Sunday, October 26, 2008


In all of my running around getting things lined up before the surgery, I forgot to go on my tri-state crime spree! What a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to change my appearance! Dammit!

Acupunture, or, I Watch a Lot of Movies, It Seems

Reading reports about likely post-surgery lip/chin numbness, both temporary and permanent have got me fairly nervous. So I followed the advice of several bloggers and have decided to give acupuncture a go to help get my nerves back and working.

Miraculously enough, it turns out my insurance company actually covers this proceedure -- that is, of course, as long as you choses omeone off of there plan. I did some shopping for the area and found a doctor about 15 minutes away that had 50+ good reviews and no real bad reviews to speak of and made an appointment for about a week and a half ago. I'd never done thris before, and openly admit part of me was woried about being, well, snake oil for lack of a better term, but the reviews I'd read of it directly relating to jaw surgery were very encouraging, so I put on my good attitude, grabbed my keys and headed out. I figure at the very least I'd be out one hour and $15 if it did nothing.

My doctor (is that the right term? Practictioner? Technician?) ended up being a cheerful Chinese man with a permanent smile and a pretty damned gentle hand. He led me into the room, asked me what issues what I was there for, and then explained what he was gong to be doing. Now I don't have a needle phobia exactly, but if I'm ever getting an injection, or blood drawn, or something put in a vein for an MRI, I just know I don't need to watch. Happily for me, he didn't actually show me any needles or anything.

For the first few sessions, the doctor basically treated me for TMJ, and only gave me needles around the jaw joint. And for the most part, it all went fine. It didn't hurt -- well, not exactly. The needles going in is a pretty quick and painless process, but there were one or two that landed in just 'slightly' the wrong position and stung, which I mentioned (read: bellowed) and he quickly fixed. Then he goes back around and pushes them all in slowly until he hits what he referred to as the 'pain point'. Translated that means I'd get a very brief moment of sharp pain of some sort (it was always a little different in each spot,) and then he'd back off just a bit. Wanted to make sure he was actually at the nerve.

He then goes around and hooks a small current box to all of the pins with wee all-i-ga-tor clips. Each section of my face is a different set of wires. He oh-so-slowly turns up the current, asking me after each time if I can feel anything yetl I'd get sort of a twitchy undercurrent of, well, current going through the area. There were times when he'd accidentally overshoot, and suddenly part of my face was filled with this huge pressure, and would either twist up somewhat, or an eyebrow would suddenly try to jitter off my face, but he would immediately back off when that happened. Again, it didn't hurt exactly, but always reminded me of that machine in the arcade of the Boardwalk/Great America/amusement park of choice where you hold onto the brass handles and the electricitiy slowly increases -- except without the slowly part, and in your face. Better yet, everytime I lay down on the table, I picture Wesley from the Princess Bride when he's strapped down to The Machine. I have yet to leave an acupuncture session 'mostly dead', however.

Then you lay there. And I try to relax, and it kind of works, except that there's always a stray tic in my face now, or the switch for my eyelids is now set to full open. And let's not forget that, yes, you now resemble a second cousin of Pinhead from Hellraiser, and any unnecessary movement *will* send shooting pain through that particular disturbed nerve and at least proove that the doctor does in fact have the correct nerve pinpointed (so to speak.) Try to relax? Yes -- just as carefully as possible. But then again, maybe I'm paranoid. If I am ever kidnapped or for any other reason being held captive, all my keepers will have to do is give me acupuncture. I will not move or otherwise make any attempt to escape, lemme tell you.

But soon the sensations become oddly normal, and after a while the doctor comes in to turn everything up a bit. You *do* start to relax, and you become aware that this or that part of your body is tense, and you begin to let go. I've done it 3 times now, and by the end of it, without fail, I'm starting to doze. Taking everything out is a breeze too: switches off, unplug the machine, unclip all-i-ga-tors, smoothly pull out pins. Et voila! You are done.

Does it work? Well, I think it does. My jaw definitely feels looser after every visit I go to. And as far as stimulating the nerves post surgery, I think doc and The Machine have proven there's definitely something going on there. Will it make a difference if I keep doing it after the surgery? Will the difference stick after surgery? I guess only time will tell...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Minty Fresh! Squeaky Clean!

My mouth is so happy right now.

In lieu of the upcoming surgery/inability to brush my teeth for a while, I made myself an extra appointment to the dentist to give everything one last uber-cleaning before Monday. God, was that worth it! My teeth are so clean that they literally squeak if I rub my finger against them. Heaven! And it didn't hurt that my appointment didn't hurt either; usually my brushing habits are a bit lacking, but in pre-surgery panic I've been brushing about 3x a day for the last month, and *almost* regularly flossing! My dentist said this was the best she'd ever seen my gums. My quickest cleaning to date too. Ahhhhhh!

I readily admit that I brushed my teeth the whole drive home with my parting-gift toothbrush as well (yes, basiclly masturbating my mouth with the tooth brush.) It just feels so good in there! Quick! Stick your tongue in my mouth to see for yourself!

I'm torn now; do I continue my graze-on-all-available-foods-pre-surgery campaign, or do I hold off dirtying my teeth for as long as I can? Dammit!

