Sunday, December 27, 2009

jaw surgeon visit, part billion

Went back to the jaw surgeon last Tuesday. Nothing happened - she seemed surprised I was in rubber bands, told me she didn't want to do any injections into my jaw joint (a combination of steroids, anti-inflammatories, fluid, and pain medication) until I was out of the rubber bands, because it's a bit major and it won't do anything if I'm still banded. She gave me a prescription for vicoden and told me to come back in - in a month - if it was the same (and I was out of rubber bands). The injection will take anesthesia - laughing gas type - and it can be done in her office.

I didn't even fill the prescription. I'm concerned about taking too many pain-killers like vicoden and percocet - high addiction profiles. PLUS, I really feel that those types of pain killers are for pain that I can't handle. And I can handle this pain, it just sucks. And wakes me up a lot at night.

I immediately called my orthodontist, but they were already out for the holidays. My joint pain is still wretched. I still have no side-to-side or forward-to-back motion in my jaw (less than 1mm change in either direction is possible, even when I push as hard as I can). My ROM is pretty much exactly the same, 28mm this time (but I'm sure I could have stretched it to the 29 I got last time). Nothing is improving, and she seems to think it's all because of the rubber bands so I guess I'm trusting her.

We talked about why this is happening - the angle of my lower jaw is quite extreme - in 'ideal' jaws it's close to parallel to the floor, mine is a very steep angle from the lower jaw joint to the chin. This means my muscles are too short, and pull sharply over the joints - which causes a high risk for relapse (yay not me!) and TMJ pain/ problems. My joints ARE remodeling, but she's not concerned at this point. Hopefully this will all resolve itself once the bands are off. I'll talk to my orthodontist about it at my appointment on Jan 19th... My bite is almost perfect when the rubber bands are in, but when I leave them out for a few hours (I only have to wear them 18 hrs a day) I can tell it becomes off... my right side doesn't even touch after a few hours.

Anyway, I don't mean to be a downer around the holidays. Even with all of these problems I'm having, I'm really glad I went through the surgery. I am still migraine free, close to 6 months after surgery. My bite is perfect with the rubber bands! And things are improving... I ate fruit and nut bread from a good friend, I am starting to be able to eat without thinking - in moderation, crunchy and chewy things are possible now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

first cleaning post-surgery

I survived! Luckily, this time I got a much more gentle dental hygienist this time, who went very slowly and carefully around all of the metal and rubber and blech. I'm still missing a lot of feeling in my gums and teeth, but where I CAN feel is hyper-sensitive to anything and everything. Between that and my jaw opening MAYBE halfway, I was intensely nervous going in for the appointment today.

I haven't actually been in for a cleaning since June of 2008 - right about then the insane migraines started when propping my jaw open for long periods of time, and I chose to wait it out. I figured I'd be able to have one soon after surgery, making it only a year between cleanings, but I'm almost 6 months post-op.

However, despite having braces, having jaw surgery, AND not getting a cleaning for a year and a half, my teeth looked pretty good! She said I had deposits around the normal areas where the saliva glands are (on the back teeth and the front teeth, apparently?), but overall looked very good. I really work hard with the waterpik, floss, little brushes, and my sonicare to get everything nice and clean.

I have some receding gum stuff going on in the rear of my teeth - ironic, really, since I have so much puffy, extra gum up front from irritation from the rubber bands and being a mouth breather (though, much less of a mouth breather since surgery!). You'd think my body could just... well... even it out, right?

My jaw is pretty sore, and I'll end up taking a painkiller for it so I can sleep tonight - the pain is by far the worst when I'm sleeping anyway, and the few nights after my root canal I was waking up every half hour or hour. I'm calling my surgeon tomorrow to see if they're in the office and I can drop off the insurance payment and talk about that pesky right jaw joint.

Let me tell you, I can't stop running my tongue over my teeth now! They feel so wonderful and smooth :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

good news

I have so much good news!
  • My insurance company is finally paying up! Swedish hospital credited my account all of the money I've had to pay (phew!)
  • My root canal was a piece of cake today, tooth wise. Jaw wise it's a bit of another story, but it was SO much easier than last time thanks to the valium and pain killers BEFORE the work started.
  • Dr. West (the endodontist) said my mouth opening was considerably larger this time!

I get a cleaning next Monday, the first one in over a year. I didn't go before jaw surgery because of the massive migraines (any dental work or orthodontist work put me into the ER, if you don't remember)... and then I've had such a limited range of motion I haven't gone in. I know they won't be able to get everything - I've got ten pounds of extra tin and rubber in there not including my braces AND my my range of motion is still pretty awful- but at least it'll be a start and I can go back again in a few months once my ROM gets better. I'll let you guys know how it goes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It was a fun weekend of visiting good friends from college - ones I haven't seen since surgery, which always makes me a tad nervous. In regards to my face, I think my friend Chels said it best - she said that I look "really different, but then I smile and laugh and then I look the same."

I realized, my pictures aren't really my real smile - my real smile is BIG and shows lots of teeth and metal and my face crinkles up, and my laugh makes the huge smile even BIGGER. I love to smile and laugh, and love that now I'm not really self-conscious about it - I mean, no more centimeter of gum showing! Here are the best pictures that I can find of my real smile (two before braces - then with braces before surgery - then after surgery) which can't be replicated well in one of my "look at my progress" pictures.
(I hope no one IN these pictures minds me posting them on the internet. If you do, let me know and I'll photoshop you out!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

why I teach middle school

I LOVE middle schoolers. They say the funniest things.

This girl in one of my last classes at the end of a very long day says to me "So... Mrs. Sheppard" in a very serious voice.


"Do you like Twilight?"

... pause... "Well, yes, I enjoyed the books. I read them. I didn't enjoy the first movie as much. Wait, why?"

"'Cause those things in your mouth make you look like a vampire."

(Cracking up inside) "Oh yeah, that's why I wear them."

Girl tilts head "REALLY!?!"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I just reached 21 popsicle sticks! I have officially tripled my opening from the first physical therapy day in early August. I'm sitting here the dreaded squash ball in my mouth, drooling all over as I type this... but I was so excited I didn't want to wait to tell everyone. 21! 21! 21!

Life is good. At the very least, life could be much worse.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Lots of dental/mouth appointments during winter break this year - on the first Monday of break I'm sneaking in for a cleaning - I have so much metal/ rubber on my teeth I'm not sure what they'll be able to accomplish, but at least they can start chipping away some of the grime (ew!). I hate the feeling of my teeth ever since surgery - I just can't get them clean! And I know they were concerned about buildup especially in the rear of my mouth where I still struggle to clean - I floss, but I'm not sure I'm getting everything because I can't open my mouth wide enough to see inside of there, and I also don't have much feeling back there yet. I'm a bit worried about having my mouth open - but it seems it's not getting any better any time soon, so I might as well quit waiting and getting cavities :)

Also, later into break I've got the rest of my root canal appointment, which ought to be a real fantastic time - at least with that appointment comes valium and percocet (don't worry, my husband is driving me!). PLUS I'm calling my surgeon tomorrow to 1) figure out this insurance crap and 2) make an appointment to get my joint looked at again.

So... insurance stuff. I had to make a 1,000 dollar payment last week because my account was going into default. Can I just say that I have NO IDEA why they're still billing ME?! Shouldn't it all go to my district - the district that agreed to pay for my surgery? And they're being REALLY SLOW with the purse strings apparently, so I've got to make payments until then. And, well, we don't exactly have thousands of dollars laying around. Augh, to say the least.

I have a good feeling about physical therapy this week - I feel like I might get to 21 popsicle sticks! The last two nights 20 hasn't been excruciating. I think that doing the exercises 3 times a day instead of 2 times is improving things, too - it seems like the therapy exercises aren't such a 'shock' to my jaw when I do them more often (my sessions in the morning and afternoon are shorter than my evening session). And the heat, again, REALLY helps. I ice only after my evening marathon session. I didn't do as much as I should have over the weekend (I'm stressed to the max and didn't even think about it - I even forgot to brush my teeth one night, I fell asleep in my chair with my laptop on my lap!) and my jaw was hurting pretty badly by yesterday - but with three sessions of therapy we're back!

Since I'm in blogging mode - let's do a full update. Since the new rubberbands up front my teeth are meeting almost perfectly - I ate salad tonight without too much trouble! Sometimes my teeth on the right side hit before the left, but I'm sure that will work itself out.

Numbness - Like I mentioned before, many of my teeth/ upper gums are pretty numb still. I have feeling, it's just slow. My chin is coming back like crazy this month - it itches for no reason, tickles, when I brush my fingers over the skin it tingles - whoo hoo! My lips are almost back completely. (bummer, as a clarinet player). I guess my cheeks still have some numb spots. The weird thing is, is I don't even notice the numbness anymore unless I test for it. It used to bother me - kind of felt like wax was dried on my skin all the time. But now I don't really notice it.

I think that's it! Minus the ROM and possibly displaced disk on the right side, things are good. And I have faith that things will get better after a long talk with Dr. Lee. Goodnight, everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

thank you, fish sticks

Since surgery, there are a lot of foods I just can't quite stand any longer. Ensure, Muscle Milk, and Slim Fast all make me gag even thinking about drinking them. I'm not in the mood for any kind of tomato soup, smoothies, even ice cream and frozen yougurt isn't all that appealing any more. I don't enjoy Gatorade as much, either.

In the weeks following surgery once I was cleared for soft foods (if you remember) I "ate" a lot of fish sticks and potato wedges (er, mashed them up with a lot of tarter sauce and swallowed them whole). It was one of my favorite meals for probably a month. Well, like everything else, I became tired of fish sticks.

Tonight I was in the Metropolitan Market where they sell my tasty fish sticks (not the cheap, nasty ones - they're actually real fish!)... and lo and behold, I kind of felt like eating them!

And you know what? I can eat them now! We're talking, pick up the fish stick in the hand, dip it in the sauce, and take a big bite - and then CHEW them! It was pure heaven. The entire time I was thinking about those first few weeks of eating solid food and how terrible everything was.

Despite all of my continued painful and long healing process, I really have come a long way. What a nice reminder. Thank you, fish sticks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


For all you Americans out there, Happy Thanksgiving! It's funny, this year I am thankful for an odd thing.

I haven't said anything on here, but I've been a little discouraged again about the face. I'm still not quite used to it, and it's been pretty swollen between the root canal and new rubber bands and a minor sinus infection - which I'm sure hasn't helped the matter. However, today after running I decided to take the extra 15 minutes and blowdry my hair - after it was done, I realized that I really like my new face today. The new haircut accentuates my new jawline and new chin and it really is flattering. Maybe I should dry my hair more often :) So, I'm thankful for becoming used to my face.

I haven't posted a picture for a while, and I'm not sure it's even really changing much anymore, but here you go - along with pictures of the new rubberband configuration at my orthodontist appointment this past Tuesday. He told me that the reason for my root canal was a cavity that had become irritated, and there was really no way for it to become painful due to the shortening of the roots (phew!). They changed both of my wires out, gave me lots of new hooks again, added the metal lacing between the front brackets on top and bottom again, added some rubber tie-backs from my incisors to the back teeth to close those gaps again, kept me in my old rubber band configuration and added new crazy ones up front. I'm allowed to take them out while I'm teaching now to help aid with my jaw pain in the right joint, but he wants me to try to hit 18 hours a day, and then 24 (minus eating and brushing) on weekends and any breaks. Luckily, my next appointment is a month earlier than it normally would be - in mid January. Hurray!

Also, with the jaw pain/ lack of range of motion, the heated rice sock has continued to decrease my jaw pain. For the first time since surgery (edging on 5 months now) I can yawn without severe pain. Whenever I'd accidently yawn fully my right joint would SCREAM. Now, no pain! I'm not sure if it's the rice that has done it or if it's because my ROM has increased (still at 20 sticks) and now yawning doesn't strain the joint, but I'll take it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

new love

I officially have a new love in my life - the rice sock I made to assist me in my physical therapy exercises. It's just a bunch of jasmine rice stuffed and tied into one of my husband's mammoth socks and microwaved until the point of explosion (okay, slight exaggeration). When placed next to my sensitive and painful right jaw joint prior to and during physical therapy exercises, they don't seem so terrible. In fact, I got up to 20 tongue depressors! Now, to ice the rest of the pain away. I also pre-medicated with ibuprofen a half hour before the exercises.

I'm going to try to focus on the positive once again. Tuesday I see my orthodontist and I'll have a long conversation with Dr. Molen about this stuff to see what he thinks.

I won't break, I'm just stressed. I guess I shouldn't be comparing myself and my jaw and my healing to everyone else. It doesn't help anything. I WILL try acupuncture (don't know why I didn't think of it myself... thanks, Kate) and I'll keep this heating and icing and medicating bit going and, well, it'll all work out in the end.

I'm still glad I had this surgery - despite the pain in my jaw that lasts and lasts, it is still better than daily migraines. I have a beautiful occlusion - my lower teeth sit right behind my upper teeth! I'm struggling with this slow healing process (unable to chew many foods still, no jaw movement side-to-side or front-to-back, limited range of motion, and pain in my left TMJ), but I think I should just relax...

monthly panic attack, check

It seems it's time for the monthly "this-is-totally-never-going-to-heal-I'll-be-a-freak-my-entire-life" freak out. Please, fellow post-jaw surgery friends, answer me one or more of the following:

1) How long after surgery did you have to do physical therapy - and what was that physical therapy? I'm doing the stupid tongue depressor stack-of-hell, the awful squash ball between the back teeth, and the push the lower jaw to one side or the other and hold.
2) How is your range of motion now, and what was it like 4.5-ish months post op?
3) Can you move your lower jaw side to side? What about forward and backwards? When were you able to start doing this?

It feels like I'm going nowhere with this physical therapy, and it's beginning to wear on me. It feels like I'm doing it all for nothing, as nothing is improving except for maybe my tolerance for pain. I'm back to icing again, perhaps will try heating before the therapy stuff.

What are my other options? I've called my surgeon. She says to do the exercises more, but I'm doing them all I can.

At a bit of a breaking point here...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

emergency dentist appointment

I would love for all of this drama with my mouth to be over.

As my teeth and gums are beginning to have feeling again, I noticed my back tooth on my upper left side has been especially sensitive. I've been ignoring it, as I figured it was all in the course of getting feeling back (just like my chin used to burn and have those weird shooting pains). Well... two weeks or so later, it's just getting worse and worse to the point of being unable to chew on that side so I called my dentist yesterday. They had me come in today (which worked out well because I was dropping the husband off at the airport for another round of military training)...

Two hours, four x-rays, 3 dentists opinions, and a lot of testing later they decided I needed to see an endodontist (which I had never even heard of) TODAY for my rear-most teeth on the top left. I drove straight to the endodontic office where they decided they were doing an emergency root canal - or, really, half of one. They cut open the tooth and pulled out all of the insides and stuck a cap over the top. They'll finish the root canal on December 28th.

It turns out that my roots are so shortened on those upper two teeth that it may have caused all of the sensitivity and pain. Since I can't feel the tooth in front of it, they think I might have to get another root canal on that tooth - since it's in the same boat. It sounded like I could have lost the tooth the roots were so short, and they're not even sure the tooth is completely viable.

Since I have such a limited opening, that was a terribly painful set of appointments. The endodontist prescribed me valium and percocet for the next appointment - I'm supposed to take one valium an hour before the appointment, and then another one a half hour before the appointment. I can also take a percocet. My jaw on the right side is now popping in a new way - almost like bone or cartliage rubbing against bone or cartliage, and it is INTENSE.

The GOOD thing about the appointment, though, was the numbing shots didn't hurt at ALL because I still have limited feeling in my gums/ upper palate. Whoo hoo!

I know this shouldn't upset me so much, but I spent the entire 35 minute drive from my dentist to my endodontist sobbing. Granted, part of that was the lack of sleep last night (helping Nick pack) and then my husband leaving for over a month during the holidays... but I'm pretty down about all of this. I am SO done with everything to do with my mouth.

Monday, November 9, 2009

funny stuff

Part 1: You guys will like this story. I was checking out in Target tonight and I got the funniest cashier EVER. He rings up my purchases, asks me how I'm doing (the normal) I smiled at him and said "Oh, doing fine." He LIGHTS UP when he sees my braces and says "Whoa! Braces! How long do you have to wear those things?!" I'm a little bit thrown off now, and respond with "Oh, about 6 more months or so." "Whoa! Like, were your teeth like THIS?!?" And he literally puts his hands in an L shape - like my upper teeth were so crooked they were parallel with the floor (yes, floor). I said "Ummm, no, not quite that bad. But pretty crooked." He then goes on to tell me ALL ABOUT his wisdom teeth and how he wants braces... Seriously? Odd.

Part 2: I get hit on a LOT more now that I have a chin.

That's all.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

everything's fine, of course

Except my range of motion... I'm only at 29mm and they want me at 48. That's practically half of what I need to be. Ouch...

The pain in my right jaw joint? She thinks it's inflammation from the tight rubber bands and struggling against them to talk all day (teacher!). The pain/weird clicky feelings behind my front teeth? My bones growing and I'm able to feel the plate now.

If it all continues? I can get a shot of steriods in my jaw for the pain, and if the plate is still really bothering me I can get it removed a year after surgery.

Blah. I figured it was normal, but it was good to hear.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

back to the surgeon...

I'm heading in for an emergency appointment with my surgeon tomorrow. The nagging, sharp, and almost constant pain the right jaw joint combined with the weird random swelling combined with the weird painful click-y feeling behind my front teeth/nose meant missing a day of work to drive back to Seattle. Poor band/orchestra students. Yet again, I'm missing too much school!

Now, I don't want to complain too much - but I had no idea I'd be 4 months out and still dealing with all of this. I'm still doing physical therapy - up to 19 sticks now. It's still yucky and painful. I still have problem with many foods - no steak yet, no salad yet (I can't chew it well enough and swallowing lettuce whole is unpleasant, to say the least), nothing crunchy, I have to be careful with breads, nothing chewy... Am still unable to bite into things 'cause the jaw doesn't open wide enough...

The numbness is still around but I truthfully barely notice it anymore. I have SOME feeling everywhere, some places are just a little more tingly or slow to respond than others.

I don't know anyone else with this problem, but I think the weirdest thing for me has been playing instruments again. With a correct occlusion I'm a much better flute and trumpet player, but my low brass and clarinet (boo) skills have gone out the WINDOW! With low brass I'm double buzzing all over the place and can't keep a pitch center... with the clarinet I sound terrible and leak air like a sieve. I can't figure out a good angle, and everything is different. Yuckity yuckity yuck.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

this will seem funny later, I'm sure

I got my yearly benefits open enrollment package last week at school. My school district is changing to the state union benefits! The benefits I had when my braces journey first started in my first school district, the amazing benefits that would have paid for my surgery no questions asked.

Just a year too late. Argh. Instead, I have a 51,000 dollar bill still attached to my name.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Not a lot to say, but I realized I hadn't posted this picture here on my blog! It's one of the best photos of me EVER. It's hilarious. This is my first time biting into a sandwich/hamburger! If you look closely, I've pretty much sat on it to flatten it out and I've taken out most of the toppings... but I did it! I bit into a burger. Ah, the taste of success.

Friday, October 16, 2009

oh yeah, insurance stuff

I'm once again in the middle of insurance chaos. I had to make a "small" payment (luckily I have extra money in my health FSA account) so I wouldn't be charged late fees or go into default, etc. I'm faxing in my pre-approval letter and all of the documentation on the case, my hearing, etc.

We'll see what happens! (I knew it was all too good to be true!)

Thursday, October 15, 2009


My jaw hurts. A lot. I'm back on ibuprofen. And tylenol. I've backed off the jaw exercises (ooh, up to 16 sticks now). I've backed off playing my clarinet and all other instruments. I'm wearing my rubber bands as much as physically possible. I'm not overdoing it chewing - I'm still taking it pretty easy. I'm getting headaches again, too - not migraines, but headaches nonetheless.

Ouch. When is it time to call my surgeon?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

you'd think....

.... after all of this braces/dental/surgery MESS I'd be less afraid of the dentist and less disgusted by teeth.

But nope. Yuck.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

part II... don't freak out [yet]

I got this in the mail on Friday. Yeah, it's a bill.

Back to my benefits coordinator on Monday!

part I... old photos

I'll do a better comparison once our old computer is up and running again (hopefully this month, but God only knows).

Here's the latest photo. Overall, I think this is my new face.

Here are some old photos I've copied off of facebook and the internet that I think emphasize my formerly long and narrow face, overbite, tall gummy smile, or lack of chin.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

first real adjustment [day 92]

Yesterday's orthodontist appointment was... eventful. Which I am grateful for, because maybe this means I'll have less time in braces, but it meant taking another sick day today to sleep off the pain - it's really, really difficult to talk and eat. But like I said, no pain, no gain!

The downer? 8-9 months in braces left. It's quite odd, as I distinctly remember him giving me 2 and a half years in braces including surgery - but somewhere along the line I got in my head I would be in braces 6 months after surgery. Silly Stephanie, you've got a long time yet. On one hand, of course I'm disappointed. But on the other hand? I'd much rather them stay on longer and have better results than take them off too soon.

The work? Get this. I went in for a simple wire change - one of those 10 minute appointments where it takes longer for the tech to get the doctor over than for anything actually happening. He started poking around my mouth and calling out numbers to the tech, saying they had "changed their mind" and "oh, did I have time?" Of COURSE I have time! :) They removed and re-positioned 10-ish brackets, put bite turbos on the rear front two teeth, took off all that extra metal and extra hooks (YAHOO!!), took a set of x-rays, gave me new wires, and a new rubberband configuration.

Progress pictures are just the front of my teeth today as I can't open enough to get arch pictures. But most of the metal is off - wahoo! Other pictures? The picture of the day [day 92ish] of my face smiling, and then one not smiling - some of you commented that you couldn't see anything 'wrong' with my upper lip and nose, and I think it's much more visible when I'm not smiling. My lips don't touch, and my upper jaw/ upper lip sticks out weirdly.

And finally... my orthodontist took a front x-ray and it's pretty cool. I haven't had much luck wth getting these to post in the past, but here it is!

Monday, September 28, 2009

bummed [day 90]

I'm not sure what's gotten into me lately, but I've had a big case of the blues for the past 3 or 4 days. Everything is frustrating and I'm just not feeling well. When I went into surgery three months ago, I had no idea all of this would be lasting so long. What's wrong with me? Why am I healing so slowly?

I still have my sinus infection. I was off antibiotics for 2 days and it was back in full force. Dr. Lee says if it continues to see my primary care doctor and to have the doctor page her personally (I now have her office, cell phone, and pager numbers... what a cool surgeon).

I'm still frustrated with my looks. I don't like my upper lip and I really don't like what my nose looks like. I thought it would go down, but it's still upwards - now I can see into my nose in most pictures.

I'm getting lots of pain and popping and clicking in my jaw, and my jaw exercises are not doing anything anymore. I know I'm not quite doing them as much as I'm supposed to be (I should be doing 4 times a day, I do 2)... But they give me really bad headaches and I hate going to school with headaches. I do them when I get home from work and before bed.

I still feel like I don't have as much energy as I did pre-op. I went to an amazing indoor water park on Friday night and after a few hours of climbing up the stairs for the water slides my hip gave up on me... No more slides for Stephanie! And then at the fair the next day I was tired after just a few hours (I usually spend a whole day there), and then barely made it through the Oktoberfest party I went to that night - ended up stealing a chair from someone and just sitting for most of the night (looking at people's backs, as everyone was standing and facing away from me). After that weekend 'o' fun I could barely keep my eyes open during my planning period today.

I have an orthodontist appointment tomorrow. After my emergency appointment a few weeks back they stuck me in a new rubberband configuration to stop the over-correcting of my bite, but now the overbite is re-showing and my teeth barely hit my bumpers anymore. My back teeth don't even come close to touching.

Will these braces ever come off? :( Sorry to be such a downer, but MAN I've been taking this really rough lately. I just want to be back to normal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

questions [day 85]

Okay, fellow bloggers. I'm wondering if a few things are normal. Help me out.
  1. Sensitivity to spices (especially cayenne), mint, and cinnamon. I can't even use listerene anymore because it causes the roof of my mouth to burn so badly!
  2. Continued fairly major swelling - especially in my upper lip. I'm noticing that my upper lip seems so much smaller now since surgery - and it comes and goes, but today it's really gone.
  3. Gum and teeth sensitivity in general - where I'm numb it doesn't bother me [of course] but pretty much everywhere in my mouth that's awake is pissed off. My gums ache after flossing, my teeth ache where the rubber bands are, my tongue burns, and my teeth are sensitive to hot and cold and sweet where they never have been before.
  4. Molars not meeting. They're better on one side than the other, but in general my front teeth touch but my back ones don't.

I have really grubby teeth. I want to get my teeth cleaned REALLY terribly - what do you guys think? I'm still sitting at 15 popsicle sticks, so I can't get open very much. But I'd been almost a year without a cleaning prior to surgery because the dentist caused my migraines to go through the roof, and then the whole banded shut thing and, well, you know. I have fuzz. I brush 3 times a day but it comes back so quickly... It's gross.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

bit of a scare... [day 78]

This post is dis-jointed and rambling. However, in my defense I'm still sick and exhausted from school starting. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Yesterday I had a bit of a scare, to put it lightly. The night before last I realized my upper and lower teeth in front were directly hitting - not hitting the pads or the brackets, but coming down right on top of each other. Since I'm not wearing my bands at night, I wondered if that could be contributing to my bad bite (and a side note before y'all get preachy on me: I called my orthodontist. Since my mouth is banded shut at night and my nose is completely clogged, I was suffocating - it felt like the week following surgery and it was terrible... so I called my orthodontist and they said to leave them off until I can breathe again). Anyway, instead of telling me it was okay or whatever they wanted me to come in to an emergency appointment to check it out. AHHH!!! I drove straight from work to my orthodontist office, about a 45 minute drive.

The bite is hopefully being corrected from the technical underbite (hah!) with some intense rubber bands in box configurations on both sides. My teeth, jaw, and head ACHE from them - for the first time in weeks I'm back on a regular regimen of tylenol AND ibuprofen, and I ended up just leaving them off for the hour after lunch so I could teach with a clear head. They are intense. Hopefully they'll work - I am dying to get rid of rubber bands in general. My teeth are really sore wherever the band connect to - in fact, in my newly-waking up left side on top I feel like I have a cavity. I think it's just intense pain from the rubber bands and the 'new' sensations up there.

Other things of note:

ROM: My opening hasn't improved any... still at 15 sticks. I'm pretty frustrated because now my rubber bands are even tighter, and it feels like progress is going slower. Argh.

Numbness: my chin is really coming back - still patches of numbness but those are tingling now. Upper gums still completely numb. Roof of the mouth tickles constantly, and I can feel it when things burn it now (yay?). Lower lip still a bit dull but I can feel all of it. Top lip and cheeks are completely back. It's been really fantastic. Minus my top gums, I wouldn't be too upset if NOTHING improved from here on out - and I know it will. I'm in good shape.

Swelling: While the sinus infection is getting better, my face is still swollen. Really swollen. It is worse in the early mornings and in the evenings. I have good days and bad days, and the good days are GOOD. I'm starting to like my face finally.

Pain: I don't have much pain anymore. Prior to the latest rubber band change and sinus infection, I can't remember the last time I took something. Amazing - as I could go through bottles and bottles of ibuprofen and tylenol prior to surgery.

Migraines: STILL NONE! Wahoo!! Life is so good. Kate, you asked a few posts ago if I was waiting in anticipation or feeling liberated? I feel so free and wonderful! For the first month or two I was just waiting - every morning I would wake up with the mandatory "okay, how bad is it today?" thoughts, and every morning I was headache free... Everything feels easier and happier and lighter and brighter... I can't even describe how amazing this change has been.

Clicking: I don't know if this is normal, but my jaw clicks. A lot. It clicked before surgery, but nothing like this. I'm hoping it will improve as my ROM improves.

Speech: I haven't really talked about this much lately, but my speech is still muddled, especially when I've talked a lot. If you listen closely I lisp on every 's' sound, and I struggle with 't' sounds and 'th' sounds. They come out slurred. 'F' sounds come out funny, but I think that's still my rubber bands. My 'r' sounds come out as 'w' when I'm tired. This is really frustrating to me, but hopefully it will improve. Guess it's time to pull out the tongue twisters?

Energy: Getting better all the time, but I'm not back to pre-surgery levels yet. I need much more sleep at night, and wear out easier during the day.

Hip: I almost don't notice my hip anymore. It still stretches when walking downhill which is uncomfortable, and I don't like to sleep on it. I hip-bumped my car door shut the other day and almost collapsed in surprise/pain, though, so it's still not completely healed. It's a wickedly cool scar.

I think that's it. I warned you guys it was a long post... :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sinus infection 1, day 72

I'm neck deep in my first sinus infection post surgery... my surgeon warned me they would probably be reoccuring this winter because of the movement of my upper jaw up into my sinus cavity or whatever... Ouch! It's still not very comfortable to sneeze or blow my nose (the pressure is freaky and I can feel the pressure expand in the front bones of my upper jaw behind my front teeth) and it's yucky. It's a really nasty one, too - I called my surgeon today but didn't get ahold of the office in time to get the prescription today. Hopefully tomorrow. I have no voice at all (great for being a teacher).

I don't know if I mentioned this, but it's weird - I have a "warning" button inside my body. For some reason, when I begin to overdo it, the bones behind my front teeth in my upper jaw start to throb. Once the throbbing starts, I have maybe a half hour to stop doing whatever I'm doing before the exhaustion becomes unbearable - however, this throbbing often starts during 5th period when I've got planning and time to breathe (and still have another period left, plus after school work). This week I ended up taking a nap at school because I was too tired to drive home. Whoa.

I'm freakishly puffy from the infection, exhausted beyond belief from school starting, and had my hair up in clips during school today so it looks funny now... but new pictures 'cause it's been a while. Freakisly puffy again, though. ARGH. And things were getting so cute. I look like a puffer fish.

Oh yeah!! 15 popsicle sticks now. Working on it, working on it, working on it, working on it. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

oh. good. LORD (day 65)

Okay, thought I might be ready for teaching. Thought wrong. It's weird - when I get overtired my upper jaw from my sinuses into my teeth starts to ACHE. Unfortunately it starts to ache sometime in 4th period and I still have 2 classes to teach and my planning to get through.

Good grief, this is rough. Why is it taking me so long to freaking heal? Shouldn't this be stinking over by now?!? I'm frustrated, if you didn't get that.

And I'm over the attention, now. I'm over the comments and the discussions about my face. I know people mean well but most people don't know what to say so they say something half-awkward and half-insulting and I never know how to respond. Argh. And poor middle-schoolers have no tact. I sure love them, though. My kids are awesome.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 61

I got 13 popsicle sticks today! It's my new record - and once I get one more, I'll officially have doubled my ROM from the first day of physical therapy. However, I have a wretched headache today that just won't go away. With the years of taking ibuprofen and sodium naproxen and tylenol and muscle relaxants and other random painkillers for my jaw/headaches, I am really trying to detox and not take anything. I'll take something if it gets too bad (it's not a migraine), but I'd really rather not. These funny pictures are my physical therapy exercises - I look so funny :)

That's about it - I am less swollen today, so below are current pictures. Now that I'm getting more feeling/ control over my lips, here's a picture of my occlusion - beautiful, eh? You can also see the little 'bite pillows' on my lower front two teeth. These have really improved my quality of life. My teeth still haven't recovered from that damned mouthwash right after surgery - but they are slowly getting less brown. Once these braces are off my teeth I'm going straight to the dentist to get them bleached :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

back to the real world [day 60]

Life is slowly becoming normal around here. I still have a very narrow opening - I can stretch it up to 12 popsicle sticks now, but it hurts. A lot. I don't like it. My goal is to hit 13 tomorrow, as I've been able to get 12 in last night and today. I dread the popsicle sticks. DREAD. My jaw hurts all the time again now, and I get headaches - NOT migraines, just headaches - after I do my physical therapy stuff. Still no migraines.

I can chew soft things now, and am starting to chew things like bread - chewing is complicated by the lack of height in my bite right now - it's hard to maneuver food in there. Things are going slow and frustrating - I keep overdoing it with the hip without thinking about it - went clamming last weekend and the long walks on the beach REALLY strained it, and then I went to a swing dance last week and danced just a few songs. The swing dance wasn't fun at ALL - too many elbows and swinging arms. I kept picturing one flying into my face (and it's happened before!).

It was a really weird week, as I went back to school for staff days. With the drastic changes in my hair and losing the glasses AND the face, most people said they didn't recognize me at first and had to do a double take. One teacher I walked in with (talking to the whole way) didn't have a CLUE who I was until I took off my sunglasses in the building. It's really awkward, as after I tell them I had jaw surgery they don't really know what to say - I mean, I don't exactly know what I'D say in that position. I don't like the attention, though.

Feeling is coming back slowly but surely all over. Except for the point of my chin, I have no areas with COMPLETE numbness anymore. The newest weird thing is when I drink cold liquids I don't get the cold sensation on the inside of my lower lip, instead I feel it on the outside all down my chin - so I think I'm dripping down my face. I can't feel if food is stuck on my chin at all except in small places, which gets pretty embarrassing around people I'm not close with - I become paranoid with the napkins.

My swelling continues to hang around, and I don't feel like taking a picture today (I feel really swollen). Maybe if tomorrow's a better day I'll post one for you guys.

I know I'm in this for the long haul now and changes will be slow coming, but I'm starting to feel quite discouraged with progress lately. It's so annoying not to be able to open my mouth. It's annoying to not feel my face. It's annoying to have my jaw hurt. My speech is still a little unclear - and I start teaching on Wednesday of this week. Speaking for short bits in front of my staff this week was SO terrible - I feel like the louder I speak, the more slurred it becomes. And I've got big classes. I called the disability office (HAH!) in my school district and am working on getting some sort of wireless microphone system for the first few months, but they never sent me the paperwork - I'm calling again Monday morning because I'm really concerned.

I think I may have worked my last shift at Starbucks today, also - I am taking the first three weeks off of school already to prepare and heal and get some more energy back, but I need to come back that 4th week otherwise I'm separated from the company. And even though my energy levels are getting better and better still - I'm not even CLOSE to having EXTRA energy, and working Starbucks and teaching at the same time last year wore me out anyway. I love Starbucks, and it breaks my heart that I might have to leave. I know I can always come back, but I'll really miss my store family and I'm sad to miss the holiday season - it's by far my favorite during the year.

Whew, that was a long one. I'll see about posting more pictures soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Week 7 [okay, day 50]

I'm a day late, but it's been a big week for me. I finally did get the haircut and the contacts. I had a fantastic orthodonitst appointment today. I've been knitting up a storm and ignoring the fact that school starts in just two weeks from today. AND, I got a new car today!! (Well, not new - used. An '03 Kia Rio!)

My jaw hurts a lot now from those damned physical therapy exercises - I didn't even do them yesterday because it was bugging me so much. My jaw is also back to clicking and popping, which is a bummer - but still no migraines!! My physical therapy exercises right now are just putting my hands between my upper and lower jaw and forcing my jaw to open wider than it wants to - and hold it for 60 seconds at a time. Then I put pressure on my lower jaw and push it to the right (hold for 60 seconds, switch sides). I measure the progress in popsicle sticks, since a ruler isn't so accurate when done by myself. I range from 7-8 every morning to 10 at night now. I never keep the progress I make during the day, which is really frustrating! (The worst part? Once I can open my mouth wide enough I'm supposed to squish a squash/paddleball in half, stuff it between my teeth, and then release it to stretch the jaw out. OMG!!!)

My teeth still look awesome - so says the orthodontist. They are really pleased with my progress - I get shown off a lot whenever I go in. Today they didn't recognize me at first with the new hair and new face. They are allowing me to leave off the front rubber bands during the day - but I still have to wear the side ones at all times except for when eating. I get a new wire next time - and it's about time! I have annoying gaps forming in between my rear molars - which are really hard to get food out of because my mouth only opens 14mm!! OH! And you know how my teeth are hitting my brackets? It's apparently normal, but not as hard as I'm hitting them. So I have funny little cushions on my bottom brackets now until they can reposition them and put some "bite turbos" on (whatever they are) at my next appointment - Sept. 29th.

I'm chewing a bit. Not a lot. It feels WEIRD, and I don't like it.

I think that's it for week 7 - pictures!! (A disclaimer - I had just ridden in my Miata for the last time, with the top down, right before the day 50 pics... so my cute hair doesn't look so cute). Hah.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

ouch! [day 46]

My bite is shifting like crazy. I'm telling myself not to panic. I noticed it a few days ago - maybe Thursday after my surgeon appointment. I noticed that I was REALLY biting down on my bottom braces with my front teeth and that my back teeth were open again - like they were a few weeks ago prior to getting the side rubber bands. It's just getting worse and worse.

It hurts quite a bit now. I'll call my orthodontist on Monday morning to get an appointment, but the feeling is coming into my upper teeth as well as my lower teeth now, so it's hardcore uncomfortable at all times, and hurts when my jaw goes to rest now.

Jaw exercises are going well, despite being terribly painful. I could only fit 7 huge popsicle sticks in my mouth on Thursday, and I'm already easily up to 10 as of tonight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

well, poop [day 44]

Today's appointment sucked a bit.

I don't get to take my front bands off - the orthodontist now controls rubber bands, and I don't see him until the 19th. I don't get to play any instrument (wind OR high string) for a MINIMUM of 6 more weeks. I don't get to chew. I got WICKEDLY PAINFUL physical therapy exercises. I'm apparently behind in the healing process - my opening is only 14mm (compared to 48/50mm pre-surgery). I don't have even enough of an opening to actually start said wickedly painful physical therapy exercises - I just have to stretch my jaw out for an hour a day. AN HOUR.

I mean, it was good to hear everything else is going well. I'm still swollen [it's not just me being crazy]. If I get a sinus infection I'm supposed to call her right away for antibiotics, apprently upper jaw surgery patients are pretty high-risk for infection for the year post surgery.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Energy! [Day 43]

I don't know what it was today, but I had a little ENERGY! Hurray! I woke up at a semi-decent hour (okay, 9:30am) for my eye exam, then took myself out to breakfast, went knitting for a few hours and finished my first hat, grocery shopped, got an oil change, and worked on cleaning my living room! Now it's 8pm and I'm not a big lump of Stephanie on the chair. I actually came home after knitting because I usually need rest time before doing evening errands or chores - but I didn't need it!


My mom and I were talking today about how obsessive I've become. Usually I don't have much of a one-track mind - I'm pretty scatterbrained. But lately, my thoughts revolve around one of a few things: FOOD, my FACE, and my CHAIR (being tired and waiting to go home to sit in it/ sleep in it). Mostly food.

The things I miss most:
- Straws (still pulling on the stitches - but the stitches are almost gone!)
- Bread / Crackers (oh my GOSH)
- Licking my lips
- Eating at will (not worrying about taking off bands, brushing, rinsing, etc)
- Chewing (of course)
- The letter "F" (not easy to say with these stupid bands)

Things I love:
- Greek yogurt and honey
- Fish and Chips

That's about it :) Great day today, finally! Tomorrow is the 6 week checkup with my surgeon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

6 weeks [day 42]

Nothing much is changing - and that includes the face overall and my energy levels. I could still sleep the day away if that were possible - luckily I've got Starbucks to go to and various errands to do with school getting ready to start in 3 weeks. I still spend a lot of time in my chair, knitting the day away and watching Greys Antomy or my random netflix movies. What's bugging me most about the face these days is the darned chubby cheeks! I've lost almost 20 pounds, but my face looks chubbier than ever. Also, the funny CHEESE!! smile is pretty annoying. Or funny, depending on how you look at it.

I have an appointment with my surgeon on Thursday, where she'll give me physical therapy-type exercises. I'm DYING (okay, slight exaggeration) for these front bands to be taken off - for freedom! When they're on I'm pretty much banded shut, just a bit more flexibility. It's a real pain to talk.

Pictures (no real change). I also put in a picture of that crazy clump of stitches that was underneath my nose/ upper lip - everything feels much better now that they're gone!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

day to day [day 39]

Today I'm having a better face day. I'm not sure why exactly it changes, but does day to day. Swelling goes up and down, my face breaks out and then gets better... Also, a big bunch of stitches fell out behind my upper lip underneath my nose - which were not only stiff and knotted and painful but also inhibited talking and smiling - and now my upper lip is flatter on my face. Dr. Lee mentioned using a special stitch on my upper lip to prevent it from shortening.

Other than my flippant self-image, the only thing I'm really struggling with now days is energy. I have figured out how to eat most of the foods I want to (I have conqured ground buffalo and gravy, turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes, a cinnabon cinnamon roll, a hamburger, big potato wedges, fish and chips among other things). It takes me upwards of 45 minutes to eat anything non-liquid, but it's totally worth it.

But the energy thing? I've worked two shifts at Starbucks and both have wiped me completly. I spent the last two days in my chair sleeping for most of the day. My kitchen was piled high with dishes and fruit flies and I didn't have the energy to do anything about it - luckily my mommy came over today and helped me clean it. The rest of the apartment is a mess as well, but at least it isn't rotting. I was hoping to go to a party of music teachers tonight but cleaning the kitchen has put me back into my chair. This is beyond frustrating, because just 6 weeks ago I was running 3-4 days a week and working out almost daily and teaching full time and playing gigs and working at Starbucks part time... and suddenly I have a good 2-4 hours of working time during a day and the rest is for reading and knitting - anything as long as I'm sitting. Just sitting. It's impossible to get my sleep schedule on track for school when I still need naps during the day.

The upside of all of this no-energy-not-really-digging-the-new-face trouble? I still haven't had another migraine!! 6 weeks and only ONE migraine!! I'm estatic. Excited beyond words. :)

Much love to you all - thanks for the support. It means the world to me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

honesty time [day 36]

Okay, let's talk about my face. Today for some reason has been a freak-out day, and I'm not exactly sure why. I knew going into surgery that my face would change. I knew it would be shorter. I knew my chin would actually show.

But when I look in the mirror, I don't think I like what I see. When I look in the mirror all I see are those huge cheeks that are a little swollen but not much anymore. All I see is my chin that sticks out so far I think I'm Sarah Palin's stunt double. I feel like the lower half of my face sticks out a mile in front of the upper half.

Okay, that's over. On the schedule for next week: Haircut/ highlight and a makeover somewhere, plus I'm determined to go to the eye doctor and get contacts again. I hate glasses, and have hated glasses since I was 7 and had to get them... I wore contacts from my freshman year of high school all the way through college, but then my eyes began to get irritated just after graduation, so I stopped wearing them and have never had the discipline to start again. Hopefully all of that will help me accept the new face.

Sorry to freak any future jaw-surgery guys out, but that's just where I am right now.

before/ after

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

5 weeks (Day 35)

Today was a busy day! I had an orthodontist appointment this morning - everything is still going fine, and I'm keeping my rubberband configuration the same (bummer... I keep hoping to get my front bands off because it'll make talking so much easier).

Quick ortho-geek question: when did you all go back for your first ortho adjustment? Dr. Lee (surgeon) said I'd be released back to Dr. Molen (orthodontist) after my appointment on the 13th with her (so the 19th with Molen)... but Dr. Molen wants to wait until my appointment at the end of September to make sure my "bones are all healed." I know I shouldn't be impatient, but I want these braces off NOW.

Also, today was my first day of work back at Starbucks... it was rough, I'm not going to lie. Luckily it was only four and a half hours. While I thought going back to the gym and getting out for walks would prepare me well, it didn't at all. By the end of the shift my hip was aching, my jaw was aching, I was almost falling asleep on my feet, and I was pretty dizzy. I didn't think about nutrition prior to work, so I ended up having half a packet of oatmeal (couldn't eat it fast enough before work) and then an egg salad sandwich, sans bread and lettuce on my break - which I also wasn't really able to finish. I have to remember the muscle milk on my next shift. Driving home was really tough, I had to take a small break about halfway through because I was worried about falling asleep at the wheel.

It was a bit awkward at work today - I had a bunch of people comment on the rubber bands, a set of regulars ask if I was new, and a lot of people looking at me funny like I look familiar. I know I look different, but I'm not really ready to face it. Every time I look in the mirror it shocks me a bit. I got home and collapsed in my chair for a 3 hour nap, and am already ready to fall back asleep as soon as possible. I tried to resist the nap, but it was impossible.

The good things about this week: I have slept through the night all week, I'm eating solid food for almost all my meals (you'd be surprised what you can swallow whole if cut into small enough pieces), it's getting easier to concentrate, and I'm getting used to talking with the bands. I catch myself breathing through my nose without thinking about it sometimes (prior to surgery I was a mouth breather 100% of the time).

The bad things: I think I've got a sinus infection coming on, and sneezing is quite painful. I am still having problems with muscle spasms in my jaw, which I'll talk to Dr. Lee about next week. My hip seems to have stalled out - it's not worse, but it doesn't seem like it's getting any better. My face is still swollen and doesn't seem to be going down at all anymore (or is it just my new face?). I am still hyper-emotional, it doesn't take much to set me crying. My face seems wooden and is barely expressive - my smile is so cheesy and stiff.

I'm getting a haircut next week. I'm not sure what to do - my face is such a different shape now that I don't know what looks good anymore.

Pictures today aren't as good as usual because Nick's off to training for 2 weeks and I'm by myself again.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 31

Since my workout went so well on Wednesday, I was excited to get back to the gym again yesterday and work a little harder... BIG mistake. I went for 45 minutes and kept the resistance the same, just went a little harder... I didn't really notice how dizzy and sick I was feeling until I got off the bike and almost fell over. I went back to the bike for a few minutes and pretended to read a magazine that was on the floor until I felt good enough to walk to my car, and then spent another 10 minutes in my car waiting until I felt well enough to drive home. Moral of the story: even if it feels good, don't push it. Yikes. I'm going back this evening, but will definitely pay more attention to my body and make sure I stay within my limits.

I keep forgetting to mention it, but I'm finally sleeping through the night regularly. It's been probably 5-6 nights in a row now - wahoo! A lot of this has to do with my lessened dependency on pain killers - I'm down to taking tylenol/ ibuprofen once or twice a day now, instead of every 4-6 hours.

I have much more energy during the days now, I can eat more, I'm in pain much less, and I can concentrate better. I'm still more scatterbrained than normal, but it's starting to come to an end. Thank goodness!

Also, I am so grateful that, as a teacher, I didn't have to rush back into the classroom just 3-4 weeks after surgery. While all of the things (more energy, less pain, more eating) are very true, it still takes me 45 minutes or more to get through a normal (read: non-liquid) meal. I still wear out easily. I can not talk for very long before my jaw starts to get tired and spasm like crazy. I think that in a month from now I'll be much healthier and ready to teach, but I sure wouldn't be right now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 29

I had my first workout at the gym today. I took it easy, not knowing what to expect but it went really well. I spent 35 minutes on the bike, pretty low resistance. My hip complained for the first 10 minutes or so and then behaved well until the last 5 minutes... I will go back tomorrow, depending on how it feels in the morning.

I am so grateful to be a month out of surgery today - a GIANT heat wave has hit Western Washington, and I can't imagine trying to recover in the oppressing heat - we're talking triple digits! Luckily, since I'm feeling SO much better I'm really enjoying our little tropical heat wave!

I'm still suffering from overdoing it yesterday, so I need to keep that in mind when I go back to Starbucks next week. I'm a talker - and this whole process has been quite frustrating not being able to talk or be understood well. As the swelling has gone down my speech has REALLY improved, but it's still muffled and slurred, especially when I'm tired or sore.

28 days / 1 month

It has been one month post surgery. Today I took a trip to Ellensburg (my old college town) to meet up with two college friends for dinner. I rode over with a friend - about a 2 hour drive. We ate dinner together (fish and chips again... mmm, but becoming my staple food in restaurants because it's safe), shopped a bit at Fred Meyer, and had ice cream - then we went our separate ways and drove back. All in all, probably 9 hours of talking and being out - holy crud! By the time I got home my jaw was a bit swollen and my joints ached terribly... I was dizzy again, too. It was worth it, though :)

Next week I start back at Starbucks doing short 4 hour shifts. I'm starting back at the gym tomorrow, hoping to get my energy level back up by biking - walking is still a bit painful and it takes a lot out of my hip (at this point, somewhere between mile 2 and 3 walking my muscles start to freeze up and my hip starts to ache). I'm thinking that biking will help strengthen and stretch the muscles in a different, non-weight bearing way. I drove for the first time a few days ago, as well - I have avoided it this long because I've been struggling with dizzy spells and I feel awfully spaced out all the time, despite leaving the oxycodone behind over a week and a half ago.

I wore jeans for the first time today - I put a bandage over the incision on my hip to pad it, but was still pretty uncomfortable. Tomorrow is back to the sweats. Boo.

It's been a long road to get here, but SO worth it - I still have not had another migraine! In an ENTIRE MONTH, I've had ONE small migraine that was gone in a few hours. I am so grateful and awestruck by this lack of pain in my head.

Pictures - I really haven't been noticing day-to-day changes, so it was sure nice to see the major difference in the three-week versus four-week photos. Hurray!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 25

I'm FINALLY starting to feel semi-normal again. I only took tylenol/ ibuprofen once today. I am finding more and more foods that work with the soft chew diet - I can eat fish and chips with some modifications and lots of tartar sauce. Last night Nick made what he called 'swiss steak' - ground buffalo meat with gravy and mashed potatoes - it was awesome! Pudding, soup, and muscle milk are still creating a good share of my diet, but I try to have normal food at least one a day.

I was able to take the tape off of my hip yesterday and it has definitely improved movement and walking. It feels a little more tender to the touch, but not as bound together. Hopefully it'll make improvements fast and I'll be back into JEANS!

Numbness is a pretty big issue for me. I am getting tingling in the roof of my mouth but have no feeling. My chin has no feeling at all. The right corner of my mouth and up into a third of my right upper lip has no feeling. My bottom lip has limited numbness - I can feel when something's touching it but not 100%. My gums are completely numb on the upper jaw, also, but starting to come back (irritated) on the bottom. I can feel my bottom teeth, but not my top teeth. Odd - but improving.

Still truckin!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 23

I saw my surgeon today in Seattle. It was a very short appointment. She looked at my teeth, asked me to bite, asked if I could deal with the same rubber band configuration for the next three weeks. (Darn it! I was really hoping to get the front bands off, as they're what is really preventing me from talking normally, and they cause the most stares and double-takes at this point in public). We discussed my spasm/ pain problems and it's perfectly normal - I can leave my rubber bands off for a few hours to help with this, and if it's still bothering me in 3 weeks we can talk muscle relaxant to help. She peeked at my hip, told me the tape that's still on there can come off (hurray!) and I was OUT.

We went to one of my favorite restaurants, World Wrapps, and I was able to eat my favorite burrito (in bowl form, of course)... it had rice with a wasabi vinaigrette, salmon, and avocado! It has other stuff, but that's all I could get down. YUMMY! And I ate in public, and it wasn't terribly embarrassing - just a little. I'm still using the baby spoon as no other utensil fits in my mouth, I have to mush down bites with my fingers, half the time the bite is too big anyway and ends up back on the plate or on my chin (which I can't feel)... I feel like a toddler :)

The hip is still preventing me from wearing "normal" pants comfortably, and I am tired of going out in public in the same two identical pairs of pants, so my mom took me shopping for a few pairs of black pants that look SLIGHTLY less like sweatpants. They're not great, and I miss my jeans :(

I then went to a pool party with a bunch of my favorite starbucks employees (didn't swim, but hung out and talked)... I didn't make it all the way through because it'd been a long, long day and I was exhausted. In fact, I got home around 4:15... ate, brushed, and slept until past 10. Now, once again, I am awake and there goes the sleep schedule I had tried to put myself on... but eh, it was worth it to get OUT.

As my incisions are beginning to heal, I am losing range of motion and height in my jaw. Argh! The stitches in the back of my mouth where the lower jaw connects to the upper jaw are really sore and they pull when I open my mouth as far as it can go. Just last week I could fit my baby toothbrush in to brush the bite surfaces of the teeth - today I can't quite get it in there comfortably. Ah, well. Dr. Lee said at the next appointment we'd start working on ROM and stretching (she didn't say anything about chewing but LORDY am I hoping!!).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three weeks down!

My first stitch fell out today! Hurray!! I was brushing my teeth and noticed that one of the stitches was hanging down really low, so I went to move it and it just fell into my hand! Hurray! Hurray! And, like always, just as I complain about how bad everything hurts, I get some relief today. My hip has come a long ways in the past two days - the only thing holding me back is the incision healing now - it is unwilling to stretch out, which makes walking down hills and down stairs uncomfortable. But the muscles seem to be back where they're supposed to go! Must be thanks to all that walking I've been doing!

Some nerves must be regenerating in my face and in the roof of my mouth - I have crazy itching in my chin - and I go to scratch it and I can't feel anything and the feeling is gone. Kooky. And the roof of my mouth kind of feels like it's on fire. It doesn't hurt much, but it's really, really odd.

One thing that has me slightly worried (not TOO much) is my overbite is starting to come back a little bit, which I think is why my jaw has been hurting so much. I used to bite down straight on my lower braces (ouch, as well), but now I don't quite get there. I'm not terribly worried about a relapse at this point, and I'm sure it can be fixed with different rubber bands... but I was hoping to lose the front rubber bands at my next appointment - as they are the most noticeable and the ones that make my speech unclear.

On a closing note... I really, REALLY need to stop watching the food network. I'm dying. :)

Oh! And new pictures today (to celebrate week 3 being over). I'm really starting to look like a human again (phew!).

day 20

No big trip today - in fact, things were pretty uneventful. Still struggling with this constant pain - it's hard to keep a smile on my face when it's always there. Took a nap today and now I'm up until the wee hours of the morning again.

My swelling has still not gone down again - no pictures until then.

Post-op guys (or anyone else)... do you have recommendations for skin care products? My poor, poor skin is panicking like no other - and it seems my light foaming cleanser and scrub are not up to par for this level of hell.

Have an appointment with the oral surgeon on Thursday - can't wait :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

realizations on day 19

Some notes for y'all...

  1. If you don't drink water, you will swell up like CRAZY again - I've seriously regressed with days worth of swelling - it kind of hurts in my cheeks (now you know why I'm not posting a picture today... argh swelling).
  2. Despite blended up pizza toppings being delicious, they are very high in fat and therefore may upset your stomach in terrible, terrible ways. Oh, man. 6 hours later, I'm still sick.
  3. While getting feeling back in your cheeks is awesome, suddenly I can feel all of the darned brackets and hooks poking me. Darn it!
  4. Almost anything can be swallowed whole if you cut it into small enough pieces... for example, today I had a pancake, half a sausage link, and an egg at a diner! I ate in public. It wasn't terrible.

That is all for day 19... last night was yet another night of being up until daylight and then sleeping and then waking and then sleeping... I managed to not take a nap today (sheer will and chair avoidance) so I'm hoping I'll get some sleep tonight.

My brother in law and his family are in town from Oklahoma, and we're driving to Shelton to see them tomorrow - it'll be my first trip post-surgery! Hurray!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

late night postings (day 18ish)

As I can't sleep, I thought I'd post my thoughts on the past few weeks.

I'm 2 and a half weeks post surgery and things are coming along well. I've had a painful couple of days due to muscle spasms - my joints are REALLY fighting my new rubber bands from my orthodontist. The worst part about the muscle spasms is I keep biting my tongue! Poor tongue.

The feeling is coming back into my face and chin, and my chin swelling is really starting to go down (thank GOD, as I was starting to look like Sarah Palin, and that's not exactly what I signed up for here). My cheeks are still puffy, but almost getting to the point now that no one but close friends/ family would notice.

It's a little freaky for me to look in the mirror these days. It's not that I don't like what I see - I think it's amazing that my profile isn't concave anymore - I think it's great that I have a chin and that my jawline actually looks strong... I don't mind the changes in my nose, and I LOVE that my smile isn't gummy anymore. It's neat that my face isn't so long. However, when I look in the mirror it just feels so... weird. It's not really me, except for it IS me. All of the changes are good, it's just going to take some getting used to.

One of the things that bothers me is the lack of sleep. Okay, not really lack of sleep as I'm probably sleeping 12 hours a day, but more the lack of a sleep schedule. I don't sleep for more than a few hours at a time. So... last night I fell asleep at 5am (bad pain), was awake from around 8-9am, fell back asleep until after noon. Fell asleep around 7pm and slept until midnight, and now I'm awake and it's past 2am. I try not to nap, but it really just makes me hurt worse and become cranky and emotional.

Speaking of emotional, the random crying is SO annoying! My poor husband. Just yesterday I was starving (like usual) and looking for something to eat but NOTHING sounded good and I was so frustrated that I just started to cry. I miss food! I've been tired of soup for a year now and am still forced to eat it. Pretty much, I'm desperate for new tastes and have resorted to swallowing things whole that I really shouldn't - for instance, today's tuna melt. I convinced Nick to make me the fillings of a tuna melt and that I could eat it - when really, after it cooled just slightly it was NOT meant to be swallowed whole - scraped up my throat, I kept choking... but it didn't stop me. :) I could have blended it, but that would have defeated the purpose - I wanted real food!! Today I also got some Haggen Daaz mint chip ice cream, but the chips are pretty big and I really wore my jaw out trying to maneuver them on my tongue to melt before I swallowed them.

I took my longest walk today yet! Probably a mile all told - we walked down to the 7-11 to mail our netflix back (no outgoing mail at our apartment complex) and got ice cream. I was exhausted afterwards, but it was really nice to get moving outside - and to GO somewhere instead of winding around our trashy apartment complex. My hip is sore, but feels better and better every day. I'm working on not limping at all when I walk, because I find that I limp almost automatically now - and the muscles aren't being stretched out and used at all. The weather is BEAUTIFUL here in western Washington right now, and I have to soak it up while I can!

I sneezed for the first time yesterday, and once more today. It was terrifying... after the first sneeze I felt around my jaw to make sure nothing had detached, but I survived okay! Again, very weird feeling.

Well... I think my marathon post has gone on long enough. Overall, I can't believe how easy this process has been. I know I complain a lot and it hurts and it was horrifying in the first week... but sheesh! Just 18 days ago I was on a operating room table with my face peeled back (sorry) and my jaws being cut apart and put back together and my hip bone was cut into. I can speak with decent clarity, I can eat, I can walk... The human body is an incredible, incredible thing :)


Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 17

Missed a day yesterday, and I think I'll be missing more days in the future. Things are improving day today, but it's all happening slowly now. I look pretty much the same as I did a few days ago.

I slept (well, should say "slept") my first night without my prescription painkillers last night - but will not be doing so tonight. My pain seems to be worse in the evening, probably because of talking and eating during the day. I can control my pain for the most part during the day with tylenol and ibuprofen, but it's hard to sleep with that nagging, pulling pain.

I've been talking about this to a few people lately, but this whole process still feels surreal. I haven't gotten a full nights sleep since before the surgery, and while this has gotten a LOT better (I only wake up 2-3 times a night, as opposed to every hour, on the hour), it kind of feels like it's been one long day from July 1st to now. I wake up with shooting pains in my ear or just below my ear, or my teeth that are being used to band my jaw shut start singing loudly.

With the new rubberbands my orthodontist gave me I'm really having problems with muscle spasms, as well - suddenly my jaw will just start to move on it's own - it's terribly freaky. And painful.

Okay, enough pain. It sounds like all I do is complain on here! I have been getting much more mobile. Going out of the apartment still wears me out, but my walks are becoming longer and easier. I am back up to speed on reading - for a while I was so spaced out that I would read a paragraph or a sentence and just space out or fall asleep with the book open in my hands... then wake up/ snap out of it and repeat it over and over again. Eating has become much easier, and Nick made mac 'n' cheese tonight with some kid pasta rings - tiny, tiny rings that I didn't need to chew.

Well, I think that's it. Pictures for today: