One day while I was at work I felt a sudden and strong pain on my upper back. I instinctively felt my hand over the area and felt a medium sized lump on my back, roughly the size of my palm. It seemed to me like it had suddenly formed. The soreness continued for about a week or so and then went away, but the lump never did. At the time I was on daily prednisone and suspected that this was yet another side effect of the steroid. I was having so many other weird side effects, it didn’t seem strange to me that this could be also caused by the prednisone. When I saw my doctor next I brought up the lump and he seemed completely unconcerned. He explained that prednisone can cause fat redistribution, but that the lump should go away once I stopped the prednisone.
Well, over a year went by since I stopped taking the prednisone, and the lump never went away. After moving, I decided to bring it up to my new doctor and see what could be done about it. After a quick imaging session, she explained to me that it’s a lipoma. A lipoma is another word for a benign tumor. She said we could leave it there or have it surgically removed. I opted for surgery.
No one knows what causes lipomas, but when I did my own research into the subject they seem to be more common with autoimmune disease and with prednisone use.
Surgery for lipoma removal is just an outpatient surgery. I was not put under, I didn’t even need to fully undress, and I was able to drive myself home afterwards. My insurance paid for the surgery in full even though it wasn’t causing me any problems other than making me feel like a monster. I was able to have the surgery scheduled just one week after diagnosis. Pretty easy.
Coming into the surgery, it seemed to me that my lipoma was roughly the size of an Oreo cookie. As it turned out, it was! The surgeon was able to somehow take it all out in one piece even though the incision is only an inch wide. They let me take pictures of the removed lipoma and the doctor said it wasn’t weird to want to take pictures of it and that everyone does.
For the surgery, they had me lay down belly-first on what looked like a dentist’s chair. They then injected lidocaine around the area. Hospital-grade lidocaine is very different from the lidocaine you buy at CVS. With this stuff, you feel absolutely no pain, but you can still tell what is being done to you. I actually really liked that aspect of it. I would have found it freaky if I could feel absolutely nothing. My mind tends to fill in the blanks otherwise and I definitely would have freaked myself out imagining what was happening. For me it was better to know.
Because my lipoma was especially deep, it ended up taking just over an hour to remove it. After it was removed, the doctor felt another lump and thought it might be another lipoma. Looking at it though, she could see that the second lump was muscle. I explained to her that I have had a muscle knot in that same spot for as long as I can remember. Even Thai massagers haven’t been able to work it out! The surgeon then, with her fingers directly on the knot, manually smoothed it out. When she did this, my body jerked like a marionette. It was a very strange sensation, but she did smooth it out! A month later, the muscle knot is still completely gone.
The surgeon then stitched me up with degradable stitches. This means I do not have to come back to have the stitches removed. They will simply disappear on their own after a number of weeks. The area was then covered with medical-grade superglue. So I had no bandages at all during this whole process, just superglue. There was no aftercare or follow-up appointments. Pretty easy, right?
I drove myself home, but I would recommend having someone drive you back if you can. I felt a little woozy and dizzy afterwards, which may have just been from nerves or possibly from having to lie still for an hour. Also, definitely give yourself the day off and take it easy. This surgery helped me learn just how many movements are connected to your back. It seemed like everything agitated it. Even still, I was able to sleep on my back that very same night. I just had to lower myself slowly onto my back and that made it okay.
After a week the superglue started to flake off, and by week 2 it was totally gone. I have no idea if the stitches are still there or not. They don’t seem to have ever been visible. I’ve included a picture of what the surgical site looked like as it healed. As you can see, it really never looked bad, even immediately after surgery. There was very little bruising as well. A lot of healing occurred in just the first week. Pain at the site was not terrible, although I also avoided touching it.
One of the unexpected side effects of the surgery is that for years I’ve had this pain that would occur at my upper back and into my neck. The pain was frequent, but not constant. Well, since the surgery I have not had that pain at all. Maybe it’s just a coincidence or maybe it was connected to the lipoma or even that muscle knot that the surgeon fixed. I don’t know, but I’m counting my blessings. I’m also so so so happy to have the lump gone! Prior to the surgery, every morning I would reach a hand over to feel if it was still there. After I got out of the shower I would look at it in the mirror and feel bad about myself. Now that daily ritual is over and I don’t have to feel self-conscious in a swim suit (I would literally wear one of those swim shirts to try to hide it) or if I wear a dress with a low-cut back.
So in conclusion I would definitely recommend the surgery. This was my very first surgery ever and I was nervous about it, but it really was not a big deal. The trade off of having a smooth back again was definitely worth it for me.