Sunday, 1 February 2015

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends"

I decided it was high time I posted a bit more about the recovery since my operation, and those pesky nerve exercises I have to do to combat the somewhat inevitable damage caused by the removal of the tumour. 

I used that quote for the title because.... well, I look flat out ridiculous and I'm letting the entire internet see. 

I have four exercises, two in particular target the nerve branch which was damaged during surgery, which is the one which controls the right side of my bottom lip. They're actually really simple things, so it's a bit surprising and perplexing when you first find you can't do them any more. 

Firstly, let's go for the pair which have never been a problem, and are done purely to keep the rest of the nerve working while the affected part tries to recover. So, raising my eyebrows and screwing my eyes shut. 

(Informative selfies are acceptable selfies.... sort of.)

Thankfully I can still register instantaneous surprise or disgust at will and people actually understand what my face is trying to do. I do all of these ten to twelve times a day (preferably when I'm on my own!) and have to do this for a few more months yet. 

So, the remaining two which touch on the damaged part of the nerve. 

Number one: make like a hamster!

(I'm bringing sexy back.... er...)

This one makes a lot of sense to me. Blow air into your cheeks, see if your bottom lip will stay closed and allow you to hold the air in. I can do this pretty successfully now and it's almost symmetrical. For the first couple of weeks I couldn't do this very well at all and the failed attempts were very amusing for witnesses. My other half still hasn't stopped doing what we might call "less than flattering" impressions of said failed attempts. I have promised suitable retribution once fully recovered. 

The final exercise is the one which still isn't working, and in reality I still don't know whether it will improve. The guideline for facial nerve damage is that however the nerve behaves at six months post-surgery is likely to be as good as it will get. We're about six weeks out at this point, so there's plenty of time for this to improve. 

So, this is my attempt at baring my teeth at the moment:

("What a cute grin you have!".... said nobody ever.)

What I can't show in a photo is that there are small hopeful signs with this. If I hold that absolutely delightful expression, my bottom lip does start to twitch to my right. That's really good - it means the nerve is trying to move, and even if it's not managing it yet that's proof of residual sensation and motor function, so all in all it's very positive. And yes, I'm now typing just as fast as possible (I'm a secretary, so that's pretty damned fast) to get away from that photo. I look either really concerned or as if my lower lip is very specifically drunk. 

This damaged nerve does manifest in a general sense as well. Towards the end of a day, and particularly at the end of a working week I can feel the lip dragging and moving sluggishly. I keep mistakenly assuming I sound like I'm slurring my words - it turns out I'm not, but to me it feels like the sluggish lower lip is in the way of me speaking. It's a very strange sensation. This is usually accompanied by the scar area starting to stiffen and my jaw to seize a little - it's all normal and really just symptomatic of the fact I'm perpetually very tired at present. 

At six weeks post-surgery, whilst I'm doing really well from a medical perspective I'm intensely frustrated. My only prior experience of an operation under anaesthetic was an appendectomy when I was 12. After that, I felt pretty much back to normal within three weeks. My hope that this was because I was some sort of mutant healing wizard have gone sadly unanswered.

It was because I was 12, and as a child you bouce back from things like that with extraordinary resilience. It seems the adult body is just too damned grumpy to accept upheaval with the same carefree aplomb. 

In my own head (a kingdom of vastly unrealistic expectations and an at best tenuous grip on medical reality) I've returned to full time work so I expect to feel better. Whilst I do feel better than I did, I'm still very easily tired and do very little with my evenings. I have received more than one "Why don't you just ... y'know.... sit still?" from my GP in the course of check-ups. I think the poor man has resigned himself to the fact the only way I'll sit totally still and stop finding things that "need doing" is if he employs someone to give me a smart knock on the skull whenever I start being too active. 

(If I ever here "Meep meep!" anywhere near me I'm going to run like hell...
Image from

The reality, however much I like or dislike it, is that it will be another few months until I'm fully right again. Slow and steady wins the race, and it's sensible not to push it too much.

My solution? 

Oh, hi Dragon Age: Origins. You recommend sitting still whilst playing the game, do you? 

Let's do this!

Let it never be said I won't sacrifice dignity for the sake of providing my readers with information and a bit of a laugh...

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

1 comment:

  1. You're doing great! I wish I looked that good with a normal expression, lol! Keep at it and I'm sure at 6 months, you'll be baring your teeth quite happily! It's great that you blog about this as a lot of people don't until after recovery and I think then you forget a lot of the little things and you don't have photos to explain a situation. Big kudos and best of luck in your continued recovery xxx