Arizona man has watermelon-sized neck tumor that started as a pimple (2024)

An Arizona man's neck tumor that had been growing for nearly two decades became so large he struggled to eat, bathe and even turn his head side-to-side.

Tim, a 62-year-old from Scottsdale, had a 5.5lb tumor growing from the right side of his face and neck.

While the mass started out as 'a little pimple by my ear,' Tim said it continued to grow for 16 years, evolving from a golf ball to a tennis ball.

Eventually, it became so large it began putting pressure on his ear, jaw, neck and throat.

Because of its size, the tumor was distorting Tim's face, pulling on and stretching his ear, jaw, cheek and eye. He had a headache every day and some movements made it feel like his face was 'ripping.'

He could only eat from the left side of his mouth and had resorted to taking his meals standing up, otherwise the growth would hit into the table and bump into his food.

Tim, a 62-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, had a 5.5lb tumor growing from the right side of his face and neck

Tim often used humor as a 'security blanket' and to make people more comfortable around him and his growth

Tim was never able toget the tumor removed because he didn't have health insurance or the money to fund the surgery himself.

But when head and neck surgeon Dr Ryan Osborne reached out to him, Tim was gifted hope he could finally live a normal life.

He said on the latest episode of TLC's Take My Tumor: 'Hopefully Dr Osborne is fully capable of removing the beast. You’ve got to put your faith in somebody and… I’m giving Dr Osborne the go ahead to [do his] magic.

'At the end of the day I just want to be semi-normal and I don't often feel that way.’

Tim's tumor first appeared in 2007, when he was 46.

Thinking it was a pimple, he squeezed it to see if it would pop. When nothing happened, Tim moved on.

Then it grew to the size of a pea and he asked someone else to try and pop it. Still, nothing happened.

One day, he woke up and it was the size of a bouncy ball:‘You look in the mirror one day and you’re like “oh, it’s gotten bigger."'

When he turned to the internet in search of answers, he said all the information added up to a sebaceous cyst, the most common type of a skin cyst.

This type of cyst is a non-painful bump under the skin that grows slowly. It is usually harmless and can appear on the face, neck, scalp, back or groin area.

The growths are fairly common and affect at least 20 percent of adults. They can form if a sebaceous gland - a microscopic gland connected to hair follicles that secretes an oily or waxy substance - become damaged or blocked.

Most of these cysts will not need treatment and should be left alone and kept clean.

Tim's growth has been weighed several times, with weights ranging from 4lbs to nearly 6lbs

The mechanic was never able to get his tumor removed because he didn't have health insurance or the money to pay for the surgery himself

However, if the growth is causing discomfort, a doctor can remove it with local anesthetic.

Over the years, Tim used humor as a defense mechanism and 'security blanket' to deal with his 'friendly little tumor' and make people feel less uncomfortable around him and his growth.

But the 4lb to 6lb mass still interfered with his life.

The mechanic said he had to lift the tumor up and over his shoulder to turn his head while driving and the growth got in the way when he tried to maneuver under cars to service them.

All of his clothes were stretched to fit them over the growth and he often didn't get enough sleep, having to position himself on his left side with his right elbow underneath the tumor to keep the weight from crushing his neck.

But with Dr Osborne's help, Tim had an opportunity to remove the growth, which a friend nicknamed 'Little Timmy.'

So he flew to meet with the surgeon, a Los Angeles-based head and neck surgical oncologist and director of the Osborne Head and Neck Institute.

While the two had video chatted before, Dr Osborne said: ‘To really appreciate the size of this tumor, you have to see it in person.’

After examining the growth, the doctor said his suspicion was the tumor was coming from Tim's parotid gland - a gland that makes saliva.

Having tumors in this gland is not uncommon, but they are usually the size of a walnut. One as large as Tim's is 'unusual' and looked more like a watermelon, Dr Osborne said.

While the two had video chatted before, Dr Osborne said: ‘To really appreciate the size of this tumor, you have to see it in person’

Dr Ryan Osborne, a Los Angeles-based head and neck surgical oncologist and director of the Osborne Head and Neck Institute, expressed concern over the nerves going through the tumor

While the surgeon was comfortable with removing the mass, he expressed concern about tampering with facial nerves running through it - cutting the wrong one could result in facial paralysis.

No matter what, Dr Osborne would have to cut a large nerve that supplies feeling and sensation to the right ear.

Following the surgery, there was also the possibility of a large divot in the side of Tim's face.

Additionally, the doctor told Tim that even if the surgery was successful, it could still take six months before regaining full function and sensation in his face.

While Tim was 'not overly thrilled' that he could have slight deformations in his face, he was still adamant he wanted the tumor gone.

The most concerning detail Dr Osborne told Tim, however, was that there was a slight chance the mass could be cancerous.

While instincts told him it was benign, because it had been growing for so long, there was a chance cells could have mutated and become malignant.

Regardless, the tumor had to be removed, and soon, Dr Osborne said.

Tim said: 'It's the first time that I've had anyone really say that there is a possibility that it's cancerous. It kind of throws a little shadow over the parade, but there's not a damn thing I can do to change it.

'And in order to find out if there is cancer there, the tumor still has to come out.’

Dr Osborne and his colleague, plastic surgeon Dr Jason Hamilton, operated on Tim's face and neck for nearly five hours

Tim's surgery was successful and he retained all facial movement and had no deformities

Two days later, Dr Osborne and his colleague, plastic surgeon Dr Jason Hamilton, operated on Tim's face and neck for nearly five hours.

Over the course of the surgery, Dr Osborne was able to identify and avoid major facial nerves. He removed the entire mass and Dr Hamilton was able to reconstruct Tim's cheek without any concavity.

Tim woke up still able to smile and move his entire face.

One week later, Dr Osborne told Tim the pathology was 'as good as you are going to get.'

The tumor was completely benign, with no signs of cancer. The results showed the growth was 'consistent with a benign parotid tumor called a pleomorphic adenoma.'

Pleomorphic adenomas are the most common type of salivary tumor, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of benign salivary gland tumors and are especially common in the parotid gland.

Per year, these growths make up two to 3.5 cases per 100,000 people, the NIH reports.

Since the tumor removal, Tim can put shirts on properly, eat with his entire mouth, drive without lifting his tumor to turn his head and hasn't had a headache since the morning of surgery

The mechanic said 'it feels fantastic' having the tumor gone and he is ready to move on with his life

Seven weeks after his surgery, Tim went out without worrying people would stare or make fun of him and he was able to get his first real shave in two decades.

He said:‘Since surgery, I feel lighter. I’ve had zero pain. It has been far easier than I expected... It feels fantastic.

‘When the tumor was there, damn that thing was ugly. It’s good that it’s gone. Sixteen years was long enough. Everywhere I go everybody’s really happy for me.’

Now, he can put shirts on properly, eat with his entire mouth, drive without lifting his tumor to turn his head and hasn't had a headache since the morning of surgery.

He can also work on customers' cars properly without the tumor getting in the way.

With the tumor gone, Tim said he can begin to live his life.

He added: 'I have to say now: “I don’t have a tumor anymore. You’re back to normal so now move on in life. Let’s get going.”’

Take My Tumor airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on TLC.

Arizona man has watermelon-sized neck tumor that started as a pimple (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Last Updated:

Views: 6313

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-03-23

Address: 74183 Thomas Course, Port Micheal, OK 55446-1529

Phone: +13408645881558

Job: Global Representative

Hobby: Sailing, Vehicle restoration, Rowing, Ghost hunting, Scrapbooking, Rugby, Board sports

Introduction: My name is Geoffrey Lueilwitz, I am a zealous, encouraging, sparkling, enchanting, graceful, faithful, nice person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.