Oh, and do I use the anti-bacterial-by-prescription-only-but-will-stain-your-teeth mouthwash, or do I just use something milder to keep all the ick at bay? Dentist says the stains do come off with a cleaning, but she also said if I use it 2x/day, it stsains your teeth to the tune of 10 cups of coffee a day, and I'm not sure I'm willing to chance that, especially if my surgeon has not said anything. I'll ask him if its really necessary. Think I'm going to put a water pic on my shopping list either way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

T Minus 6 and Counting

Well, if the surgery is on Monday (which it is,) is that 6? Or is that 5? I'm never sure. Maybe I should use the measurement of 'sleeps' like we do on Mags: "My surgery is in 6 more sleeps." Which is kind of ironic if you take into account the fact that I kind of don't sleep. But soon, grasshopper, soon.

Went in for my second and final pre-op today. Dragged Husband along with me so that he too could get the skinny on what to expect. For the most part it went pretty well. First we did a last minute dash to the hospital to grab some test results for the doc. Made it to the appointment with time to spare. Got the well-rehearsed list of what to expect from the doctor, who then answered any questions we might have. Great. Then came in one of the pre-surgery nurses who gave us a bunch of paperwork on where to go in the hospital, what time to be there, and what to bring. Check. Then came in the insurance gal, who told us we didn't *quite* have the paperwork we needed, and that we'd need to write a very, big, fat check. Crap pants.

We got things straightened away enough so that at least the surgery will still happen. Was not real thrilled to be stressing out about insurance AGAIN, much less being back on the phone with them, or wondering if we'll be able to eat next month after writing that check (well, *I* wasn't too worried; soup is not really that expensive. ;] ), but it looks like it'll all shake out.

I was very pleased that the doctor, in going through his normal schpeel, mentioned that as I have a pretty 'strong chin' to begin with - so smooth! so tactful! - that they were going to try and 'soften' my chin during the surgery to try and keep everything as proportioned and aesthetically pleasing as they could. I really appreciated that a) he had put enough thought into it so that I didn't have to ask and b) so that *I* didn't have to ask. In talking to my surgery-specific therapist last night, she told me in no uncertain terms that I really needed to be blunt with the doc about this before the surgery. She reinforced that there is nothing wrong with being concerned about aethetics/image, and that frankly if you'e not happy about the way you look after the surgery you may get depressed which then slows down your recovery too. Best to just say it (says the extrovert doctor.) 'Twas some very good advice. Actually, she said several things that I really needed to hear and I'm really glad I went.**

Still have some stuff I need to knock of the list. That's how it goes these days: run errands, nap, make phone calls, nap. But its all coming together. I'm not super worried as I still have 6 days until the surgery. Or is it 5?

**After some last minute scrambling to get an appointment, last night was my first session with this therapist. You could tell in playing phone tag she was somewhat irritated that I was trying to get this together the week before my surgery. But after meeting her and getting all my details, she actually stopped to appologize for her manner on the phone, which I was very surprised - and grateful - for. I'd been prepared to kind of brush it aside, but getting that from her really meant a lot.

Note to self: the next time I have my face rearranged, get a therapist more than 7 (or is it 6?) days before the surgery.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bit of Background on the Upcoming Surgery

If you've found this blog because - like me - you've been trolling for as much information as you could to prepare for your surgery, let me give you the Reader's Digest version on how I got here (oh, and good luck on your surgery, too!)

A year and a half-ish ago I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. It was benign, but was wreaking havoc on my endocrine system. One of the things it did was give me acromeglia, which is where all of the soft tissue in your body keeps growing when it shouldn't.

About 6 months after diagnosis and surgery for the tumor, I was still constantly tired and worn down, so I had a sleep study done. Turns out the acromeglia had caused the tissue in my throat to grow as well as caused my tongue to grow, giving me sleep apnea. For nearly a year now I've been trying to use the CPAP machine to keep the apnea at bay, but it is just not working. So my doc and I started to discuss MMA. (Compared to the less invasive soft tissue surgery, MMA has a higher sucess rate, and oddly enough is purported to hurt less than the whole tonsil shebang. Huh. Let's hope both of those are true. )

I can't say I'm looking forward to a second major surgery in less than 18 months, nor that whole having-my-mouth-banded-together part, but I *am* looking forward to not having to lug that machine with me if I ever plan on sleeping anywhere other than my house, or taping my mouth shut every night, or waking up with gas pains from being inflated from my machine, or having to sleep elevated all the time, or just never ever feeling rested anyhow. I can't say I mind that part where I'll lose a few pounds either. :)

Anyhow, hope that bit of background helps.

Tick Tick Tick Tick

One good thing I've discovered about having sleep apnea is that it seems to make recovering from jet lag easier. If you're already used to operating while fairly exhausted anyhow, what's an extra 11 hours here or there, hmm?

It was fantastic to escape from my life for two weeks. I was completely distracted and managaed to actually relax. Cleared the brain a bit too. Makes sitting down and getting things ready for surgery easier. I feel less frantic; like I can actually get eveything ready without my head exploding. I'm gonna try and keep that headspace for as long as I can (not one of my stronger skills, but...)

Surgery is 12 days out. Time to pull my head out of the sand and start getting things ready. I had my first pre-op appointment today, which was not much more than taking molds of my teeth. Wore a blue paper bib, drooled a bit, walked out of the office with a bit of the dried pink mold mixture stuck to my face. Sexy. Also walked out of the office with a list of things I needed to get the ball rolling on. Started looking for an acupunturist, ordered my Zip n' Squeeze bags, bought some vitamins and supplements. Plenty more to do on that list, but am trying to get the more time sensitive ones out of the way.