Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

 He is risen! The best holiday of the year was today—the one where we get to celebrate that Jesus is alive and death has been defeated; there is nothing greater to celebrate than that! It was my first holiday since the surgery, and it was a success...all things considered. Yesterday Nathan and I went to an Easter event our church was a part of, where Francis Chan spoke and Tyrone Wells sang, and when those two things happen in one place, it's magical. However, my over-sensitive post-op self was only able to stay for an hour and a half before a bad headache set in and prompted us to go. And sure, today I wasn't able to eat the array of food at my in-laws and my stamina is pretty low, but I was still able to have a good time surrounded by people I really like, getting in on all the fun Eastery things like Easter egg hunts, Easter basket goodies, and Easter egg decorating. All that to say, I'm definitely looking forward to celebrating a holiday without even having to think of the surgery's symptoms—here's looking at you, Independence Day!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Three Weeks Post-Op

I'm doing double duty today—a video AND updated photos—because I'm 3 weeks and 1 day post-op and owe you, my readers, both.

Apparently I just can't help but talk for 10 minutes each time...
Ain't nobody got time for that. So here's a quick recap:

-drink through a straw
-eat with a spoon
-feel a tiny spot on my left cheek (yay...progress...kind of!)
-go every other night without Lorazapam
-get through most of the day without pain killers
-notice a difference in my swelling...or I'm just getting used to my puffy face
-speak a lot clearer; good riddance speech impediments
-eat less liquified foods

-my splint out
-the surgical hooks off
-an arch-wire back on
-new rubber bands, in front & back and super tight—ouch


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Date Day

It was day 20 post-op, and in celebration of the halfway point of my recovery (kind of...) and just because he loves me, Nathan took me out for a date day yesterday. We went to the park where we got engaged, played with some animals at the Orange County Zoo, and strolled along the ocean at Laguna Beach where I ate soup out of a spoon at a restaurant and had gelato for desert, again, with a public! Even though my energy was low, my spirits were high as I spent the whole day with the person I love most in the world while doing normal-people-things—that is, if you consider befriending goats normal.

the park where we got engaged // standing in the exact spot where he asked & i said yes
my date for the day. lucky me.

made a new goat friend, nbd
egg drop soup and mint chip & cookies 'n' cream gelato (or at least it was).
note: no syringe necessary!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

All for soup, and soup for all!

Last night, surrounded by some of my amazing almost family, I had the best meal since my surgery. It was my future mother-in-law's birthday, and for the big meal on her special day, she chose to honor me by filling the dinner table with liquids. It was soup for all and all for soup, plus lots of juice and smoothies and even homemade vanilla ice cream! We laughed, and talked, and "ate", all while celebrating this wonderful woman's existence on earth.

This meal filled my belly and warmed my heart. Like I said, it was the best...only in part because it was delicious, but mostly because it made me feel normal. I wasn't the weird one sipping stuff through a syringe. I mean, I was. But everyone else was drinking their dinner right along side me. And not only did that make me feel normal, it made me feel loved—very, very loved.

Happy birthday, Elizabeth! And thank you so much!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Precious Little Prayer Request

I got an email tonight, forwarded from my fiance's mom. It may or may not have made me cry.

The youngest of my soon-to-be sisters-in-law, Erica, went to small group last night, where she and the other kids were asked if they had any prayer requests. Those prayer requests were then typed up and sent to all their parents. Erica is only 9, so I imagined when asked she'd say something along the lines of, "Please pray that I get to meet Justin Bieber someday." That's not what she said, though...

Consider my heart strings strummed.  I mean, how sweet is that? So nice of her to put me and my jaw ahead of the Biebs. (Is that even what they call him? I don't know; I'm not hip). Really, though, I am touched to the core by my almost little sis's love and prayers for me. It completely made my night.

And thanks to everyone else who has been praying for me, too. I know there's a lot of you, and for that I am more grateful than anyone will ever know. Because I need all the prayer I can get. So, if you are one of the many that have me on your mind while you say your quiet time or bedtime prayers...thank you. 

