Operation Fatty

Fayes T Kantawala had been told it was just a 'procedure' at the clinic...

Operation Fatty
This week has been a biological terror. Without going into too many details: a few months ago I was taking my headphones off when I noticed a bump behind my ear. My go-to answer for anything new that happens to my body is usually “omg the cancer is coming!” Stomach ache? Cancer. Was that mole there before? Cancer. I’ve got a headache and my eye hurts? Cancer, plus probably a tumour too, which is also cancerous. So double cancer. Feet hurt? Cancer followed by inevitable amputation, leading to lifetime of regret at not being athlete and having not used foot in befitting manner. Illness does not become me. When I get a cold I am cranky and sit in furious isolation while blowing my nose and thinking about all the other wonderful times that my nose was not blocked and how I took breathing for granted and how life is too short anyway so why bother.

This is a just a small peak into the chaos of my addled mind, fueled by binges of medical TV dramas (where everyone gets cancer plus flesh-eating bacteria from toilet seats), and dangerous forays into Googling symptoms, which I think are always a bad idea. But I have become better at going to a doctor rather than WebMD, and so I lost no time in making an appointment with a dermatologist. I had gone to one last year for another matter (turns out your skin begins doing the weirdest things of its own volition the older you get) but I remember that rather than talking to me about my complaint, he made me watch a 40-minute video on Botox and then told me my life would be better if I looked less angry. Then he gave me a massive bill. This time I went to a more modest clinic where another doctor gave me a quick exam.
Just when I thought he was done, he said there was a similar bump behind my other ear (double cancer!) that he should get out while "he was in the neighbourhood"

“You have a fat cyst,” he said.

“I’m sorry, I have a what?”

“Fat cyst.”

“Well, I mean, maybe it’s just big boned.”


“Nothing. Sorry.” We looked at each other for a few moments before I blurted out, “But why would you call it a fat cyst? Is that really necessary? I mean isn’t that really rude? I’ve been dieting, you know. And it’s not easy during the holiday season...” I prattled on and on, already clutching my sweater and sucking in my stomach as a reflex.

“Sebaceous cysts,” the doctor interrupted, his face a mask of confusion. “The bump behind your ear is a cyst made up of fat cells. That’s what we call them.”

“Oh. Ah. Yes, well. OK then. Do…go on.”

He told me that there is nothing to worry about but that we would need to do a small operation to remove them. And a biopsy.


“No, no, of course...”

The rest of the session was spent with him trying to talk me down from various states of alarm. I should know better, being an avid watcher of pimple-popping videos online. Eventually he managed to book me in for a surgery the following weekend. They kept calling it a “procedure”, but I assure you they are wrong. A procedure is when you go into a clinic to have someone remove a thorn from your foot. This was an attack. The day of, the doctor made me change into an assless blue hospital gown and lie on my side before he injected me with local anesthesia and did his thing.

A fatty cyst

I am a big fan of anesthesia. Huge. But the thing about someone with a scalpel next to your ear is that even when you can’t feel anything, you can hear everything. The cutting, the scraping, the pulling, the gouging, the burning, the bleeding, the padding. Every. Thing.

I began to sing to myself because that was what Maria told the von Trapp kids to do when they were sad, but the nurse told me to stop. Just when I thought he was done, he said there was a similar bump behind my other ear (double cancer!) that he should get out while “he was in the neighbourhood.” So, like a beached whale, I was flipped over by two orderlies, injected and prodded yet again.

Eventually the scraping stopped and the stitches were done, which is when the trouble began. I want to say in advance that it’s not my fault at all and therefore I shouldn’t be liable for damages. Now, during surgeries like this, they put these sticky strips of blue fabric around the field that they are working on. In my case they put it around my ear, but the nurse hadn’t put a cap on me and so the thing was stuck to my hairline. At the end of the procedure, the doctor and nurse, after giving a tug or two, thought it would be a good idea to not tell me and rip the whole thing off in one violent jerk. The effect was so unexpected, and so genetically painful that my body reacted with my arms flailing outwards. My hands accidentally (this is important) slapped both the nurse and the doctor in the face pretty hard. He stumbled back knocking over a canister, and she fell into the surgical tray and then onto the floor. I clutched my scalp in agony, now a great deal less hairy than before. We were all pretty shaken for a bit, let me tell you.

Eventually we all calmed down enough to begin bandaging me but it wasn’t the same anymore. Something had broken between us. I left the clinic with a full bandage all around my head, neck and chin with strict instructions not to remove it for 42 hours, in which state I write this to you now.

To be perfectly honest, I looked like a condom. Except when I leave the house, I look like a condom with sunglasses. I believe this to be the doctor’s revenge. According to Google, after they come off I’ll have permanent scars behind my ears like they do after a facelift and also that the tingling in my ear means I have auditory canal cancer. But something tells me the doctor won’t really want to talk to me for a bit. Nor I him.

Write to thekantawala@gmail.com