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Just Look in the Phone Book

After graduating from college, I got my first "real" job; a staff reporter for a small weekly newspaper. A little over a month after beginning that job, I met the man I would eventually marry - on a blind date on Christmas Eve, 1977. Some 10 weeks after our first date, Ken proposed and I accepted. And then my right ear decided to inform me that it didn't need headphones to express its pain.

On top of that, I began to notice a pimple at the entrance to the ear canal. Unlike an average pimple, however, this thing wouldn't respond to squeezing. So, one evening while I took my younger sister to the family doctor for an appointment, I asked the doctor about my "pimple." He glanced at it, assured me it was nothing to worry about, and suggested regularly soaking it with hot water. Although I followed his advice, the pimple failed to diminish, and neither did the pain. However, I became quite skilled at covering up my discomfort in public - and, perhaps due to the din of wedding preparations, I didn't seem to be in as much pain anyway.

Ken and I were married in March, 1979 and settled in the Leonardo section of Middletown, NJ (a few miles from Sandy Hook). We thought we'd conquered the pain - until a few months after our wedding. Ken was determined to find out the source of my discomfort. Since his mother was a speech therapist, he inquired about doctors we might be able to visit. He was told, "there are good ear doctors in Red Bank." So, we took out the trusty phone directory and looked for ear doctors in Red Bank, which was only 20 minutes from our house. We took an afternoon off from work and went to see Dr. Sullivan.

Dr. Sullivan appeared to be a gentle young doctor, but his first injection of anesthesia made me feel anything but - I thought my screams could be heard throughout the city. But once the medication took effect, the doctor could poke and probe to his heart's content without so much as a twinge from me. I was sent off with a perscription for antibiotics and a follow-up appointment. Ken and I went home in hopes of getting changed and traveling to a nice restaurant for dinner before a square dance we planned to attend that evening.

Unfortunately, we didn't count on the effects of the anesthesia wearing off. As the medication wore off, I was in even more pain that I felt when I entered the doctor's office. As soon as we pulled the car into the driveway, I ran up to the bedroom and proceeded to do little more than scream in pain for the next hour. Poor Ken didn't know what to do with me! Of course, by the time I finally stopped screaming, it was too late to consider dining on anything more than fast food, but at least we were able to enjoy a nice evening of dancing.

Dr. Sullivan tried feeding me an assortment of antibiotics in hopes that my pimple would dissolve on its own. Unfortunately, it proved resistant to anything I was given. One fine Saturday morning, I visited Dr. Sullivan one more time. He called in the senior partner in the practice to review my pimple and described his plan to excise it. The senior doctor replied, "The pathology should be very interesting." And so we began to make arrangements for my first operation (I never even had my tonsils out before!). My back was getting an unintentional massage as Ken's arm shook behind me.

We walked out of Dr. Sullivan's office dazed and numb. Now what do we do??? Well, we'd been entertaining thoughts of getting a new car; but the order cycles for Chevy Citations were fairly long at that time. However, Ken told me he'd been seeing ads in the local papers hyping, "We have x Citations on our lot!" So, in an effort to relax, we headed for the local Chevy dealer. There were 6 Citations on the lot - and 2 of them had almost all the options we wanted. You guessed it - we promptly made a deposit on a blue 4-door hatchback. (For the record, that car lasted 5 years and was retired in 1984 with 131,500 miles.)

Surgery was set for Thursday, August 30, 1979 at Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, only 15 minutes from home. I was assured that by having the biopsy done that day, I could return to work right after Labor Day. Wrong! Obviously, whatever was ailing me had taken its toll on my stamina. I didn't get back to work (in New York City) until the following Friday - and regretted it shortly after arriving at my desk.

The pathology came back a few days later. I was told I had "a rare, benign growth."

Modified 3/4/2000