery for a malignant sarcoma is essential, the need is real. Surgery for a cyst is a decision, it is not essential.

Those who have been following this blog will have read my earlier post. “Finding a lump  again”.  I am closely monitored by my sarcoma specialist team because I have a long history of recurrences. So, when I showed them a new lump last year it was quickly biopsied and diagnosed. It was an epidermoid cyst, a fairly common benign lump. The surgeon offered to remove it. So, for the first time I faced a choice about surgery.

Strangely it wasn’t easy. It is not that surgery is a strange experience anymore. I have had a lot of operations in the last twenty-five years: sarcoma, cataracts in my eyes, procedures on my back etc. It was about side effects. The nature of some of my surgery has left me with nerve problems, lymphoedema and one of my operations was an amputation. What side effects might there be, even allowing that a cyst does not require a deep operation?  I was reassured that there would be no long-term effects, only the immediate discomfort of a dressing under my arm.

The next challenge was getting a date. An experienced sarcoma surgeon has a busy life and fitting my simple operation into the schedule was not easy. Then I had a date, had a lift into the hospital and signed in for Day Surgery.

This was a new experience because the Day Surgery unit is a new one, only about four years old, and I had never been into it before. Personal cubicles permanently equipped with the tools for monitoring a patient, privacy for a consultation, yet with glazed doors so you don’t feel cut off from what is going on. Very different from the old day unit.

Everything went smoothly, just as it should when proper planning and preparation has been done. My simple procedure was handled in exactly the same way as a major operation would have been, except that I was only having a local anaesthetic and did not require a specialist anaesthetist. The nursing team were lovely and caring, made sure I was in the right position and comfortable. We chatted about the weather. The surgeon prepared the area and injected the anaesthetic. I did not even feel the needle prick into me even though she was telling me what she was doing. Then I was wheeled into the surgical theatre. That was an eye opener.

It too is newly built and newly equipped. It not only looked modern and felt modern but because the team knew how it all worked, the lights were adjusted, and the surgeon was ready to use the scalpel in what seemed like seconds. It was probably a few minutes, but I was trying to take everything in and the time went so quickly.

We chatted during the operation. My surgeon is a keen cyclist and had recently been on holiday with some friends in Majorca. There was a cycle accident in their group and one of them was hurt, seemingly quite badly. The group knew they had a doctor among them but were unaware that they were a trauma qualified surgeon. They were apparently amazed at how the situation came under control ready for the ambulance.

And then it was finished. Some stitches and a dressing. Discussion about not disturbing the dressing for a week and keeping it dry. Then into recovery, get dressed and ready for my lift home.

Follow-up phone call from the Cancer Nurse Specialist in the team a week later confirmed the biopsy diagnosis, she checked to make sure I felt OK, and we were done.

I won’t spend any time drawing comparisons with other surgical experiences I have had. I will just reflect that having had some experience made a huge difference to how I felt and how I approached having an operation.

Knowing the diagnosis is so important and having absolute confidence in the surgeon is really valuable. Recognise that the surgical team know their jobs, they are focussed on you the patient, doing their best to ensure that the surgery will have the right outcome for you.

So, thank you to the Tumour team at the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Hospital in Shropshire. You have won awards, you deserve them.



Photo by Uli Deck




Roger Wilson is Honorary President of SPAGN.   He is the founder of Sarcoma UK and is in his various capacities actively promoting sarcoma research and improving globally access to quality care for sarcoma patients. Recently, he published the article What is a Sarcoma Intelligent Specialist Center: Multidisciplinary Research finds an Answer in the journal “Cancers”.

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