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.