Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Before & After (two months post-op)

Today marks 2 months post-op! Not much has changed since my last post, so there's not a lot to update you on. But in honor of making it to the other side of of the jaw surgery saga, my fiance took some pictures of me and my new (un-swollen) face today. I threw them together with some pictures taken almost exactly a year ago, thus giving you a good visual of the before and after.

My smile before was pretty gummy. I used to open my mouth a little while smiling to pull my top lip down and hide some of those gums; doing this before made my smile a lot bigger, but doing it now hides my top teeth. So I'm left with a smaller smile, but also a not-gummy smile. I'll take it :)

My profile has much improved as a result of the surgery. I now have a chin and even a bit of a jaw line, both of which I never had before. Towards the beginning of my recovery, my nose was a smidgen upturned, but I think it's returned to normal now. One of the nicest results of the surgery is being able to close my mouth at rest—something which was practically impossible pre-op; you can sorta see the difference in these shots.

All in all, I was plenty happy with the before. And while it took a while to get used to (heck, I'm still getting used to it), I'm certainly pleased with the after as well. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Belated Big Day: the six week milestone

It was a big day yesterday, as I officially reached the six week marker in the road to recovery! I meant to post the photos and video last night, but technical difficulties wouldn't allow it. So here it is now—a belated update as to how things are coming a month and a half after the surgery:

I Can Eat!

Life is good. I feel great. And I'm able to eat now!
After 40 days of consuming soup, smoothies, and more soup I'm saying good riddance to the blender and HELLO to my long lost friend, the fork. I got the go-ahead from my surgeon yesterday to chew to my heart's content, so long as it's soft foods only and I don't bite anything with my front teeth (e.g. sandwiches, pizza, tacos). Halleluja. Here's a look at my first real meal in a month and a half—oh, and that face on the right is the look of pure joy that only solid food can bring your taste buds and belly.:
 I will say, though, that thanks to the liquid diet I lost twelve pounds, and I plan on keeping them off (which will be extremely difficult now that I can eat alfredo pasta and double-doubles from In-n-Out...yes, I've consumed both already). Plus, I learned that I can live off of small portions of blended fruit and veggies just fine, no matter how much I feel like I need a heaping pile of bread to survive sometimes. So, it wasn' 100% bad...maybe just 99.9%

Anyways, food is just as wonderful as I remember it to be. I'm happy. The end.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Six Weeks, Six Meals

At the beginning of the week, most people make a to-do list, but for me, the beginning of this week comes with something a little different: a to-eat list. Since the surgery, I've been stuck on an almost entirely liquid diet, and for the first time in over 40 days I'm about to eat my food again rather than drink it. My sweet, adoring, wonderful fiance told me to make a list of six places I want to eat to make up for the six weeks of meals I've missed out on. Over the next week, we'll hit up each spot to indulge my unsatisfied belly and under-stimulated taste buds. So, here it is—my to-eat list.

1. In 'n' Out.
A few days into recovery, I had a sudden and intense craving for In 'n' Out. And once a craving for a double-double kicks in, trust me, you can't shake it. Over the past six weeks, I haven't wanted to eat anything more often or with more vigor than a hamburger with gooey cheese and grilled onions. I probably won't be able to open my mouth wide enough to eat a burger normally, but at this point I would eat it any way except for out of a blender.

2. California Pizza Kitchen.
Normally at CPK, I'd get a BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad (seriously, there's is the best I've ever had). But since I've gotta stick to soft foods at first, I'll dive into a childhood favorite of mine, something I still order off the kids' menu to this day: their Fusilli Alfredo. (Also a side order of the chicken dumplings would be great).

3. Chipotle.
I might have to go with a quesadilla AND a burrito bowl at this stop, just because both sound so good! Shredded carnitas, cilantro-lime rice & black beans, zesty corn salsa, cheese (obviously), and maybe an itty bitty bit of lettuce—so many yummy ingredients that belong in my belly.

4. Chick-fil-a.
I'm actually not a raving Chick-fil-a fanatic like a lot of people who live around here. But I do really enjoy it, and if you're noticing a theme here, I'd really just like some protein! Meat in any and every form (except pureed) sounds drop-dead delicious at this point, and if I'm going to eat chicken nuggets, they're gonna be from here. Add some honey mustard dipping sauce and I might cry with tears of protein-induced joy.

5. Rubio's.
This was another craving I had early on into the recovery: a classic fish taco. Theirs are breaded to perfection and definitely soft enough for me to sink my teeth into. Plus, I can't wait to actually bite something! Before the surgery I was never able use my front teeth to make a clean bite into anything—sandwiches, pizza, tacos. So hopefully I'll be able stretch my mandibles around a few of these.

6. PF Changs.
I'm not even sure what' I'll get from this restaurant, I just know that I'd really like to eat some good Chinese food that isn't egg drop soup. I think this is mostly because I have a deep, deep love for white rice and have missed it dearly. Any main dish will do, so long as that starchy white carb makes it into my belly.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Week #5: Highs and Lows

Not a whole lot has changed this week, so I'll save the next video and photos for the six week milestone. I will give you the highs and lows of the past seven days, though, just to sum it up for ya.

-Miniature golfing with my mini sisters-in-law to-be, and having enough energy to keep up with them (and win!) over 36 putt-putt holes—yes, we played two rounds.
-More solid-ish foods! This week I discovered that I could consume both chocolate cake and rice krispies without chewing. I had 3 slices of cake at my almost-nephew's birthday party. And I've swallowed soggy cereal for my last 3 meals, which might sound gross, but it's just SO nice to eat something that hasn't been put through a blender.
-It's not really surgery related, but it's still extremely exciting: my wedding dress is done! It's currently on its way from the designer's shop in Portland to my house. It'll probably be pretty big on me now, what with 8% of my pre-surgery weight gone, but I still can't wait to put it on and dance around my room before taking it in for alterations.
-Practically no pain killers. I think I only took ibuprofen on two occasions this week, and I'm feeling much less susceptible to pain and headaches.
-An itty-bitty bit more feeling came back in my left cheek, along with some tingling on my upper lip and the occasional zap*, which happens anywhere/everywhere. *I'll explain what I mean by a zap in my next video.

-My latest appointment with the surgeon (refer to my last blog post).
-I don't know if the plates and screws in my face are acting as magnets to basketballs and golf balls, but it certainly feels that way. Whenever playing a game with a ball, it ends up hitting me in the face. During rounds of both lightening and hillbilly golf, on separate days and occasions, I ended up getting clocked in the face, which obviously hurt more considering all the broken bones that are trying to heal in there. And no one else got hit in the face with anything—what's the deal?
-Losing weight is great and all, except for when none of your clothes fit right anymore.
-I still can't chew. Enough said.
-After the one-month mark, I think people suddenly expect me to be perfectly okay and 100% healed. I've been getting a lot of, "All your swelling is gone!" and "You're recovered!" Neither of those things are entirely true, and it becomes a little frustrating when people tell you that you feel great when that's not necessarily the case. I'm still distracted by the numbness, am unable to move my face normally, have some puffiness left in my cheeks and upper lip, experience discomfort when talking or smiling too much, etc.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Crooked or Crazy

Each time I see my surgeon I like him less and less. He makes me feel like my questions are stupid and my concerns are irrelevant. Basically, I walk in feeling pretty good and I walk out feeling frustrated.

I went in today for my weekly appointment and asked him about the whole lopsided-face-thing that I mentioned in my video last week. Since posting it, I did a little more feeling around and found a lump on one side of my jawline that I don't have on the other side, and I thought that might be the issue. I've had multiple people feel my face just to make sure I wasn't imagining things, and they all agreed and validated my discovery.

So, I presented the perceived problem and what-do-you-know—not only did the doctor blow it off, telling me there are even bumps on both sides that make my face extremely symmetrical, but he made me feel like an imbecile for even asking him to check. He then gave me the whole "everyone's face is slightly asymmetrical" speech, which I'm already well aware of, and tried to send me on my way.

"Before I go, I'd love to see an x-ray," I said. He obliged, as they needed to take a post-op x-ray anyways. And here's what pops up on the screen:

....Uhhhh? Either I'm completely crazy or that cut across my lower jaw is definitely crooked.

"Proof!" I thought. "He can't look at this and tell me I'm wrong. It's obviously abnormally asymmetrical!"

I thought wrong. He quickly glanced at it, telling me my head must have just been tilted in the x-ray. I fought back, pointing out the major inconsistencies between each side, measuring distances with my fingers, making every argument I could to prove I'm not blind or stupid or irrational. He didn't listen to a word of it. He told me everything's straight and balanced (which it's just not), that I should stop over-analyzing everything and quit looking at my face so much (um, sorry for trying to get used to my new appearance?), and walked out of the room muttering something about, "This is why patients should never be allowed to see the technical side of things" (excuse me, I'm paying for the x-ray; I'll see whatever I want).

Part of me thinks he can't admit to anything. If he made a mistake and made my face crooked, he'd probably have to fix it on his own dime. Plus, he probably doesn't want to admit to anything. That would mean he was wrong, and heaven forbid that I be right about anything. Ever.

So, like I said, either my face is crooked or I'm totally crazy. The thing is, I don't mind so much that my chin is lopsided. I was more just curious as to why than wanting a refund or a re-do. The bigger deal was the way I was treated like a total fool. Because this recovery is hard enough without people—the surgeon, especially—belittling you while you're down.

That's it.
Thanks for letting me vent.
I feel a little better now.
K, bye.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

28 Days Later

It's been 28 days since surgery, or 4 weeks, or 1 month, depending on how you want to count it. I'm glad to say the video is a little shorter this time around, but it's still eight minutes that you might not have to spare. So, again, I'll sum it up:

  • Week #4 has been the best week by far: having the splint out has made a big difference
  • My pain has been really low. I only take ibuprofen once in a while.
  • I'm sleeping through the night consistently without Lorazapam. I tried sleeping laying completely flat for the first time this week and got horrible indigestion, so I'll wait and try that again later on.
  • The numbness is finally going away! It comes with a severe itchy feeling all over my face, but it's well worth it in exchange for nerves that work.
  • My energy is still on the low side lately. I'm thinking it has to do with this low calorie liquid diet; hopefully I'll be more energetic once I can chew bread and pasta and other yummy carbs in 2 weeks.
  • Either because of asymmetrical swelling or a surgeon's mistake (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's the former), I've noticed that my face is a bit lopsided, as my chin seems to lie more on the left side of my face than the right side. Uh oh? Neh, oh well...
  • I'm not used to wearing my glasses, and therefore adjust them annoyingly throughout—whoops!

Monday, April 1, 2013

One Month Worth of Smiles

Tomorrow I'll be 1 month post-op! Time is moving faster and faster as I feel better and happier each day. Just to show you how much happier I've become in the past month, I thought I'd put together a little comparison collage to show you how my smile has grown throughout the recovery. In each of these pictures, I'm smiling the biggest and best that I can (yes, that is a smile on day one). And you can see that as the swelling goes down and the muscle movement comes back, I've been able to smile more and more: 

One of the most difficult parts of the recovery early on was the inability to smile. My muscles just wouldn't do it and my sutures would hurt if I tried. There have been studies done that show that the act of smiling contributes to our happiness; we smile because we're happy, but simply smiling, in turn, can make us happy as well (something about the particular muscle movement releasing endorphins or dopamine or some hormone that tells your brain you're in a good mood). So, for the weeks that I couldn't muster up a grin, I felt pretty darn melancholy. Lucky for me, my ability to smile is back. It still hurts a little, and it's terribly tiring on my incisions, cheeks, lips, etc. BUT since I can smile, I've felt a lot better. And better is progress. And progress is good.