If you could, please pray in particular for (1) physical recovery—of my nerves, my muscles, & my bones, and (2) emotional peace & strength as there I times when I panic that I'll never feel my cheeks again and times that I weep because all I want to do is eat a hamburger. And in the mean time, I'll continue to pray prayers of gratitude for all of you (whether family member, friend, or perfect stranger).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two Week Photos

I meant to post these yesterday, but I was too busy moping.
Nevertheless, here they are: my 2 week post-op photos.

The right side is still more swollen than the left, for whatever reason. Here's my theory: because I am a literature/language geek whose mind leans more on the logical side than the creative, my left brain is is fuller and more active, leaving the right side of my face more swollen, yet less numb. It's a stretch, sure. But like I said, I like logic and want an explaination. So I came up with that. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, Google "brain lateralization."

Anyways, all looks pretty much the same as last week to me (except my smile seems a bit more natural now), which has me a little nervous and wondering, is this how big my cheeks and neck and upper lip area are going to stay? Gosh, I hope not. I know it could be much worse, but still... Here's to hoping for major improvements next time around, and maybe even a smile with some teeth! :D

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Depths of Despair

"You're not eating anything," said Marilla sharply, eying
her as if it were a serious shortcoming.  Anne sighed.

"I can't.  I'm in the depths of despair.  Can you eat when
you are in the depths of despair?"

"I've never been in the depths of despair, so I can't say,"
responded Marilla.

"Weren't you?  Well, did you ever try to IMAGINE you were in
the depths of despair?"

"No, I didn't."

"Then I don't think you can understand what it's like.  It's
very uncomfortable feeling indeed.  When you try to eat a lump
comes right up in your throat and you can't swallow anything,
not even if it was a chocolate caramel.  I had one chocolate
caramel once two years ago and it was simply delicious.  I've
often dreamed since then that I had a lot of chocolate caramels,
but I always wake up just when I'm going to eat them.  I do hope
you won't be offended because I can't eat.  Everything is
extremely nice, but still I cannot eat."

Anne of Green Gables

I don't have much in common with the wonderfully feisty and imaginative Anne Shirley of LM Montgomery's beloved novels. For one thing, the girl technically can eat and is choosing not to in this scene—what a fool. But after my appointment with the surgeon today, I think I understand what she means in the passage above. I am in the depths of despair.

My surgeon has officially and sternly sentenced me to no chewing, whatsoever, of any sort, under any condition...until the six week mark. In case you haven't kept count, today is two weeks post up. This means that for another month, another 4 weeks, another 27 days, another 81 meals...I will be drinking my food.

I'm telling you...depths of despair.

And on top of the despair is a bit of confusion. I've read lots of blogs and seen lots of videos of people getting the okay to chew soft foods two weeks, three week, four weeks post-op. I don't understand why my surgeon is being so rigid with the old-school six week rule. I don't understand, and I don't like it. ...And so the struggle continues.

Lucky for me, I've had some loved ones in my life come along side me and support my unfortunate chew-free lifestyle with empathy, choosing to endure a liquid diet themselves. My friend Nikki spent three days drinking her food; my mom stuck to protein drinks, sparkling water, and soup today; and as my fiance heads back to school, he's nixing solid foods until sunset on the days we don't see each other (Wednesdays-Fridays). Man, do I feel supported and loved.

I guess the depths of despair aren't so deep after all with such wonderful people around...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Another Monday, Another Video

It's been 13 days since my jaw surgery...
Want to see how I eat? Curious about my numbness and pain? Wondering if I can smile yet?
Watch the video and find out!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Miss Independent

Kelly Clarkson gets me.

Her 2003 diddy "Miss Independent" was my theme song today; not in a man-hating, I'm-afraid-to-fall-in-love kind of way, but in a self-sufficient, I-can-do-things-on-my-own sorta way. Ya know?

Today is day 12 post-op and it is the first day that I haven't taken narcotic pain killers, which means I was able to drive myself! I hopped in the car, turned the keys in the ignition, and felt like a semi-normal human being in a way that I haven't in a while. Sure, I couldn't really sing along to the radio as well as usual (unless the lyrics to T Swift's new song have changed to "Uh nuh yuh err druvle ehn yuh uat en"), and my air conditioning is broken, making my already swollen face a little extra hot and puffy. BUT, I drove.

I drove to church, where again, I couldn't sing quite to par—though I'm sure God enjoyed my almost on-key humming—and I did struggle to swallow an itty bitty piece of communion—I'm sure God also still saw the value in that worship-attempt. Overall, though, it was wonderful, almost-normal Sunday at Rock Harbor Mission Viejo, our little church that I love so much.

Then, I drove to the mall. I shopped for dresses and 'thank you' cards for my upcoming bridal shower. I also bought some delicious butternut squash bisque to go, and just sat in the food court for a while, smelling all the delicious things I can't eat quite yet. I had to talk to sales people and cash register people, and guess what—they understood me. I wanted to tell all of them, "I promise, this is not my normal voice," but I swallowed my pride and just pretended like all was well and good and normal. And you know what? For the most part, it was.

After all that, I was actually kinda pooped. I drove home and ate the aforementioned soup AND a few tiny pieces of the roll that came with it. (Well, I just sort of let it sit it my mouth for a while 'til it fell apart enough to swallow...but still, there's bread in my stomach). And that was my big day—driving, church, shopping, and bread (kind of). So, here's to bigger and better days ahead, filled with even more independence and normalcy and self-confidence and energy and solid food :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

By the Numbers

Here's a recap of the past few days, in numbers:


my eggs, my walk, and my nails
pounds I weighed: 122 (down from 132)
facial massages I got: 1 ...thanks, Nathan
episodes of Friends I watched: 4
scrambled eggs I attempted to swallow: 2
scrambled eggs I successfully ate: 0.3

FRIDAY, day 10

miles I walked: 2
dollars I spent at the grocery store: 43
types of soup I bought: 5
naps I took: 1 (the first one I've had in a week)
hours I lasted on two ibuprofen: 9
burritos I put in the blender: ½  

SATURDAY, day 11

amount of feeling I regained in my face:
jars of homemade food I was given: 4 ...thanks, Megan!
fingernails I painted red: 10
pills I swallowed: 6.5*
antibiotics I finished: 1

*I've taken 2 ibuprofen, 1 B-12 vitamin, and ½ of a Vicodin (hopefully my last Vicodin...) so far; I'll take 2 more ibuprofen and 1 Lorazepam at bedtime. I tried nixing the Lorazepam last night since I don't want to become dependent on it, but it didn't go so well—was up until 2am and tossed and turned until 7o'clock. So tonight, I'll nix the Vicodin instead and see how that goes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Simple Summary: Day 8

Is it just me, or am I just looking the same day to day?
From now on, these shots are only gonna happen once a week.
Today was a good day.

What I did: Finished a book. Went on a walk. Caught up with a friend on said walk. Watched Friends. Made a cover letter and resume for an exciting job prospect. Took a bath (obviously). And et cetera.

What I ate: A Strawberry-banana Naked Juice smoothie. Some applesauce. Tomato bisque. My own homemade Frosty...I think I've perfected the recipe. Blended clam chowder (would not recommend). AND, get this, a few pieces of spaghetti. Nathan was eating it for dinner, so I snuck a noodle or two (more like 10) into my mouth, one at a time, and just swallowed them whole. It wasn't all that enjoyable to eat—pretty tiring on my throat and jaw—but I'm sure my tummy was glad to have something solid in it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Five Highs

this dirty-hair, no-makeup thing seems to be a theme... #rockinit

Okay, you guys. I made it. It's been one week since the surgery and this damsel in distress is alive—still in some distress, but alive nonetheless. It's mostly thanks to my adoring fiance, who, on more than one occasion fed me narcotic-laced milkshakes through a syringe in the middle of the night as he "slept" in a sleeping bag air mattress nightmare...among other knight-in-shining-ly duties. So thanks, Nathan.

Still, I've been trapped in a bit of a funk the past few days, and so tonight I thought it might be best for me to reflect on some highs of the week, because, honestly, I'm at a point where I literally need to count my blessings to help me realize life is not so bad after all. I stink at being thankful. So here goes it.
  1. The surgery is finally over. After years and years of knowing it was coming, and months and months of hoping it would happen in time for the wedding—it did! Never again do I have to say "I'm getting orthognathic surgery." It's in the past and I can finally move forward.
  2. I've had low pain, low nausea, and low swelling. These are supposed to be three big symptoms of maxillofacial surgery, but they've been so small in my case. Only 2 hours of that curled-over-a-bucket, I'm-about-to-throw-up feeling took place the first night in the hospital, and since then I've only felt a little sick here and there due to an abundance of medicine and a deficiency of food. In fact, it's been a few days since I've felt nauseous. Also, I expected the pain to be a lot worse, but other than a bad face-ache when the pain meds wear off and pallet pain when swallowing, I've been in no sort of desperate agony. AND the swelling I've experienced has been basically nothing in contrast to how big I thought my face would be. My surgery symptoms have been a walk-in-the-park compared to most maxillofacial post-ops, and for that I am so grateful.
  3. People have been so good to me. I owe a HUGE thanks to my mom and dad for supporting me financially and emotionally through this experience. My friends and family have been caring and encouraging. I've received more prayer during this time than I can ever remember in my life. And, obviously, my fiance has gone to the moon and back to take the best care of me in the world. I feel so loved, and that's a good feeling to have.
  4. Things are getting better. This is a huge one I have to remind myself of. Whether it feels like it or not, I'm less swollen today than yesterday. I'm slowly weaning myself off of drugs. I've fed myself, by myself, for the past twenty-four hours. I got more sleep last night than the night before. I'm becoming more and more independent each day. It's little things like this that I need to look for and tell myself, "Each day will be better than the last."
  5. God is good. That sounds like a cop-out—like I just can't think of a #5—but it's not. All my highs (post-op and otherwise) are thanks to Him. There are very few times in my life that I've felt His presence as much as I have at certain points this week. He's been in me and all around me, bringing me peace and love and, thank-goodness, life. Hopefully He blesses me with that again tomorrow, and I'll wake up with a thankful heart for everything I've listed above.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Look Mom, I'm a Ventriloquist!

Okay,  so I'm a horrible, drool-y ventriloquist. But I really have no choice at this point. My mouth is banded shut, yes, but it's mostly because of the numbness and swelling that I'm unable to move my lips and face. You'll see...

Also, I apologize in advance if I come across as a giant downer in the video below. A friend of mine asked how I was doing today, and while my response should've been "I'm doing great! Got better pain meds, fed myself, got my bandage off, etc!" I had to be honest and say that it's been a tough one. I think I've hit a wall in this labyrinth of recovery, which at times requires more patience than I have to give. So while I'm so grateful for all of God's blessings today and over the past week, my oh-so-human side just needs to pout a little. I hope that's okay with you.

And here's some photos of today, day 6 post-op. (You can see all preceding post-op photos, including day 5, in the previous post)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

a good DAY FOUR an update

I am officially four days post-op if you count surgery-day as "Day Zero", which I do. Today is supposedly the peak for swelling, but I have to say that I think day #2 was the worst of it. At least based on pictures. Overall, my face has felt pretty consistently like a humongous, puffy, awkward, big-numb-blob, and if I looked anything like how I feel, my face would be the size of a watermelon. But the thing is, I don't think my swelling ever got that bad, except for maybe my lips. I had prepared myself to appear relatively horrifying, and here I am, just kinda looking like I got my wisdom teeth out, with my face stuck in a bit of a stiff/angry/tired position. Here are some comparative shots over the past few days for you to take a gander at:

Here's a look at day five (I just wanted to include these in this list of pre-bandage-removal photos)

As far as day-to-day life is going...well, it's not really. Not yet, at least. Overall I take a lot of baths and naps, wear an icepack almost constantly, and drink more soup than I'd prefer—through a syringe, nonetheless, which is a bit dehumanizing. But enough of the dramatics. So far the diet has mostly consisted of tomato bisque, mashed potatoes, and blended chicken pot pie. Nathan created a concoction in which my terrible, awful pain meds are drowned in chocolatey-peanutbuttery milkshake, so I also drink that a few times a day along with my other prescriptions. And milk, obviously. If you know me, you know that lots of milk is involved.

Like I said before, my pain and nausea have been on the relatively low side. The worst pain comes from the roof of my mouth (oh right, that's where my top jaw is), so swallowing can become a bit excruciating after a few hours without medication. One of my biggest frustrations, though, is the numbness—oh how I wish I could feel my cheeks and lips! I've always loathed that post-Novocaine feeling after the dentist, and this is obviously a lot, lot worse. Does anyone who's been through this have some tips as to get feeling back a bit quicker? (exercises, vitamins, anything?). 

As for highlights, there aren't many: today I went for a walk, tomorrow I might venture to visit with the future-in-laws, and on Monday I see the surgeon again. Baby steps. I'll keep trying to update this here blog o' mine, and in the mean time, if there's anything in particular you'd like to know, just post a comment or write me an email and I'll do my best to get back to you...ya know, when pressing matters like naps and baths are at bay :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Home from the Hospital

Hi everybody!

I got discharged from the hospital around 11am yesterday. Man, what I wouldn't have given to stay there another couple nights. Everyone was so kind and helpful (the nurses, all the visitors, etc), plus all the fancy, high-tech health gadgets made things a lot easier—electric ice packs, humidifiers, suction for my mouth, and the ever-so-wonderful PCA (the button I could push to inject pain meds into my IV). I was all around a much happier gal at Hoag. Here's a few glimpses of my experience there:

In the recovery room. Way high on meds/coming off of anesthesia. Very confused, unable to talk, and had hard trouble breathing because of the NG tube (taking blood out of my stomach). And it took 6 hours to get me into my room. But YAY—I had done it.

Finally in my room. Couldn't see the ocean, but had a great view of this handsome face the whole time.
...I and even felt up for a kiss to two :)
He fed me a lot...
...and gave me foot rubs, among other nice things.
Most of my time at the hospital consisted of this: sleeping...
...trying to eat/drink

...and just hanging out. (Oh,  that's "Cheeky," the big-headed monkey that my dad got for me during the surgery. Awesome.)

 I've actually been surprised at how well I've been able to talk. It might sound like a bunch of gargles to you, though, so I had Nathan translate just in case:

...Home has been a bit of a different story. Lots of medicine to take orally, which is really hard and most of it is disgusting. Eating takes all of my energy, and drinking the pain meds, anti biotics, and anti imflamitories makes me nausous. It's basically strug-fest 2013 over here. But without the help of my amazing fiance and caring parents, strug-fest would look a lot more like mission impossible, so I'm beyond grateful to them. Most of all, though, I'm in awe of how good God has been to me the past 85 hours or so...I've had relatively low pain and nausea and I've been surrounded by the most loving, wonderful people that are taking great care of me and making me feel His love so profoundly every minute of the day. So, thank you—for the flowers, for the visits, for the soup, for the just-checking-in texts, for the support, and for the love and help that is make all of this possible (hoepfully you know who you are)!

Monday, March 4, 2013

'Twas the night before surgery...

The hospital bag is packed, the last solid-food meal has been eaten, and the surgery is almost here. It was a really good day—productive (got everything at the house order for when I come home) yet relaxing (got a facial at Burke Williams and enjoyed a full morning soaking up all the spa has to offer). I spent some quality time with my fiance, caught up with friends over the phone, and had a delicious dinner with my parents. Really, I couldn't have asked for a better surgery-day-eve.

I'll be waking up before the birds tomorrow to be at hospital around 5:45am, and rolling into the operating room at 7:30 for the 3 hour procedure. After another hour or two in the recovery room, I'll be able to reunite with my fiance & family in my room, where I'll be for two days. [Really hoping for one with an ocean view, so if you could just keep your fingers crossed with me on that one, that'd be great :)]

So, here's my final pre-op post. Just to say a temporary bon voyage before the big day. Prayers would be greatly appreciated—for me, for my loved ones, for the doctors. Phone calls, not as much, but texts and emails would be wonderful. Thanks, everyone! Here we go...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

On your mark, get set...

Jaw surgery requires a lot of prep. And I'm not just talking about the areas of orthodontics, consultations, and insurance. I've been making lists, looking up tips, and trying my best to get ready for the long and windy road to recovery that I'm anticipating this surgery will drag me down. So, here's a bit of premature advice I'm throwing out there for anyone about to embark on this journey, too:

1. Do some research. If you haven't heard of the book The Healing Jaw by Susan Beaudette, RN...Hunt. It. Down. It's out of print, and so finding it might require some ebay-ing or asking your surgeon for a copy. Mine happened to have a photocopy of it, which he's letting me borrow for the time being—thank goodness. This book has almost everything you need to know about recovering from jaw surgery (what items to have at the hospital and at home, how to get the nutrients you need, and even has a bunch of liquid-diet recipes). It has help put me at ease, giving me practical tips as to how to take care of myself and monitor my progress in the weeks ahead.

(Along with writing this book, the author put into production something called "Zip-n-Squeeze" bags, made for people needing to eat/drink things out of a straw but unable to actually suck through the straw—you're not allowed to do that with sutures in your mouth. They're ideal for orthognathic post-op patients. Or at least, they were before they got discontinued as well. There's a company trying to put them back on the market right now, but it's a little bit sketchy and I haven't been able to get ahold of them:

2. Make a Target-run. I love any excuse to shop at Target, even if it's in preparation for major surgery. Here's an abridged check list of must-have items to go out and get and keep at home:
  • Blender and/or juicer. I have the Ninja system blender/food processor; it's amazing.
  • Eating utensils. A syringe (may be supplied by hospital), sippee cups, baby spoon/fork, and fine mesh strainer.
  • Protein drinks. I really happen to like Ensure's milk chocolate nutrition shake +  (it has extra calories, so can be a full meal replacement...and it just tastes like good chocolate milk).
  • Ice packs & Heat packs. You'll need ice for the first few days and then heat after that.
  • Non-alcoholic Mouthwash. Helps clean the inside of your mouth where your toothbrush can't reach until your un-banded shut. Also loosens things up before brushing.
  • Child's tooth brush. You'll want something small and soft. I got a Winnie-the-Pooh's pretty cute, I'm not gonna lie.
    just a few of many items to have around the house
  • Soft wash cloths. Ya know, 'cause you're gonna be drooling a TON.
  • Liquid Tylenol/Motrin. For once you're off prescription pain meds.
  • Saline nasal spray & oral decongestant (e.g. dimetapp). Apparently stuffy noses are common post-op, but you aren't allowed to actually blow said nose for six weeks.
  • Wedge pillow. Gotta prop yourself up at all times, keeping your face elevated above your heart to prevent swelling. (I'll probably be sleeping in a recliner for the first couple weeks). A neck pillow has also been recommended by a lot of jaw bloggers.
  • Medicated lip balm. You probably won't be doing much lip-licking with your mouth banded shut, so some form of lip balm will be a life-saver...or at least a lip-saver.

3. Prepare materials. This means food, journals, any form of entertainment, etc. I've already made some chicken stock (***with no salt!—sodium contributes to swelling, which you want to prevent as much as possible while recovering***) and prepared a few small, drinkable meals that will be in the freezer for me when I get home. I've also scanned a daily log I'll be keeping to monitor my recovery (see below). And I have waiting in the wings a stack of unread Real Simple magazines, a book I've been meaning to dive into (Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman), and season 5 of Friends, which I recently acquired for cheap through e-bay. Score.

 This is the log I'll be filling out on the daily to keep track of my medications, nutrition, etc:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Get a Good Look

...because this face will never look the same again. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic—it'll look pretty much the same, at least from the nose up. But for me, one of my biggest anxieties about this surgery is the idea of looking different. A lot of people seek out maxillofacial surgery for cosmetic reasons, so much so, in fact, that I had trouble convincing my surgeons that, as much as it is possible, I wanted to look like same-old-me after the operation. Because God made this face of mine; and while I might've developed a congenital deformity along the way due to faulty, worn-out human genes, I think He is a master artist and that I was beautifully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the universe—no surgeon can top that. So although keeping my face exactly how it is isn't possible with a surgery like this (you know, one where they're taking out bone matter and moving significant structural pieces to your appearance around), the changes being made are relatively minimal. And I'll be documenting those minimal changes in the form of daily photos like the ones above, and maybe a video every once in a while—this being one of those whiles: