just another jaw blog

Well friends and fans, February 27, 2017 marks the 5 year anniversary of my brutal double jaw surgery, palette expansion, and genioplasty! 2012 was the big year for me of pain and very humbling experiences.

 

In retrospect, what I have learned,

 

So how do I feel now? I am sure that is the question on some of your minds. Am I happy with the results? Did I achieve the results I wanted (i.e., has it solved or at least lessened my chronic TMJ, did it fix my bite and inner cheek chomping habits).

First, I want to address the chronic TMJ as that is usually what drives people to seek the surgery. Did it help? YES!!!! Did it go away completely? No. But the jaw pain I had before the surgery was every single friggin day. The pain had spread from my jaw down to my neck, up to my sinus, and settling in my head. None of that was fun. Nowadays, I notice some muscle stiffness in my jaw (more so in the morning because I am still a huge jaw clencher at night), will do some gentle jaw massaging and there, but it is nothing compared to the daily pain I endured before. If my pain before the surgery was 8/10, now I would say it sits around 2/10.

I never got full feeling back in my face but I don’t really care. I do not have any spots that are completely numb, but rather many parts that feel a bit deadened – like the nerves don’t have feeling at a deeper level but I do have feeling at a more superficial. When I run my fingers along my face, the right side where I had my awful palate expansion, has that slightly deadened feeling. The spot directly under my nose has the funniest feeling of deadened nerves – it almost tingles and tickles when I touch that spot. Generally speaking, most of the deadened sensation is on the right side which I attribute to the palate expansion.

I think we will spend the remainder of our lives fighting our jaw’s desire to return to the position it unnaturally developed into. My lower jaw occasionally likes to sneak back to the right side while I am eating, and then I take a chunk out of my inner lip with my right incisor. My jaw occasionally spasms shut, but nowhere near with the force after my surgery.

And my teeth! And my bite! Let’s talk about those. I have gorgeous teeth now. No shame saying that. I went through agony to get here. I am so happy with how straight and lined up my teeth are and the fact that my molars actually line up and my teeth meet BLOWS MY MIND. Until my jaw surgery, I never ever chewed on the right side because my teeth didn’t meet anywhere. That lead to a massive jaw muscle on the left (which contributed to the TMJ) and a slack muscle on the right side. Now, however, I chew on both sides and the pressure is evenly distributed. What a gift to be able to chew properly! Seriously.

My face looks a bit more symmetrical than before and I like my chin and nose much more now. My chin is less pointy thanks to the genioplasty and since both my jaws were moved forward, my nose looks smaller. There are some things I don’t like as much that I have come to accept. My jaw line on the right side is a bit lumpy and even though the right side of my face is filled out more, thanks to the palate expansion, it still looks somehow, underdeveloped, and yeah, a bit lumpy. But pobody’s nerfect right?

 

Advice and tips.

If you decide to have orthagnathic surgery, here is my advice to you. First of all, think about how difficult you expect it to be and how painful it will likely be. Now triple, quadruple, times it by 5, 8 or 10. Whatever – my point is this surgery is going to be MUCH more difficult than anyone led you to believe.

I honestly feel that surgeons and orthodontists pussy foot around the issue of pain because they don’t feel comfortable talking about it. I believe that they rely on the stories of people who seemed to have very easy experiences post surgery (yeah, that kind of person apparently exists! who are you? are you a robot?) and try to ease your fears by relying on these easier experience stories. But I dare say that most people have much more difficult and painful experiences.

You CANNOT do this alone. You need someone to stay with you to make sure you take your meds on schedule (your schedule of medication is crazy at first) and to force you to drink liquids because you won’t want too and you will be so distracted by your own personal torment that getting up and preparing liquids will seem like a nightmare task.

Emotional support. You Need emotional support. This surgery will mess heavily with your emotions and may leave you initially depressed. Myself and several others I have spoken with have all commented on experiencing some levels of depression after. Mine was intense – I thought about suicide during the initial week after because I was in such agony. As your recovery continues, you realize how much of your joy in life comes from being able to taste wonderful flavours and eat what you want. Mood is linked to food – no doubt about. When you have  been on Ensure and soup broth for weeks, the funky mood definitely takes its toll.

Do NOT judge your face right after. It is going to remain swollen for months and months after. If you think you have a little pig nose, or man face (I thought I had both), or a boxy face or whatever, take a deep breath and tell yourself IT IS SWELLING. You NEED to understand this – you will not have a clear idea of the final final final results until 6 plus months after surgery. I would say upwards of 8-10 months. Yes you read that right. It takes a long time for the swelling to go down so let this be your mantra and try to avoid being overly critical to your changing face.

I seriously have yet to see an After picture of orthagnathic surgery where the Before was actually better. After always looks better, even if you didn’t quite achieved total resolution of your TMJ, even if you still have numbness, or whatever.

Nerve sensation will continue regenerating throughout the year post op. Like I said, however, I never regained full feeling and it doesn’t bother me.

 

Current teeth care.

Once you get your braces off, now it’s really time to let loose and celebrate! Here are some important points I want you to consider. Ask your orthodontist if he is going to put in permanent retainers behind your upper and lower teeth and if he says no, INSIST he do it. And it MUST be on both the upper and lower teeth. As we age, teeth have a tendency to collapse inwards (same with our face in away, with the sunken look of old age), meaning that all your work with braces and your bravery facing your surgery, will be for naught. Simply wearing a retainer at night isn’t enough. This is why people end up with crooked teeth years after their braces came off, and some choose to go through the braces all over again.

This brings me to your nighttime retainer. Wear the damn thing! You deserve it – consider it a gift you give to yourself every evening, to honour your bravery and your experiences. You owe it to yourself to wear that damn thing every night. You will probably have several options – an Essex retainer (fits tighly on your teeth and keeps them in place at night) or a mouthguard that dually acts as a retainer. I started off with the Essex but recently switched to the dual mouthguard retainer becuase I clench my jaw at night like a mofo. It took 2 dental visits to get the fit right but I seriously love my mouthgard now.

Flossing! One of the least fun things to do in the world. Well, if you have permanent braces like me , flossing becomes even more important to avoid rot and gingivitis in the small areas between the retainer and the gums. My dentist blew my mind a few months ago when she told me that traditional flossing is out – passe, over, retro, etc. Studies found flossing to not be very effective, mainly because people don’t do it often enough or adequately enough. The recommendation now is to use the little brush pics that slide easily between your teeth and even gives your jaw a little massage. I am a HUGE fan of them and now I floss every night! It’s amazing how much tooth brushing can miss, in terms of food particles, which the brush pics find and deal with.

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2013 is going to be a good year for me! I can feel it 🙂 What better way to start off the year with a brand new jaw, perfect new bite, and no more chronic pain issues?

It has been 10 months and 1 week since my jaw surgery! Yes that’s right, we are nearing the 1 year anniversary which is almost impossible to believe! I last blogged 5 months ago (geezzz 5 months ago? where does the time go? :/ ) and like I have said often before, recovery is a slow and steady progress! At this point in time I can ALMOST fit three fingers sideways into my mouth – I can’t tell if this is the final opening position or not but I am pretty pleased! Chronic jaw, sinus, head and neck pain – no more! Still occassional jaw stiffness but nothing major.

About 2.5 months ago I had a run in with a delicious grilled cheese on crusty chewy Italian bread. Can you guess who lost? I did! I munched on it 2 days in a row (gotta take the leftovers home you know! I learned that from my gramma) and I can remember a specific point where I felt something unpleasantly yank really hard in my jaw and thought uh oh! That’s not good. Over the next 2 weeks, I found my jaw quite sore, I was having regular jaw spasms and some minor difficulty speaking *my français definitely took a hit haha). Basically I overworked my jaw so I went back to soft foods to give my muscles a rest and started taking Ibuprofen round the clock to help with inflammation (Ibuprofen has really become a trusty go to for me since my surgery!).  Remember not to take acetaminophen – it is not an anti-inflammatory which is what you need. It was a little frustrating but not temporary so now it is just a distant memory!

Sometime between the 5 and 10 month mark, my orthodontist added brackets and wires to my two back teeth on each side of my upper molars. My back molars kinda turned out sideways so they are pulling them back into places. A bit sore off and on and scraping my cheeks but no big deal.

I find my teeth are still VERY sensitive but like I have said, I think the braces contribute from the constant pressure. I am SOOOOO exited to get them off! Last time I was at my ortho’s, a week before Christmas, they removed the brackets and wires from my 2 back lower molars. It wasn’t much but I was still really excited! I can see my 2 lower back teeth in a way I haven’t seen them in 2 years! A delightful glimpse of what is to come 🙂 They took them off to let my back teeth start to ‘settle’. They also added clear little hard plastic hooks to my upper incisors and I had to go back to wearing elastics 24/7 that make a V shape between the upper plastic hook and two lower brackets. Kind of grrrrrrrr and it affected my speech a little but it is definitely worth it – again it is to really ensure that your jaw is comfortable and solid with the new resting position.

My date for my braces coming off was January 14, 2013 which yes I know is in a few days! But sadly I have accepted that they are not coming off, at least not the upper once, because annoyingly enough my upper right front tooth is still a bit too far forward. It doesn’t line up with the left front tooth and I can see this when I bite into something. I can also feel the slight difference when I run my finger over my top front teeth. Definitely a bit disappointing but having gone through 2 years of braces and major surgery there is NO WAY I am taking the braces off until everything is absolutely perfect! I am VERY excited to get a really thorough teeth cleaning and check up, followed by some at home teeth whitening which is DESPERATELY needed (braces are not kind to the appearance of your teeth :P).

I still sometimes have moments where I don’t really like my face and become fixated on how it looks a bit different. Overall though I am very pleased with the small changes in my facial features! Although the aesthetic benefits are always a distant second to the fact that I don’t have chronic jaw pain anymore! I think getting the braces off will help with one minor thing I don’t like which is that I feel that the area below my lips kind of puffs out a bit (I think the lower braces are causing that by pushing that area out).

I still have my appointment January 14 and I might at least get the lower braces off and some of the upper ones but I am expecting to have some ties placed on the upper front teeth to pull the right guy into line (get in line dammit!). Hopefully I will get the final date for removal! After they all officially come off I am going to throw a big party to celebrate!!! I am going to be celebrating getting my braces off after 2 years, my 1 year anniversary post double jaw surgery, palate expansion and genioplasty, and the 1 year anniversary of my move to Québec. Pretty big stuff eh? I think I might get an imprinted shirt made especially for this momentous occasion 😉

So a few pictures of the jaw of course and stay tuned to read how it all ends! Once the braces are all off I will do some serious before, during and after shots!

Hmmm that’s not what I’m supposed to be eating with my new jaw……still fun though!

Some jaw action!

Some partial side view action (still my better side!)

super stylin

xoxo,

Meredith

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!

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Muchos love!!!

15 weeks since my jaw surgery!

Life continues to improve in my little post surgery world! It’s been 15 weeks since my jaw surgery which means that I am 1 week away from being 4 months post jaw surgery! That was a lot of numbers I just threw at you my fans but the overall point is – holy heck! It’s really becoming something in my past! I find myself at a point where I still think about it a lot throughout the day and am always kind of aware of certain aspects of my recovery (like my cheeks regaining feeling) but it no longer occupies such a huge amount of space in my mind. So unbelievably happy to be at this point and each day turns into another week that I can put behind me and my jaw surgery!

Physically, I have this bizarre feeling that my jaw isn’t mind. It feels very foreign to me, like someone has removed my jaw and replaced it with one of those classroom skeleton’s jaws. With my mouth shut and my teeth meeting up properly, I have the distinct impression that my jaw is tilted upwards to the right, which I realize is probably because that’s exactly what happened during the surgery. My jaw was shifted forwards and widened both on the right so while the left side of my jaw is recognizable to me, the right side just feels so unknown! Whose jaw is this hmm???

That’s all for now folks!

Three months later!

So today is a big day friends and family – it marks the 3 months anniversary of my double jaw, palate expansion and genioplasty surgery! It’s incredibly hard to believe – the passage of time is bizarre. There were days where I watched every hour pass, miserable and in pain but somehow, it’s 3 months later, the beautiful weather is here, and things in my little jaw world have improved immensely!

I keep meaning to post these but here are my stats! I thought this was pretty cool – these are the surgical measurements my jaw guy used during the surgery to crack and move things around and create a functional bite!

My upper jaw was moved forward 3mm and up 1mm. My upper palate was widened 5 mm (OUCH!!!!). My lower jaw was moved forward 7mm on the right side, and 5 mm on the left side  (ughhh, that’s why I never liked my lower face!!!). My chin had a 2mm vertical reduction, and 5mm front to back (I don’t really understand what that last measurement means though!). Innnnneresting innit? But back to my anniversary……

What’s funny is I got a poutine today and was eating on the patio when I realized that I had eaten my last poutine before the surgery at this same place, just over 3 months ago and that I was now celebrating my 3 month anniversary! Again – the passage of time is very inexplicable.

I last blogged at the 6 week mark – that was a long time ago! I’m sorry my fans to have kept you waiting 🙂 so it’s now 6 weeks later and I’m at the 12 week, 3 months mark. Looking back, I really feel that between the weeks 6 and 8, things started to really improve with my jaw. What’s interesting is that from about weeks 6-8, I COULD NOT STOP EATING!!! Like seriously. I was absolutely ravenous the entire day and ate almost constantly, late into the night. My appetite was almost insatiable! I couldn’t believe how much food I was eat but you know what? I think that was my body pulling in all the energy it needed for a massive round of healing.  By the way, thank you McCain for your DELICIOUS vanilla cake!!! Many a night spent munching on that 🙂

The nerve pain continued to settle down and become more and more tolerable, although the area that continued to bother me the most was just above my upper lip, under neath my nose, and my lower lip. I think because so many nerves get severed there during the surgery! Slowly over the past 6 weeks the feeling has come back although it’s still not 100%. I also still can’t feel the front of my top gums, and only slightly on the front of my lower gums. I can’t explain how PAINFULLY SENSITIVE my teeth are though! I have to brush sooooo lightly and am still worrying about cavities. Oh on the topic of brushing though, a BIG MOMENT for me was around week 8 when I suddenly discovered I could open my teeth apart enough to brush the tops and bottoms of my teeth. Until then I could only brush the sides and it was gross and frustrating! Brushing the tops and bottoms felt RIDICULOUSLY good haha

I just had something to add – when the nerve pain first started, it was AWFUL. Like liquid fire sweeping across my face. I seriously freaked out and was convinced that the trigeminal nerve had been severed (huge, important nerve in our face) and that I was going to never get feeling back and experience nerve pain for the rest of my life. I was despondent for days crying, and was horrified at that possible future. BUT, like all the awful pains, it slowly started to fade. This surgery has brought this insane range of pains that have at time been very scary, as I’ve thought something was going horribly wrong post surgery.

I had a visit with my orthodontist and surgeon a few weeks ago (maybe at the 9 week mark?) and everything is going swimmingly, haha. The ortho took off a bunch of the unnecessary surgical hooks (SUCH a relief! they didn’t even bother me that much but any equipment I can get outta my mouth is welcome!) and changed the configuration of my elastics. I now hook two on the bottom and pull the elastic up to my canine teeth on each side, forming a triangle. I like this placement more than the last but what I started to experience was really bad pain and tooth sensitivity in my canines. It started to feel like my teeth were slowly being yanked out of my gums from the elastics and it affected what I could eat for awhile! I’d have to take the elastics off every now and then just to relieve some of the ripping feeling. Even worse, for about 2.5 weeks after, until quite recently, my canines were shockingly loose in my gums. I could literally wiggle them back and forth and wiggle many of the surrounding teeth as well :/ gross My ortho said that it was normal post surgery, and that my teeth would become loose as the gum inflammation went down and they were being pulled in new directions. They aren’t as wiggly now but overall, my teeth are still VERY sensitive, and the canines are the worst.

I’ve started getting more feeling back in my cheeks. I can tell the right side was a lot more affected because that’s where the palate was expanded. It feels much thicker and ‘deader’ as the nerves regenerates. When I run my tongue along the inner cheeks of my mouth, the nerves explode like fireworks! Not in a bad way, but it really feels like new, developing, baby tissue in my cheek. When I look at my gums, there are huge sections that are this whitish colour which is the scar tissue of course. My face is sore in general, especially under my eyes and to the sides of my nose where they moved my upper jaw forward and put in the plates and screws but it’s not too bad. My jaw still aches a fair bit – I think I really want to open it fully and stretch it out but unfortunately I’m still limited with mouth mobility (haha mouth mobility; Roger from American Dad: Maybe baby….maybe baby). I’m REALLY hoping that this jaw ache is just related to surgery and will gradually fade away because the verdict is still out on how much this surgery has improved my TMJ pain situation. I’m still letting myself heal but I think it helped? The pain I have now seems more like jaw stiffness whereas the pain I had before was like inflamed and fatigued jaw muscles.

BIG NEWS guys – I can fit my thumb into my mouth AND turn it sideways, no problemo! I’m able to do this as soon as I wake up in the morning, without even having to stretch it out with talking and eating. Very exciting – do you know how much more food I can eat with this level of mobility??? I can eat poutine now like nobody’s business (although still poutine sticks everrrrywhere in my teeth and braces, ugh) but I still can’t quite do sandwhichs, unless it’s something like grilled cheese and i can gently bite in. It’s funny – the other thing I still can’t eat is salad or raw vegetables. It’s something about the lettuce not having enough consistency for me to effectively chew that makes it still a no go for me. I had a few frustrating moments where I went out for food and ordered something I thought was going to be manageable, but turned out to be completely NOT. When that happens, I just disassemble and improvise! So eating isn’t perfect and it’s still a bit awkward and I sometimes struggle and or fail, but baby, I’ve come a lonnnnnng way from liquids!

The swelling slowwwly continues to go down. Again, I think there were big improvements after week 6. I am still swollen and still think I look a little boxy and manly. Also, my smile is still unnatural but it’s weird, when I smile in person it doesn’t look too bad. When I smile for a photo, that photo looks BAD!! haha. confirmed by a friend, it’s not just me. It’s probably from trying to hold my smile for the photo and the fact I don’t have 100% use/feeling yet. On my right cheek, it kind of weirds me out. The swelling has gone done  by my ear but not at the front, where my jaw was moved forward. There ends up being this really weird dip/ridge along my jawline from the difference in swelling. It also lines up with this weird dip in my jaw bone, which I’m pretty sure is where the jaw was broken and moved forward. I’m guessing the dip is where the jawbone is slowly rebuilding? Anyway, it looks weird and I gross people out by getting them to press their fingers into the dip hahaha. So still being patient on the face front (although liking the results more and more!).

Three months! I think I can I think I can…….

I really think the key to surviving this surgery is keeping busy. You just go through sooooo much trauma, physically and emotionally, and the only way to push through the pain and moments of hopelessness is by moving forward and keeping busy. Not to sound cheesy but I think that’s it. Looking back, the improvements are so gradual you don’t fully pay attention, and the busier you can keep yourself, the quicker that recovery passes. The worst moments were when I literally couldn’t do anything because I was in so much pain. Those are the moments when time stands still and recovery seems truly impossible. It’s also a very solitary and lonely journey – even though I had some of the most amazing friends and family for support, at the end of the day, they can’t understand the pain you’re in or truly relate to your experiences, so that makes it very lonely and isolating. Again, that’s where keeping busy is key.

So three months after my jaw surgery and I can say without a doubt that I am not the same person now that I was before. This whole experience, while not over yet, has made me such a stronger person. I had no idea what was coming, physically and emotionally, in the time leading up to my surgery and even though I thought I was prepared, I was 100% naive. I almost think there’s no way to truly prepare for this surgery because it encompasses your life and thoughts for such a long period of time after.  Anyway, not going to get too carried away here but jaw surgery ain’t an easy thang!!! You find inner reserves of strengh, patience, and perseverance you NEVER knew you had.

love!

meredith

I can’t believe how much time has passed since my last post! So much has happened since then but then at the same time, very little has happened, haha. Such is the post-surgery life I suppose.

So where I last left you guys, I was happily making my way back to Quebec at almost 3 weeks post surgery, feeling pretty excited and ready to get on with my life. I lasted for about 2 days there before I started getting this burning in my face. The burning kept getting worse and worse, until it felt like my entire face below my eyes was ON FIRE. Like seriously on fire. I kept thinking it felt like someone had slashed all my nerves and then dumped acid on them and it felt like my lips had been slit in half. Gruesome I know but I can’t express how much pain I was in! There’s a Buffy episode from Season 2 where we meet Buffy from another world and she’s got this badass scar cutting through her lips and I felt like that’s what had been done to me! The pain is the nerves regenerating – nerves allllll over your face get cut during the surgery and you are numb for awhile after before they start to regenerate. The burning is a necessary and good evil – it means the nerves are starting to grow back and form new connections but the bad part is how much it (can) hurt.

Poor Buffster – you’ve been through so much 😦

Again, I seemed to fare worse than others (MAJOR FML!!!!!) – my nerve pain pretty much incapacitated me for about a week and a half. It got so bad that literally all I could do was sit in my bedroom, miserable, and watch movies, trying not to move my face at all. Talking was unbearable and so was eating. What was the most frustrating part was that any progress I had made was stolen from me. I went back to barely being able to open my mouth, eat soft solids, or talk at all – it just HURT SO MUCH. It was horribly depressing and after barely a week in Quebec I ended up going back to Toronto to stay with my parents, with my tail tucked between my legs and feeling incredibly hopeless. I went to see my surgeon the next day and he prescribed anti-inflammatories (Torodol) to ease the nerve pain. He wasn’t too helpful with advice either – just more of the ‘you have to wait’ crap that I am sooooo sick of hearing. So I went back to taking anti inflammatories and painkillers round the clock. I also bought this AMAZING nerve pain cream that I strongly recommend if you are having a lot of nerve related pain! It’s called LivRelief and has been a serious lifesaver. I also bought Orajel – you know the stuff for tooth pain and cankers? Lifesaver as well. I slather that stuff on alllllllll day and bring it everywhere I go.

I stayed in Toronto for just over a week (from about 3.5 weeks post surgery to 4.5 weeks post surgery). This whole nerve pain setback was really difficult for me emotionally – I had been so excited to get back to my life and then I experienced this HUGE setback. Lots of crying and feeling desperately sorry for myself and like my life would never be normal again. Everyone only had to take one look at me to see how much pain I was in and miserable I felt. While back in Toronto I started seriously panicking that I was going to fail at least some of my courses in French this term.

I was back in Quebec for my 5 week anniversary (!) and was feeling a little meh the first week back (it was really hard to shake off the recent events) but went to visit my girl in Montreal and had a blast! I was there for my 6 week anniversary but am back in Quebec now. In terms of jaw stuff, let’s see. The nerves have settled a bit but I am still in pain every waking second from the nerves regenerating – my face is always burning and the most painful spot is my upper lips – ughhhhh!!!!! My upper lips and the area between my upper lips and my nose. It still feels like someone slashed my lips in half. I’m still using the nerve pain relief cream daily and using the Orajel. I also take Ibuprofen regularly – Ibuprofen is also anti-inflammatory so it’s better than acetaminophen for things like post surgery inflammation and nerve pain. When you’re talking a prescribed anti-inflammatory like I was (the Torodol) you can’t take Ibuprofen though, you have to take acetaminophen so you’re not mixing the anti-inflammatories.

My face still gets really sore after talking or eating so I have to stop talking/eating and just rest my face periodically throughout the day. Also eating is hit and miss – one day I was able to cut a piece of pizza up into small bits and chew it slowly but the next day it was a total bust. Everyone says my speech is a lot better and that my lips are moving more (I can actually tell that they are moving more because my smile doesn’t look quite so bad botox-nasty) but I am very critical of how I sound and look – I think it’s also due to the fact that I can feel how much I strain to talk which affects my perception of my speech. I’m still hypercritical of my face too – yes the swelling has gone down a lot but I still feel box-y and manly. I have moments of panic where I think oh dear god, what if this is my face forever? what have i done???? With all the burning nerve pain though, I’m pretty hopeful that I will get feeling back everywhere. Many people end up with areas of permanent numbness but I don’t think that will be me. There’s nowhere that I’m not getting the nerve pain – which is, uhhhh, good? ugh. Wait, I lie! I don’t have any feelings in my gums – it’s soooo weird! I can’t feel it when I brush my teeth at all so have to be really careful how hard I brush and use the electric toothbrush and Waterpik. Someone told me that if you’re not careful you can damage your delicate healing gums eeek. I also have to watch out for how hot liquids are because I don’t have full sensation back in my mouth so can’t always tell! In a weird way it’s kind of fun – I chug hot beverages a lot faster than I used to!

Oh, the other infuriating part of the regeneration are THE ITCHES THAT CAN’T BE SCRATCHED!!!! I get these deep burning itches that are sooooooo deep below the surface of my skin (way down where the nerves are regenerating) that I am desperate to scratch but NO DICE!!!! No way to scratch that itch. The best thing I have found is to sorta lightly scratch the surface of my skin – that seems to help a little bit. Hmmm, oh – my nose runs constantly! Not the gross dried blood/pus mix I was enjoying a few weeks ago – it’s just clear but like, I can’t seem to stop it and have to wipe my nose all the time. And since I’m still a bit numb around my nose I’m always paranoid it’s running down my face. Another thing that is bothering me daily is that as my nerves regenerate, I’m becoming more aware of what was done to my face surgically and it’s like I can feel the metal plates and screws in my face. Everything feels sore and tender and when I walk it’s like I can feel all that crazy stuff in my face moving! I recently started to sleep on my sides (I’m soooo not a back sleeper but was forced into it for the past 5.5 weeks!) but sadly I think I am going to have to return to my back for now. It just puts too much pressure on my face when I am on my sides and I wake up feeling really sore, inflamed and swollen in the mornings. Even when I sleep on my back, I am still puffier in the mornings, but less so than when I’m on my side. Also another bizarre feeling! I was starting to freak out (capoter en francais! merci mon coloc) for a few days because I felt like I couldn’t keep my teeth apart and even if I tried, they would sorta spasm close. I convinced myself that some muscle had been damaged and I was going to have muscle spasms forever but since then I’ve mostly forgotten about that, haha, so don’t think that’s the case. And I think it’s more likely that my jaw is stuff and naturally wants to close but is loosening so is getting better.

My massage guy recommended that I put something cool (not cold) on my face for about 5 minutes, every few hours during the day. He said it would help with nerve regeneration. I haven’t really done much of that but when my face is really burning, I have been putting cool things on my face and it definitely helps (even just my cold fingers on my upper lip feels good). Oh but I have been taking sublingual B12 vitamins every day (between 1 000-3 000 mcg per day) because B12 helps with nerve regeneration. I really can’t say for sure but maybe that’s why the nerve pain hit me so hard? Things are regenerating fast and hard!

I’ve gotten pretty quick at taking my elastics in and out of my mouth. I found that it is A LOT easier to hook it on the bottom surgical hook first then pull it up to the two hooks up top (one at a time obviously) – otherwise I keep snapping the elastic into my lips which hurts! My teeth still hurt quite a bit – like I just went for the mother of all braces tightening. I have a follow up appointment with my surgeon and my orthodontist at the end of April and I should know by then how much longer I will be in braces!!! woooohooooo!!!!! And hopefully they will take off the surgical hooks I don’t need. I’m still biting my lips when I eat but now it’s in a slightly different spot – very frustrating. For awhile I was literally having to pull the right side of my lips and cheek out to the side when I ate because EVERY BITE meant me chomping down on my lip/inner cheek. For awhile I wasn’t taking my elastics off to eat but I started to notice that when I did, it really helped loosen my jaw up and allowed me to fit more food in my mouth so TAKE YOUR ELASTICS OFF TO EAT. It will help you to loosen your jaw up in the long run.

Oh which reminds me – when I wake up in the morning, I can barely fit my pinkie into my mouth. After talking and eating, my jaw loosens up enough that I can put my pinkie in to my first pinkie knuckle (yes, like right below my nail haha) – wild right? I can’t believe the things that excite me in my post-jaw surgery world; namely, being able to get my pinkie up to my first knuckle into my mouth hmmmmm oh and mcflurries = sheer excitement! Like I mentioned above, my jaw is slowly loosening up (emphasis on SLOWLY). I’m also starting to be able to sliiiiiightly move my jaw back and forward and side to side. It’s weird though, the more my jaw loosens up, the more sort of unsecured it feels and like it’s kinda flopping around. So it’s nice at first having the elastics off but then it just feels too weird so I want the comfort and stability of my elasticized jaw back!

One thing I’m starting to get really freaked out by is getting cavities. I feel like with all the surgical hooks and elastics and the whole not being able to brush my teeth for weeks after the surgery, my teeth have turned a funny colour in certain spots and I’m paranoid I have cavities? But I mean, it’s not like anything can be checked or done about them until I can open my mouth more! Also,  A LOT of people have commented to me that they can tell I’ve lost weight and were a bit shocked. I can sorta tell but I guess I forget so it’s a bit startling to have so many people notice it too (the little vietnamese girl that waxes me even noticed for crying out loud!). Really gotta put on some weight but I’ve realized now that even though I’m no longer on liquids, the act of eating is just so tiring and wears me out that I don’t actually consume very large quantities of food. I’m thinking I should go back to drinking Ensure or Boost, just to make sure I’m getting the calories and nutrition I need.

So, if anything, my experiences since my last post have reinforced that life post jaw surgery is a constant emotional and physical rollercoaster. Every step or two forward is met by a step or two backward. So when they tell you that you need patience to survive this surgery, they aren’t kidding! Patience and just the ability to ENDURE. Endure has become my daily motto, especially during the first awful 2 weeks and then when I had to go back to Toronto recently because of the nerve pain. Just endure each day any way you can – I seriously took 2 baths every day just to pass more time, would divide my day up watching movies and shows, and go on little expeditions with my mother to get groceries. ANYTHING just to pass the days because that’s really all I could do – endure each day.

I’m doing a lot better than I was during the week and a half of nerve pain hell! I’m getting back into school, looking forward to spring and summer, feeling excited again about French and enjoying seeing my friends 🙂 I really hope my nerves continue to settle because it’s still easy to get really down about constant face pain, eating being so difficult, and all the various ways that this surgery affects every second of my life. But I look back to everything I’ve been through in the last 6 weeks and am just blown away by myself! I’m kinda awesome right? So is anyone who goes through this surgery – we are like, um, warriors!

So here’s the requisite pictures of my face!

Day 40 (holy hell!!!!! day 40!!!! honestly didn’t think during day 1-15 I would survive)

Day 46 (what what what! day 46 you say???)

Okay here you can tell more that my face is still swollen, particularly on my right (your left) side. ho hum.

That’s about it for now from my wonderful world of jaw surgery recovery. I am compiling a list of food that I am going to SHOVEL into my face once my mouth can open wide enough. Food really affects your mood and wellbeing – I never realized just how much though until this whole experience. Spring is here and summer is on its way- I’m really looking forward to continued normalization and improvement and plan to have an awesome summer!!!

lovies! m

This gallery contains 15 photos.

And so the 2 week mark has come and gone and it’s now day 15! Very hard to believe. So much has happened in the last 2 weeks. Where to start, hmmmmm. Well, Friday (day 11) I hung out with my soul sista Chandal, went for a soak in her mom’s condo’s hot tub (we […]

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