**I am so sorry it’s taken so long to post an update. But please look at it this way: life does go on after double jaw surgery. It’s not perfect… but you don’t think about it enough to update your blog! 🙂
Soo, I’m currently on my bed with my laptop propped up, on my lap. It’s 10 pm and I am lost for words on where to even begin this post! TODAY, it’s been over 7 months since I underwent my double jaw surgery (If you’re new to these posts, you can read my posts here and here.) Wow! I’m not lying when I say each month goes by faster than the one before! So much has happened since then, I’ve had ups and downs in recovery but, I’m almost done dealing with all the pain and what not- I couldn’t be happier. All these months dragged by, like I mentioned before. The full results of my surgery are more noticeable now than ever, as you can see in the photos in the beginning.
I still have my braces, surgical hooks and a few wires in though, so it’s not the final result just yet as I still have two more surgeries pending to correct my upper lip and nose which will be done soon this year in May. Anyways, I’m going to make this post as straight-forward and simple for you all by breaking down the main points and experiences I’ve discussed previously in the posts.
Aesthetics: I spent a lot of time after jaw surgery just looking at my face and trying to get used to it and at times I don’t like it, but that’s only because it’s so strange seeing something different in the mirror and while I still look like “me”, I’m quite different.
Jaw Pain & Mobility: Pain wise, it’s getting slightly better but I do experience pain a few times. One of the toughest things for me to deal with over the last few months, has been stretching my jaws. My jaw still feels heavy and a bit numb and I keep getting those surprise jaw spasms (It feels like both my jaws will just break apart any minute). I was told a few weeks back that- I should be able to fit 3 fingers comfortably in my mouth and I’m currently only able to fit 2 in. I have to do jaw stretches everyday, which absolutely hurts so I can get quite lazy with it, if I’m being honest. The mentalis muscles in my lower jaw/chin are still stiff but getting a bit more relaxed every day. I still have occasional aching, but I do not think it’s in the bone or the jaws, it’s the muscle contraction happening around my face and this usually occurs after I’ve pushed myself to chew a LOT or really exercised my face muscles. When I accidentally try to force my jaw outside of its normal direction, it’s really painful. My surgeon measured how far I can open my mouth, which is 15mm, and he says the average person can open their mouths about 40 something mm. I have awhile to go. He instructed me to do my exercises five times a day and to hold the stretch for twenty seconds as that will help with reducing the remaining swelling I have in my cheeks and such. My TMJ pain has finally settled down, it so much better then it was 8 months ago. I still sometimes wake up with aching jaws, but nothing like it was previously and the headaches have gone which I am really happy about.
Swelling/Numbness/Feeling: The swelling has gone 85% from my face. I mean, there are some areas surrounding my jawline, cheeks and nose that are still swollen but aren’t noticeable (only I can see). I find the feeling is coming back quicker on the right side, especially on the top, and the left is taking longer- it’s very annoying as it’s tingly and itchy and when it itches, I scratch where my brain thinks the itch is but, it’s not there so I have to go hunting for my itch, and scratch all of my face. But it’s good -it means it’s healing. I’d rather go through this than still have an underbite. It’s something I’ve had to suck up and deal with.
Eating & Drinking: I’m eating 100% back to normal now, there’s not much restrictions really. As long as the food fits in my mouth and is easy enough to chew, it’s fine! I can’t fully express how delighted I am to be back on a normal diet, the liquid diet was one of the worst things about the whole experience. I never want another bowl of soup or milkshake again, bleugh. I have pain chewing when I try to chew something that requires more jaw movement, like moving it to the side.
What is still left orthodontic-ally:
- Re-positioning of upper teeth to make smile appear wider
- Bring molars into each other so they “lock together”
- Close some spaces in my upper teeth
- Reshape teeth so they are more aesthetically pleasing and fit better together
Besides all that, my surgical hooks are hopefully going to be removed soon as they’re quite an annoyance and make it difficult to sit your face in a neutral position. I’ve been asked if I can feel the screws and brackets in my jaws – the answer is no. They ultimately “heal” into your bone so they become flush with the bone in your face and you likely will never feel them. I can, however, still feel the bone callus on the sides of my lower jaw, which is a sign it’s still healing.
As I come closer to the final stage of my cleft journey, people have been asking me if I am happy that I’ll no longer have any stitches/scars on my nose and lips and that I will finally have that “perfect smile”. To be honest, I am very happy about everything that’s going to help alter my life but at the same time, there’s really nothing much to be soo excited about as I’ve had amazing people in my life who have taught me how inner beauty is what counts. I think as I end this journey, I’ll have a smile as what society defines “perfect” but honestly, you define your own beauty. Of course, life isn’t always fortunate to everyone and I’ve been laughed at and criticized but I can’t thank my family enough for always showing me what strength is and how to overcome every difficulty in a teenagers life. My parents and my elder sister are my greatest blessing.
Considering everything, I feel like life has just begun for me, as cliche it sounds! I’m so glad that it’s almost over and it feels great to be almost nearing the end of this horrendous road and while I am quite excited to see how my “new face” would look but at the same time, I’m actually a little sad that this journey is coming to an end. It’s been an amazing (and terrifying!) phase of my life that I dedicated a lot of energy and emotion to. Having being born with a cleft for almost 17 years, it has become such a crucial part of me that I can’t really be so happy to have it gone too.
All in all, I never realized how much of a difference a surgery can make, it’s like a black cloud has moved away from me. Absolutely everything is different about me, not only my physical appearance but also my confidence. I’m not going to say “I’m comfortable in my own skin” or anything along those lines, because I’m not. I have a better view of myself, but unfortunately have started to shift my focus on other flaws. This surgery definitely improved my body image views, no doubt, but there’s a lot I still have to work on. I still have these remaining surgeries left to go (rhinoplasty, upper lip surgery and ear cartilage grafting to build a proper septum) due in May 2017 but I am very satisfied with the outcomes and this is a life changing experience! I feel better in all ways. I love how I can laugh without feeling like the sides of my nose are going to tear open. It was so painful previously. I love not having migraines every day, I love not having massive amounts of jaw pain. The lack of mobility and numbness are not really bothersome. It’s a relief to know I’m not walking around with two broken jaws anymore, as it was quite terrifying in case anything happened!
If you are following my journey, you are probably wondering if it is worth the pain and inconvenience. I would do it all over again if I had to. This process was 100% worth it in the end, but it won’t always feel that way. You will wonder why you did this to yourself, but those moments of discouragement are just moments. The results of a comfortable bite is something you will be thankful for the rest of your life. Personally, I am grateful that I no longer have to always be thinking about holding my jaw backward so that I look “normal.” I can relax and not care anymore and know that I do not look and feel deformed. That alone made this worth it for me. But yes, patience really is the key to this recovery process. That and finding something positive in everything. Just not always that easy to do. The one thing that I can say is that I have never had the thoughts of “Why did I do this” or “Wish I hadn’t done this.” I won’t think like that. I can’t allow myself to think like that. I have no regrets about choosing to go down this rough and bumpy road. That’s the way I believe life should be lived with no regrets.
I have really enjoyed everyone’s emails and questions. I’m sure some of you still have some questions to ask me so please don’t hesitate to message me. I’d love to tell!
Finally, to conclude – here are some photos of me over the last few months. The photo collage below is a general timeline from when I had my underbite, hours before and after my surgery, weeks after, months after and current. Quite a difference.