IT’S MY FIVE (YES 5!!!) MONTHS POST JAW SURGERY ANNIVERSARY!!!!
I just can’t get over how much time has passed. In another month, it will have been half a YEAR since the most physically and emotionally traumatizing period of my life.
So I haven’t been blogging much. Truth be told, I find that when I have my free time, I really don’t want to be thinking much about my jaw surgery. I just want to put it all behind me and not have it occupy any more space in my thoughts. After my surgery, it was all I lived and breathed – every second I was painfully aware of my long, painful recovery, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get away from it physically or emotionally.
But now, oh baby, I’ve come a long way!!!
Since my last post, which was at about 15 weeks, the recovery really started to slow down in the sense that while every day I make improvements, they are so small that I don’t really notice them until one day I’m like hey, my mouth isn’t snapping shut like a Venus Fly Trap as often. Or, hey, I can eat this and that food much more easily. So it becomes very slow and gradual, so when people ask my how my recovery is going and how much longer I expect my recovery to take, it is VERY hard to answer.
I no longer have to wear my elastics that keep my jaw in the right position 24/7 – now it is just about 12 hours per day (really just when I sleep). It was soooo exciting when my ortho told me this but it was also very disconcerting to not have the security of the elastics! At first it felt like my teeth and jaws were sliding all over the place – like they just didn’t know where to go. I can tell because my jaw starts to feel a little funny and my teeth start hitting in the wrong position and that is how I know my jaw isn’t where it should be. There were a couple days around the 5 month mark where my jaw was popping out of position multiple times in a MINUTE!!! I started to get really freaked out, thinking that my jaw was regressing, or that something was going wrong. I remember sitting in class and getting that funny feeling in my jaw – you know when you can tell your elbow or knee joint isn’t sitting properly and you have to move them around until you feel it pop back into place? yeah that’s exactly what I had to keep doing with my jaw. I was sitting in class and I could feel my jaw popping in and out of place – I was FREAKED OUT!!! But after about a week, it settled down and I don’t really get that much any more.
I had previously mentioned that I was getting muscle spasms in my jaw, where regardless of what I was doing (eating, drinking, talking), my jaw would spasm and SNAP shut (even if my tongue was in between my teeth, OUCH). That has greatly diminished – for a long time the spasm would happen every 20 minutes or so. Now, it is maybe every few days, or even longer.
I still have the feeling that this is some stranger’s jaw in my mouth. It’s like my jaw was slotted out, and some new awesome jaw was slotted in. It is slowly becoming less foreign to me, but I am still getting used to my new jaw and how it functions. Chewing is SO MUCH EASIER when your teeth meet up properly! Man! But like I said, I continue chew kind of slowly and carefully because I am still becoming accustomed to this new, fantastic jaw. I have a tendency to get the right side of my lip caught in my teeth and bite down on it a lot.
The swelling is another thing that slowly continues to go down. It’s just so slow I don’t even notice it much but when I look at pictures, I can see the difference. I still would say that I am swollen a bit, so am curious to see how I will look in a few months. One of the big things I have noticed is that my smile is slowwwwly starting to look more natural and less frozen. However, I have realized that I am having to learn how to smile and pose for cameras again, given that my face and smile have changed. It’s such a bizarre feeling to smile for a camera and not really be sure how wide to smile, or how to curve your smile, and what not.
Let’s talk about how OUTRAGEOUSLY sensitive my teeth still are. That’s probably my biggest complaint right now – I can still barely brush them, they hurt that much. I think that the gum and tooth sensitivity is definitely worsened by the braces constantly putting pressure on the roots of my teeth. My gums are still a bit numb but slowly getting feeling back. Most of my feeling has come back and I don’t have any spots that are completely numb. Nerve regeneration isn’t complete, however, and I know this because certain areas still feel kind of dense. The right side of my face, where I had the most work done, felt for the longest time like someone has stuffed cotton into my cheeks. It all just felt very dense and thick, a testament to the slowwww nerve regeneration. The other area that lags a bit in nerve regeneration is above my top lip, just where it turns into your nose. That is because there are a TONNNN of nerves in that area and they are unavoidably cut when the surgeon goes under your upper lip and through your sinus cavities for the upper jaw surgery. That was also one of the most agonizing areas of nerve regeneration for me, back when I got hit so unbelievably badly with the nerve pain.
Eating! Of course. Gets easier slowly. I can eat almost everything now but I still avoid hard nuts and hard, raw vegetables. I can kinda do sandwiches, depending on the size of them, but for now I just avoid certain things because it’s easier that way. How wide can I open my mouth? I can now fit my index and middle finger in and turn them sideways! WIIIIIILD!!!!! Man, I remember when I COULDN’T EVEN FIT A TINY CODEINE PILL into my mouth! And then I remember how exciting it was when I could ALMOST get my pinkie in. And then ALMOST my thumb. And then my excitement at realizing I could now fit my thumb in and TURN IT. And now I am at the 2 fingers turned sideways mark. Oh the little joys post jaw surgery!
I have follow up appointments with my jaw surgeon and orthodontist next week. At my last appointment with my ortho, about a month ago, he told me that I was already on the last wire for my bottom braces and that at my next appointment, they would put the final wire in my upper braces. I AM SOOOOO EXCITED TO GET THEM OFF!!!!!!! I think about it a lot now and I can’t wait!!!!! First thing I’m gonna do is get my teeth whitened because they have gotten super gross and stained since the surgery.
Some odds and ends. Before my surgery, I was super sensitive to caffeine. After my surgery, it was like my body changed and all of I sudden I could chug 3 coffees in a day and not have ANY anxiety or gut rot. It was BIZARRE because like I said, I was soooo sensitive before and would get very anxious from caffeine. My theory was that my body built up a tolerance to certain drugs like caffeine, because some of my meds (my Tylenol 2s and 3s for example) had caffeine in them. But now what is also interesting, is that I feel in the last 2 or 3 weeks, that tolerance is starting to fade away. I am noticing some of my caffeine anxiety returning, but not yet like how it was before.
Hair up or hair down? If you have known me for long enough, you probably know/have noticed that I almost never wear my hair up in a ponytail. I hated it. HATED IT!!! Sometimes I would do it for sports or what not, but overall, I hated how the lower half of my face looked when my hair was up. I thought my face really needed hair around it to look good. Now though, I really don’t mind my hair up as much! I still prefer it down but with my jaw moved forward and sitting where it should be, it looks so much better! And the nasolabial wrinkles that I was completely OBSESSED with pre surgery (the wrinkles that run from your nose to each side of your mouth) have all but disappeared not that there is the proper jaw structure underneath to support the skin on top. So weird how important proper proportion, placement, and symmetry is for overall attractiveness! So all in all, I am very happy with my face post surgery, although it has taken a lot of patience to wait for the swelling to go down as my new face slowly emerges.
Last but NOT LEAST. Chronic pain. Do I still have the same level of chronic pain as I did before the surgery? After all, the relentless jaw, head, sinus and neck pain was what drove me to the surgery in the first place. So, do I? Let me say helllllllllls no!!! It’s taken me awhile to be able to answer that because I was just in so much pain after the surgery but now, 5 months later, I can honestly say that I do not live in near constant pain like I did before. Before I had the surgery, I can remember clearly thinking that I would NEVER, EVER, know a life without pain. That it was just my unfortunate lot in life to live with chronic jaw/head/neck/sinus pain. It seemed like I was always thinking about my jaw – how much it hurt, how inflamed and fatigued my muscles felt, how I could never find a nice, natural resting position for my jaw and how I often wanted to just rip my jaw right out because I was so sick of the pain. Now, however, for the first time in my life, I don’t notice my jaw in the way I did before – yes my jaw is there, yes there are the issues I described above, but overall, my jaw just sits there as part of my face, not really doing much, which is AMAZING considering that before all it did was hurt me. Did that make sense?!! Now my jaw is just a jaw and no longer the source of my chronic pain, occupying so much space in my mind and life. That said, I still get some jaw aches and stiffness and I still get headaches sometimes but compared to what it was before, it’s nothing!
And now, PHOTO OP!!!! I can’t figure out how to add the dates to the photos so I will just have to list them here. I tried to find photos that best showed how swollen and stiff my face was, and how awkward my smile was. You can see that at first I wasn’t showing my teeth after my surgery because my smile was HIDEOUS!!! But it’s slowwwwwly improving and I am back to trying to show some teeth! So in order:
Pic #1 and 2 = February 26, the day before my surgery (ughhhh)
SURGERY FEBRUARY 27, 2012
#3 March 10
#4 March 11
#5 March 13 (15 days)
#6 April 6
#7 April 7
#8 April 11 (6 weeks and 2 days)
#9 April 21 (almost 8 weeks)
#10 May 7 (10 weeks)
#11 May 21 (12 weeks)
#12 May 26
#13 June 22 (16.5 weeks)
#14 June 28 (17.5 weeks)
TODAY, 20 weeks, July 16, 2012 – sorry no picture for today!