Today is Day 117. I’m a few weeks past the “magic mark” of 3 months where I’m allowed to eat whatever I want (if it’s braces friendly, of course) and my bones have fused back together so there’s less risk of my jaw healing improperly. How do I feel? REALLY GOOD!! I gradually started adding foods back to my diet and without even thinking about it, I started munching on the peanuts at Santa Fe Cattle Company!! (For those of you who don’t have that restaurant nearby, it’s one of those family style steakhouses with buckets of peanuts still in the shell that you can just throw on the floor.) Im not even a peanut fan, but it felt GREAT to munch on them without even hesitating. PLUS IT DIDNT HURT! I’ve also eaten chicken wings, which means my front teeth actually match up. I’ve had gummy bears, steak, celery, caramel candies, you name it! I’m still not interested in attempting to chomp down on a raw carrot or shove my face into an apple, but maybe I’ll try when the braces come off.
Just a few of the benefits I’ve already experienced: I have no pain or aching. I’m able to sleep with my mouth closed, although I have caught myself still grinding my teeth from time to time. My lips touch when my face is at rest, and I have cheekbones! I have not bitten the inside of my jaw in…well…months! But I am SO READY for these braces to come off!! The great news is that I thought I’d have another 6 months post surgery but…..I GET THEM OFF DEC 3rd!!! Assuming all is still fine, as my ortho cautiously stated.
There is one negative…I still don’t like my smile. That’s a BIG NEGATIVE! It just looks forced and awkward. My natural tendency is a huge wide smile, but that looks the worst. It’s like my cheeks and lips are “paralyzed” looking. I still have numbness in my lower lip but it’s not terrible and seems to be getting better. I’ve tried more of a sultry smirk, a timid grin, a flirty half-smile…but it all looks uncomfortable. Irregardless, I bravely did a photo shoot at the beginning of Oct to celebrate my “recovery”. We got some great shots, and they were even selected for publication in a magazine but it was a battle to get any I even liked. The photog was awesome and kept up the encouragement but he could only say “just relax your smile, try this or that, your smile seems forced” so many times before I completely gave up.
I know, I know….if I was reading this I would think “what a whiny little beeyatch!” My mom and husband are going to adamantly disagree with my self-assessment of my smile. I cannot express how much I appreciate their love and support and everyone’s amazing encouragement and positive thoughts through this entire ordeal!!! Nonetheless, this blog is where I can candidly express my feelings, thoughts, and fears so that’s what I’m doing. I’m confident getting rid of the metal mouth will boost my spirits and ease my annoyment. (Yes, I just made up that word. This is MY blog, so I can do that.)
I have another shoot in a couple weeks and I’ll be ready. I might have to stare at myself in the mirror for hours and practice looking pinup-ish (as a hint, you go through your vowels…a, e, i, o, u….to make that giddy pinup look. Try it.) But I haven’t given up on liking my smile even if it means just “accepting” my new look. I’ve got a super sexy chiseled chin and I didn’t have to lose 50 lbs to make my face to look thinner! Feeling beautiful has very little to do with “looking” beautiful. I saw a former co-worker the other day who I hadn’t seen in a year or so who said, “Wow! You look SO DIFFERENT!” Maybe it is because of the jaw and braces….or maybe it is because I had short blonde hair and was doing P-90X every day when I worked with her. Heck, who knows what I’ll look like next year….
Here’s one from the shoot in Oct.
Well it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted and I’ve had a lot of improvement, but I guess other life stresses have taken some of my focus. It’s day 68 post-op and I still have rubber bands that restrict my movement, but I take them out to eat which makes life SO MUCH BETTER! I can eat almost everything I was eating with braces, although it takes me longer to chew and I still drip stuff all down my face. I tend to gravitate towards softer stuff like pastas, chili, and soups because my ability to bite into something and tear it apart isn’t quite there yet. Consequently I cut sandwiches and pizza into tiny bites, and I won’t even attempt eating something off of a bone. Every once in a while I will forget I’m not 100% and accidentally put a chip in my mouth or grab a bite of bread that’s too hard and have to pry it out.
Pain and discomfort is very minimal. My jaw gets sore at the end of the day or if it slides sideways when I’m eating but I’m not taking any pain meds regularly. My lower lip still has a lot of numbness and my chin tingles and has patches of numbness too. This worries me of course because there is a risk that it will be permanent but what could I do anyway besides accept it? Needless to say I went to the dermatologist because my chin had this never ending rash but I think it’s due to me constantly wiping my face off anytime I eat or drink. My speech seems better, although the braces hinder it a little, and my smile….well my smile is different.
As I was comparing before/after pics and staring at myself in the mirror, I realized I’m trying too hard. My face shape has changed, my muscles have been adjusted, and the nerves have been stretched so it makes complete sense that not only am I going to look different when I smile but it will feel different too. It makes me remember a stage my sister went through when she was about 4 or 5 years old. I’m three years older than her so of course everything she did annoyed me, but she had a phase where she did a “fake/forced” smile. I’ve seen other kids that age do it too and when I look at some of my pics I have a similar “is this how I’m supposed to smile???” look.
Despite it all, a couple weeks ago I challenged myself to enter a pinup contest. Early in Sept I missed out on a shoot with my pinup group because I just didn’t feel comfortable enough, but when I saw that the car show we were going to in Texas had a pinup pageant, I was determined to force myself up on stage again! Luckily it was in another state, there wasn’t a swimsuit portion, and not very many contestants entered…but long story short, I won first runner up! I’m not going to fool anyone by saying it was just a beauty pageant because the onstage questions and persona were more important than just looks but I can still revel in my tiny moment, shiny plaque and $100 cash prize! I won’t even mention how I was the oldest contestant and still came in second.
Next week I go to the orthodontist and I will ask the million dollar question of how much longer he thinks I will need the braces. Its only been 9 months since I got them put on, but heck, I’ve birthed a human in that length of time! This process has been really life-altering but THANKFULLY nothing like that!!!
These two pics were taken on the same night. In the one where I’m near the car, I’m a little more relaxed while in the other pic I think I was trying to force a big grin.
This is probably the best one I’ve taken on just a “normal” day. I can handle this.
Ok, so it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted, and since this blog is meant to be cathartic, I’ll admit that the reason I haven’t posted is because I’ve been in a funk for the past couple weeks. So if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all, right? I re-read my blog and I’m glad that I’ve taken the time to chronical how I’m feeling and that I took a few pics. I do look better and feel better than just a few weeks ago which is progress and I really like progress. Unfortunately I like progress that’s on my timeline, and I think I should be 100% by now!! Ugh.
So let’s talk about what makes me happy. MAJOR MILESTONE this week–I ate the topping off a piece of pizza! Pizza is literally my favorite food. (Sushi is a close second, but I haven’t attempted that yet.) I’ve chewed baked beans, a tamale, green beans, scalloped potatoes, cheese bread and pasta…YUMMY YUMMY PASTA!! Life suddenly became so much easier when I stopped having to purée everything before I put it in my mouth. My eating out options suddenly quadrupled! That makes me really, really happy!
Another good thing is that a lot of the feeling in my lips and gums has come back. A bad thing is that a lot of the feeling in my lips and gums has come back! Having feeling helps me feel less trapped in my face, but it is uncomfortable and painful. Not a sharp cutting pain, but a dull ache. By the end of the day my whole jaw feels heavy and stiff. I haven’t had any problems opening my mouth wide enough to shovel food in and brush my teeth 18 times a day, but I still don’t sound right when I talk and I still drool when I eat. Having feeling is handy when chewing though because I can somewhat tell if I’ve chomped into my cheek and if my teeth are actually matching up. But my chin and lower lip are numb, tingly and itchy. It’s an itch you can never get to, that turns into a needle-like prick until it finally subsides. Again, it’s all good indicators that I’m healing and Dr Sullivan reminded me that he moved my lower jaw forward by 3/4th an inch which really puts a lot of strain on that ol’ chin nerve.
Then there’s my smile…or my attempt at a smile. Thinking about it makes me sad and seeing it makes me depressed. I think it’s because I feel relatively good, so I don’t remember how I look. And it’s not that I’m hideous at all…I’m just not me. Consequently I avoid walking by mirrors and definitely don’t want my picture taken. Do I look better than I did 2,4 or 6 weeks ago?? HECK yeah. But have I permanently ruined one of my best features??? I don’t know yet. I routinely check other blogs to compare my progress with those of others and I seem to be right on track, maybe a little ahead in healing than some. I am on Day 43 out of 90. Actually, a lot of what I’ve read indicates it will be 6 to 12 months before fully healed but 90 days seems to be a big milestone because that’s how long it takes for the bones to fuse and to resume regular eating habits. I know for me I’m not going to feel great until the braces come off which is at least 6 to 8 months away, if not more.
Last weekend we went to an annual Oktoberfest event, one of my first times to be out with friends in public in over 6 weeks. Unfortunately I made a really bad decision, and no it wasn’t drinking too much German brew or attempting to eat a braut. I made the mistake of letting my hubby snap a pic of me with a local celebrity who is known worldwide for her work in the adult film industry. First of all, I should never compare myself to someone whose looks are their profession, and even though its pretty comical now, when I first got a glimpse of the pic it was NOT funny.
Luckily, I have wonderful friends who don’t let me wallow in self-pity. One of them reminded me of a dear friend of ours who passed away from cancer earlier this year. The horrible disease took his youth and half of his face, before it took his life. Just thinking about his strength and attitude was a slap in the face for me—which is right where I needed it.
Here’s a few pics from this past week. Maybe not quite as bad as I’m making it seem…but I’ll avoid standing next to any celebrities!
I made it past the first month! I’m feeling a little better everyday, or at least almost everyday. The past week my teeth and gums have really started to wake up, which unfortunately means there has been an increase in discomfort…and actual pain. I had a couple doses of prescription pain killers left but I felt like a zombie at work. Needless to say, I sent an email to my office letting them know that I wasn’t trying to be antisocial but I was going to keep my office door closed because I couldn’t talk. Honestly I don’t think any of them minded one bit!
Another thing I discovered this week was that not only am I “not allowed” to chew, I’m not capable of chewing. It’s like my teeth and jaws are confused. Part of it is that one side is still pretty numb and so I can’t tell if I’m chomping on food or on my own face, not to mention my teeth are still a little misaligned on the other side. My surgeon also reminded me that he moved my bottom jaw forward by almost 3/4th an inch, which would undoubtedly make a noticeable difference. Needless to say I’ve got a couple more weeks of this blended diet but I can eat with a spoon from a bowl and I’ve identified which foods taste better liquified than others. Although everything tastes better if you add enough cheese!
It’s kinda humorous when I see friends or tell people about the surgery because they almost always have the same reaction–first they cringe when I mention the cutting and 20 screws, then they look empathetic when I explain my dietary limitations, and usually they shake their head and say there’s no way they could do it when I tell them how long the healing process takes. After 900 times of sharing my story, I started feeling frustrated with all the looks of pity and tired of the jokes about how I must be losing so much weight (which I’m not). I did so much research prior to surgery and read so many blogs written by people who had gone through the same experience, I knew I could handle it. That’s when I realized that I sorta liked the challenge.
I’ve approached this whole ordeal as an obstacle to overcome, a feat to tackle, another opportunity to test myself. It’s been emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. I’ve hurt, I’ve cried, I’ve puked and I’ve laid in bed for hours. I’ve wanted to scream, and I’ve wanted to hide. But I have to stay focused and take care of myself, and I’ve had to rely on other people to help me. I’m not saying I chose to go through the surgery because I just “wanted to see if I could handle it.” But it has made me look at the world differently and myself differently. Every time someone tells me they like reading my blog it makes me happy. When they say they admire how positive I’ve been in spite of it all, I feel proud of myself. When I look at the calendar and see how many days have passed, I feel accomplished.
Times of trial bring out people’s true character, and this surgery was NOTHING in comparison to the tribulations other people face on a daily basis. But it’s not that I didn’t know that. Yet how often do you take the chance to step back, take a deep breath, and really experience how good you have it? Sure it would have been a lot less painful (and cheaper) to just take a couple days off work, rent a cabin near Turner Falls, and evaluate my existence…but that would have been the easy route. I appreciate a good challenge from time to time, and THIS has been quite a challenge for sure. I am stronger than I think. Hmmm…what will I tackle next?
DAY 22. Just a little over 3 weeks, and to quote Katy Perry’s newest song: “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR!” I’m ready to roar, to move forward and to feel normal again! Unfortunately my face isn’t. I went back to work full time this week and my kids started back to school. I am tired. My mouth is sore. My chin and lips are raw. According to my orthodontist and my oral surgeon, I’m healing exactly on track. But it takes a full three months (if not longer) to heal…and I’m at three WEEKS! If I had to choose a theme word of the week, I would pick frustrated.
As long as I’m eating at home, I do fine. Emotionally. Over the weekend my hubby asked me (on three different occasions) if I wanted to “grab something to eat.” I know it was a question out of habit, convenience, and I would have LOVED to have randomly stopped somewhere and ordered anything I wanted from the menu. But it doesn’t work that way. We were out at a car show and walked into a sports bar, and they literally had nothing I could eat. So I made the best of the situation and drank a Bloody Mary for dinner while my hubby nibbled on BBQ wings and greasy fries. Needless to say, I started cooking again this week. I actually planned out a menu for my family, went to the grocery store and didn’t burst into tears! I’ve made broccoli cheese soup, white chicken chili, bacon & pineapple pizza. I’ll admit I did have a breakdown moment when I attempted to blend a Sonic chili-cheese coney and tater tots…but I think we all learned that was not the best idea. So I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate pudding, learned to lick icing off cupcakes, and today I ate the filling from a donut with a spoon. Hear me roar!
Surprisingly, the two things I miss the most do not relate to food: I miss kissing my husband & kids, and I miss smiling. I’ve spent the past 8 months adjusting to braces (for the second time in my life) but that was just occasional soreness and mild discomfort. Nothing compares to the pins & needles-tingly-swollen-numb-rawness that is now my face. I can talk (which I do way too much) and I can eat from a baby spoon (which takes way too much patience) but I can’t tell if I’ve dribbled sweet tea down my chin and I can’t suck on a straw without it feeling like my cheeks are permanently imbedded into my braces. And then there’s my poor poor “smile.” My upper lip curves inward, one side teeters upward, while the other side shakes and my chapped, peeling lips attempt to stretch in all directions. I cringe at the sight of my altered visage, avoiding mirrors and cell phone images. Then that little inner voice speaks up, threatens to punch me in the face, and reminds me this is temporary. In all seriousness, I empathize with stroke patients.
Oddly enough, in the midst of all my bellyaching and self-pity, I was notified that my pinup photo was being published in a national magazine! The picture was taken last summer by Dynamite Dames photography–before the braces and WITH my misaligned jaw. I had a blast at the photo shoot, I was elated when I found out it was being published, and I felt accomplished for achieving a personal goal. My mouth will get better and my face will get older. My gums will heal and my eyes will droop. My smile might change, but I’ll never run out of things to smile about.
Blended chili cheese coney with tots? No bueno.
Love me some iced caramel coffee!
My painful, raw, peeling lips. Ouch.
Don’t I look like a weasel?
This is my first published pinup pic! Issue #5 of Ivy Magazine (copies can be purchased on magcloud.com)
Two weeks down and rockin along! The pain is more like “soreness” as my gums, lips and chin start to wake up. I get tingling that feels like little needles when I sleep but its a good sign that I will get feeling back, since permanent loss is a risk with this surgery. I sneezed today (twice actually) for the first time and my head did not explode! I keep messing with the incisions in my mouth with my tongue which doesn’t feel good but seems to be uncontrollable. I have rubber bands on either side of my mouth that I change daily so I’m able to talk somewhat although by the end of the night my family says they have no idea what I’m saying.
As far as eating, I’ve lost about 9lbs so I’m far from waif-ish or frail. Glad I ate all those chili cheese fries and chicken fried steak sandwiches prior to surgery! My daily diet consists of the following: a yogurt with active cultures, a high protein shake (I prefer Atkins over Ensure), some sort if veggie/fruit like V8 fusion or baby food, and then a soup concoction of some sort. I’m fond of Campbell’s Chunky soups and fell in love with Lobster Bisque at Red Lobster! I’m not a big ice cream fan (I know, completely un-American huh), but I can stick the tip of my tongue out just enough to lick some icing off a cupcake!!
My energy level is really good, and I’m really digging the 10 hrs of sleep I get each night although that’s come to a quick halt with starting back to work (telework this week) and the kids starting back to school next week. I’ve had no motivation to put on makeup or fix my hair but I promise I am showering and shaving my legs every day!! Or…every other day…whatever.
I’m at that point where I really want to be “normal” although I know I’m far from it. I get lots of stares when I’m in public and so I usually explain I’ve just had surgery and then I get the pity look. I can’t move my face much so I worry that people can’t tell when I’m smiling and it makes me think of people who have had strokes and I feel badly for worrying about it. I drool a lot on my chin, so I’m always wiping it, which has made it red and raw. Brad still wants to kiss me though so it must not be that horrifying. Bruising is almost gone, swelling is still there. I’ve noticed though that I am beginning to have defined cheekbones for the first time ever, and this adorable little chin! My fathers side of the family have “butt” chins, which I do not find attractive, but I think mine will be fine.
This has been my joke…although my family hates it!
This is my smile as of today. The corner of my lip twitches and it hurts if I try to hold it to long.
10 days down and doing good! Went to my 1 week post-op appt with the surgeon and he said I was progressing well. I’ve always found if you do exactly what the medical professionals tell you to do, then your chances of healing properly and avoiding extra pain is seriously decreased. I’m sleeping better and able to drink through a straw which makes eating a ton easier! I’ve bravely gone to eat at three different restaurants–at the first one I had some excellent broccoli cheese soup, the second place I successfully slurped pho broth, and the third was a bust. They only had one soup option (although the online menu listed several) and it was packed with yummy things that I couldn’t eat. Left frustrated and hungry, but oh well.
My face is still über swollen so I don’t like seeing myself in mirrors. The bruising is getting better and I know it’s all part of the healing process. The most common thing I’ve heard when I’ve explained what all the surgery consisted of is “wow, I didn’t know it was that intense!” I know in some cases individuals only need upper jaw OR lower jaw surgery, but having both done is definitely a challenge. The pain at this point is very manageable as long as I don’t start laughing (or crying) and I’m off the narcotics which is great because I hate the side effects. For some reason they always make me have horrible, stupid nightmares and a little itchy.
I have to say the top two benefits to this whole ordeal have been–1. The improved ability to breathe and 2. Getting spoiled by my mom. Breathing is kinda a no-brainer on the benefits list, but getting extra time and attention from my mom is priceless! As an adult with four kids of my own and siblings who all have kids, it’s not often that I can get that one-on-one interaction. As my hubby said, “I can take care of you if I need to but your mom takes care of ALL of us.” Now I’m not saying I’m gonna routinely schedule major surgeries so I can get babied but I do appreciate all the coddling I can get! And I appreciate the fact that she’s a teacher and has had the time this summer to help me out.
Bruising at its worst point. I swear I look like a zombie!
Drinking from a cup! Yay!!
Meatloaf….um, not so great.
This is how you eat a red velvet cupcake! Well, didn’t work very well but I got to lick the icing.
Pho broth = good idea!
Let me see ya smile! Maddie keeps telling me how cute I am.
I love seeing the X-rays! Can you believe my air passage opened up like that? Wow!!
Metal mouth, for sure!
It’s day 5 after surgery. I’m sleeping through the night and getting used to my eating regimen. I’m still choking up bloody goo and my face feels like it might explode if I wait too long for pain meds. Today the bruising is very noticeable, all the way down my neck. For whatever reason it didn’t really dawn on me that my face being swollen and numb would mean it would be paralyzed from major movement. Maddie and I joke about how similar it is to when she had Bells Palsy right before her 10th birthday and since she’s in CO this week, she Face-times me a couple times a day so we can make funny faces at each other. My lips randomly tingle as the nerves wake up and it feels like the little butterfly kisses she used to give me.
I keep looking for signs of improvement in my features even though I know it could take a full six months for the swelling to completely disappear. If you know me and follow me on Facebook you’ll know that in the past couple years I’ve become active in the pinup culture, more as a fun hobby than anything. I’ve met lots of awesome friends who share the same passion and have attended some really neat events while dolled up in vintage design. My love for pinup art is tied to the fact that it celebrates all things feminine–curves, shapes, ages and ethnicities, all are welcomed!
Because of pinup though, I’ve also spent a lot of time, probably to an unhealthy level, focused on my “looks”. I try out different makeup techniques searching for the right foundation and concealer to mask my imperfections. I analyze camera angles and lighting levels hoping to catch that best shot. I overly criticize how I look and spend way too much time comparing myself to other buxom beauties. Consequently, six months until I’m depuffed and camera worthy seems like a long time!!
I know beauty is secondary to all other qualities, and that looking pretty doesn’t make me a better person. But I still care about how I look. I care about being attractive and visually appealing. Do I care more then I should, though?? I’m beginning to think that maybe I do! Looking at myself the past 5 days makes me appreciate how my features were before. It makes me worry that this is how I’ll stay, like some sort of punishment for messing with nature. Maybe 6 months isn’t that long…..
Pics from today!
Bruises are yellowing
Silly hint of a smile!
It’s been three days since the surgery and as you can imagine, most of it is quite a blur! Everything has gone really well other than a few tense moments in the waiting room when the nurse had to inform my family that my blood pressure had dropped very low and they were having a hard time getting it back up. I remember the nurse telling me she didn’t know sign language, which neither do I but apparently I thought I did when I came out of surgery. I also remember Dr Sullivan telling me how different I looked, but he didn’t tell me that I looked like the dad from the Family Guy!! (He promises that after the swelling is gone, I will like the final results.)
For the most part, things have gone how I’ve expected. I have no energy. I can’t think straight. My taste buds are screwed up, my lips and chin are completely numb, the headache is awful, and everything near my mouth/skull/jaw throbs. I didn’t expect my throat to be so sore or for it to hurt so much when I try to swallow. I didn’t expect my nasal cavities to ache so incredibly bad. I knew my stomach would have to adjust to the lack of food but I didn’t anticipate the constant acid reflux or the cramping from medicine sitting on an empty stomach.
In three days I’ve drank a couple Ensures, a half a can of chicken noodle soup, and a lot of water. And although I threw up all day yesterday, when I weighed myself earlier today I weigh a half a pound MORE than when I went into the hospital!! So seriously, I’m not feeling very optimistic at the moment…
However in the midst of the misery, it’s already been worth it. One of the first things I said after surgery was, “I can breathe!!” My lips closed without me forcing them to, and even with the swollen nose and bloody congestion, I’ve never been able to take such deep breaths! My air passage went from 4mm to 12mm. I’m not great at math, but heck, even I know that’s significant!
And for my favorite part of the blog, the pics!
This was as I was coming out of surgery. Oxygen in the nose, tube with suction down my throat, ice pack around my head.
It’s been nearly a year since I found out I had a birth defect. I think a big part of my struggle is that although I’m confident it will improve my quality of life, this surgery isn’t going to save my life. I am not in constant agony or immense danger. I’m about to undergo a lot of pain and discomfort and emotional anguish and its somewhat elective. Lots of people live their entire lives with jacked-up jaws, but just deal with it the best they can. So why would I do this to myself and to my family? I guess partly because I have the choice. I have good health insurance and a good paying job. I have lots of years left on this planet, and yes, I also care about how I look. The cost of this surgery without insurance is $22,000 (although my out-of-pocket cost is less then 10%, which my health care flexible savings account covers). However, when I look at the “before” pics in my oral surgeon’s office of kids with cleft pallets or traumatic facial deformities, I feel gluttonous. I feel selfish. I feel undeserving. I am lucky to have access to skilled doctors, and I am so thankful to get this surgery done! I am gracious that I even have the option. At the end of my days I have to look at the person in the mirror and say, “You made good choices.” I hope I recognize her.
These are my “The Day Before” pics: