Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yes, I have a big ugly cheek. Or the Angel Fish Kiss

Hemangioma. hemangioma of infancy is a benign self-involuting tumor (swelling or growth) of endothelial cells, the cells that line blood vessels. It usually appears during the first weeks of life and resolves by age 10. In infancy, it is the most common tumor.[1] The word "hemangioma" comes from the Greek haema- (αίμα), "blood"; angeio (αγγείο), "vessel"; -oma (-ωμα), "tumor".~wikipedia.

By the end of the first week of life for the Mudget, I noticed a little red mark on his cheek.  I thought nothing of it, figuring he scratched his face.  By week 2, it had gotten a little bigger but nothing to squawk at.  By his 4th week, his pediatrician had referred us to Boston Children’s Hospital Vascular Specialist, Dr. Arin Greene.  “It’s a combination hemangioma. Let’s keep an eye on it.” Ok. We set up the next appointment for a few months and left. Kyle and I went home and began to search the web.  Bad idea.

We came across the worst of the worst scenarios of children with hemangiomas covering their eyes, noses, mouths, 80% of their faces.  Now of course we panicked.  What is poor Mudget going to have to face, literally.  The hemangioma is on his left cheek. Visible to all. 
So after we get through the initial shock of what it may turn into, Kyle starts laughing.  And so it began. The jokes about the big, ugly cheek. 

As the Mudget got older, the hemangioma grew.  In fact, by 8 months or so, it was huge and red and raised.  But he was still an incredibly cute child with these big, blue bedroom eyes and a totally easygoing personality.  So it made it a little easier.  Of course his grandparents didn’t like that we mocked it, but frankly we could either cry or laugh.  And we chose the latter.  Even sending him to daycare with a shirt we had made, “Yes, I have a big ugly cheek.” 

We must have driven up to Boston at least 4 times his first year.  Dr. Greene informed us that most hemangiomas will eventually go away by 12 years old and if not, that we could pursue steroid treatments and/or surgery usually by the age of 3 or 4 because that is when they develop self image.  And if your child had to have something, let it be a hemangioma because it can heal itself. Mudget always fell on the cusp of needing treatment.  We just keep waiting it out. 

One of the things that amazed me was how Booger never noticed or said anything about Mudget's big cheek, until he was four and was in preschool.  Presumable because his friends noticed it and would ask him.  And because from the beginning, we called it an angel kiss to kids who asked Booger also explained it to them that way as well... calling it "his angel fish kiss."

Now that Mudget is 3, he has an 80% chance of having surgery, which is outpatient.  It has involuted, gone down, significantly but his face is still asymmetrical. And people are still asking what does he have in his mouth? Or did he fall?  Kyle has just finally started saying, “it’s a tumor” and people shut right up.   So if your child has a hemangioma, talk to your pediatrician.  Be wary of the website when you look it up.  They are incredibly informative but the pictures may scare you.  Decide to laugh or cry, then call me and I will make your child his or her own shirt.

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