Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Seven months on - I'm still alive!

Hello to all my readers.

I've been receiving many messages asking how I am recovering and why I haven't posted. I know it's been six months since my last post and I'll try not to make too many excuses about a busy life, but that's exactly what's happened. Work has seen me travelling every couple of weeks, my social life has been super busy and I cannot believe so over seven months have passed since my surgery.  But I am sorry about not writing and want to continue this blog until my treatment is over.

 So here is a brief run down of what has happened since my last post:

  • Healing & back to work - the majority of the swelling had gone down after 3-4 weeks and by the end of week four I was bored so decided to go back to work.  While I worked short days (6 hours max) it was probably a little too soon as I exhausted myself fairly quickly.  
  • Transition back to solid food - this really did not take as long as I thought it would.  After the 5 week mark my jaw surgeon asked me to start eating soft food such as pasta and mashed potatoes and by week 8 I was back to a regular diet - just in time for Christmas.  This was a great surprise as I imagined I would be having a liquidized Christmas lunch.
  • Pain - what pain?!  As I have mentioned in previous posts I must have a high pain threshold as I really have not felt any pain or major discomfort since my surgery.
  • Feeling/numbness - the feeling in the majority of my face was back within a couple of weeks - however it has still not returned fully in my lower lip and gums.  Apparently the lower jaw does take a lot longer and some people do not get feeling back for up to 18 months.  This doesn't really bother me, it just means I tend to get food stuck on the inside of my mouth between my gums and cheeks and do not always realise it's there!  Surprise!
  • Appointments - aside from the above it's just business as usual.  I had to see my surgeon a few times after my surgery before I was handed over to the orthodontist again.  Now it's just about having my regular appointments every four weeks.
So what happens next?  Well, I'm in the final months of my orthodontic treatment which involves a lot of fine tuning using elastics, power chains and various wires for the upper jaw.  It's both exciting and a little frustrating being at this stage - it's so close to being over yet also feels so far away!

And how do I feel about the result so far?  Ecstatic.  It's made such a huge change to my life already and I love my new face, but I will dedicate a whole post to this later.  In the meantime I've posted a couple of recent photos below (all cropped as they contain other people).

Let me know if you're still following my blog by leaving a comment below.  Next update within a week - I promise!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day 18: Before and After Double Jaw Surgery (X-Rays)

Today was both sad and exciting.  The sad part was that my dear friend Cindi, who came all the way from California to take care of me - left to travel back home.  I would not be where I am after just a few weeks without her.  She took care of my diet, my health and kept me from going totally insane by  keeping me mentally stimulated.  After our farewell at Sydney airport, I headed straight off to see my surgeon for another follow-up appointment.

I was really excited about this appointment as I would be having new x-rays taken and would be able to compare the before (the very beginning before the SARME and braces) and after x-rays.  This meant not only would I see my new shape, I would also see the metal plates and screws in my jaw.

So without further ado, here they are.  The photos on the left were taken in December 2012 before any treatment had commenced (including before jaw widening and braces).  The photos on the right were taken on 3rd November 2014, three weeks after double jaw surgery.

You can see how my profile has changed and how many cuts in the bone there are.
This is where I really notice my aligned jaw and new chin shape. And look at how many metal plates there are!

I'm writing this post at the beginning of December but backdating it by a month to preserve the timeline.  I'll post another update to bring me right up to date shortly.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day 16: The mirror has two faces

I wanted to start this post by saying that I am extremely happy that I had my surgery and am thrilled with the results so far.  However in the interest of writing a completely honest blog about my experiences, I'll admit that sometimes I look in the mirror and do not see any changes at all - or I scrutinise my appearance so much, like I am purposely looking for something to be wrong.  Why am I doing this to myself?

A good friend of mine who used to be overweight, told me that even when she lost her extra weight she still looked in the mirror and saw an overweight person, even though she physically was not.  She explained that I am probably in the same frame of mind.  On the outside I have changed - but on the inside I am still the same person with the same insecurities.  Now that I have changed physically, the next step is to work on the emotional change and learn to love my reflection.

This was a real light bulb moment for me and it really made me think about the way I look at myself.

Throughout this whole journey, people have had different ideas about why I would choose to go through such invasive surgery.  My family and close friends know about my insecurities in terms of how I look, while others presumed my reasons were based solely on vanity.  All of these opinions are absolutely valid, but very few people (even those mentioned) know just how deep and how far back my insecurities go.  I'm not writing this post for sympathy - I'm simply recognising it as a part of who  I am and working on my self perception.

Anyway, it's just a quick update for now.  Feel free to leave me a comment - and if you've had this surgery, how has it affected the way you see yourself?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 14: My smoothies bring all the boys to the yard (diet after jaw surgery)

It's now been two weeks since my surgery, which also means it has been two weeks since I started a liquid only diet.  Aside from wanting to stuff my face with the biggest burger known to mankind, I'm getting quite used to my new diet and coming up with creative ideas for my meals.  Making your own smoothies and meals is so much better for you than drinking store bought protein drinks - because no matter how the packaging looks, those things are full of sugar and artificial ingredients.

So for today, I thought I'd share some of my favourite smoothie recipes.

First you will need:
  • A personal blender of some description.  But before you rush out to buy a nutri-bullet (seriously those ads are becoming annoying), please shop around.  Here in Australia they charge almost $300 for the nutri-bullet, which sells in the USA for less than $100.  Instead, I bought a Sunbeam personal blender for around $45 and it does exactly the same thing.  And no matter what those ads say - it's a bloody blender, not a 'nutrition extractor'.  That's like calling a treadmill a 'fat pulveriser'. 
  • Plenty of fruit and vegetables.  I suggest either buying the snap frozen kind or buying fresh and freezing them yourself.  It saves adding extra ice or water to your smoothies and of course makes them last a lot longer.
  • Supplements - I have whey protein isolate which is 100% milk protein with no added rubbish.  I also keep chia seeds for when whey protein powder will not suit.  Unless I am blending a meal that already has lots of protein, I always try to use one of these supplements.
  • Natural greek yoghurt - a great way to add a little more protein.  It tastes great too.
  • Creativity - you would not believe what can be blended.  Use your imagination.  

The basics

A smoothie requires not only ingredients to make it interesting, but some kind of liquid to help blend everything together and allow you to drink it.  A lot of recipes call for water or ice to do this and that's fine if you are wanting to keep the calories down, however as I am replacing all of my meals with liquid I use almond milk.  It's still very low in fat and sugars compared to regular milk and has a good amount of protein to keep me going.  In smoothies with a fruit juice base, I use my juicer where possible to make it fresh.

On to the recipes!

The below recipes are my favourites, but remember to experiment with whatever you like.  You can add almost anything into a smoothie.

Breakfast - Banana Berry Smoothie

This is my favourite morning smoothie and I drink this almost every day.  It's full of fibre, antioxidants and lots of nutrients - plus the added protein and oats ensure you get a quick energy kick as well as sustained energy release throughout the morning.  If you like caffeine and want an even bigger kick, use half almond milk and half strong coffee.  It's great!  Below is the recipe, however I've also created a YouTube video to show how I make this smoothie.  Click on the video link below.

1/2 banana
4-5 strawberries
A small handful of blueberries
1 cup of uncooked oats
2 heaped teaspoons peanut butter
1 scoop of protein powder
1 tablespoon greek yoghurt
Almond milk

Lunch - Mean Green Smoothie

Half an orange - seedless or seeds removed
A handful of kale or spinach (honestly, you cannot taste this in the smoothie - but it's great for you)
1/2 banana
A couple of leaves of fresh mint
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon greek yoghurt
Almond milk

If you like a little extra zest you can also add some kiwi fruit and/or pineapple.

Dinner - Blend a regular meal with a liquid base

I was very lucky when recovering from surgery to have a friend staying with me for the first two weeks.  While I was thinking within the constraints of fruit and vegetable smoothies, it was her idea to blend my usual meals into dinner drinks.  Some of my favourites so far are as follows:

  • Ravioli blended with tomato soup.
  • Spaghetti bolognese blended with tomato soup.
  • Pizza blended with tomato soup.
  • Thai Tom Yum soup blended - noodles, vegetables and all.
  • A chicken burger blended with chicken stock - that means the bun, the cheese and the veggies.
  • Chinese stir fried beef with mushrooms, blended with noodles and beef stock.
At first blending some of these meals seems like quite a gross idea, but they actually taste pretty amazing.  The nest thing is that while they are not solid food, they still satisfy the taste cravings associated with solid food.  Plus these can be made as thick as you like to help you feel fuller.

I hope you've enjoyed this post and that it helps with your meal planning.  Of course Google is a great resource for smoothie recipes as is YouTube.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Days 11-12: Post surgery appointments and I'm feeling fantastic!

Over the last couple of days I have had follow up appointments with both my orthodontist and my maxillofacial surgeon to check on my progress.  My temporary live-in carer (aka Cindi, my amazing friend from California) is still in Australia so it was fun to be able to take her along to my appointments.  I really wanted her to meet the people who have been taking care of me.

First was my orthodontist appointment on the Monday morning.  I absolutely love visiting the office of my orthodontist because the team there are so warm and friendly.  They were all really excited to see me and commented on how good the results looked, which of course made me feel great.  The appointment was a fairly quick one and my elastic bands were changed to a different configuration.  Elastics are really important after jaw surgery as they guide/train your jaw to its new bite.

My beautiful new elastics!
The appointment with my surgeon the following day was a general check-up to see how I am healing and if I was having any discomfort or pain.  I can honestly say that I am feeling pretty wonderful - especially considering my surgery was less than two weeks ago.  Aside from the first few days which were very uncomfortable, I have had no pain or soreness, no major trouble talking, no trouble sleeping, no bleeding and no sickness or nausea.  Even my surgeon commented that I seem to be a couple of weeks ahead of where they would expect me to be.

I'm not writing this to gloat, but hopefully to give some hope to others going through (or about to go through) this process.  It's not all dribbling and pain and my surgeon puts my fast recovery down to my positive attitude.  I absolutely agree with this, because it is amazing what your body can do and how fast it can heal when you feel happy and positive.  I also put it down to having a fairly high pain threshold.

I took the opportunity to ask my surgeon again about what he did during surgery (the last time we discussed this I was in hospital in a drug fuelled state) and I have to say it is nothing short of amazing.  He explained that at my next appointment they would be taking an x-ray so I could see the results, but I already see the results every single day and here are the latest photos.

The most important question I wanted to ask my surgeon - when could I start brushing my teeth?  He said that I could have been doing that already (which I didn't realise) and gave me some tips on how to brush and where to be careful.  So the first thing I did on returning home was brush my teeth for at least ten minutes and I can tell you, it felt great!  Fresh breath ahoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Days 8-10: Big journeys start with small steps

It has certainly been a busy weekend and I didn't do too bad at keeping up.  Cindi's niece (also from California) has been studying in Melbourne for the last few months and came to spend a weekend with us in Sydney.  It would have been a shame for them to not see each other,  so we agreed that I would join in for as much as I could and rest as much as needed.

I really got to test myself in terms of how much energy I had and just how much I could (and couldn't) do in three days.  We managed to power through the majority of the iconic sights of Sydney, but while we took the car to most places, it still caught up on me big time.  If I'm honest, I probably pushed myself a little too far.  The swelling on my face has been going down rapidly and I am speaking better than ever, but I need to remember that I am still recovering and only just over a week out of the operating theatre.  So my advice would be to listen to your body and take small steps.  And if you do go out for a full day make sure you take extra smoothies with you for in-between meal snacks.

I'm slowly seeing the changes to my jawline and loving my much shorter face and squarer jaw.  Because my upper jaw was taken upwards, it means that my mouth now naturally sits in the closed position.  Prior to surgery I had to consciously close my mouth.  And even then it looked odd.

Here are a couple of pictures (taken on day 9, 25th October) of my progress so far.

You can see that my jawline and chin have taken on a new shape

My side profile looks a lot more balanced than before my surgery - the overbite is gone!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 7: When all else fails, take a nap

Napping is officially my new favourite pastime - in fact it's become a necessity.  While I'm eating (and by eating I mean drinking) lots each day and getting some exercise, I need to remember that my body is still healing and getting over surgery and that I shouldn't push myself.  Luckily for me, Cindi reminds me of the fact that I need to rest and she has also joined the napping club.

Today was no exception as my morning involved a lot more exercise that the previous few days.  We took a short drive to the local Medicare office to claim some of the money back on my surgical fees.  Medicare is the national health system in Australia which partly funds medical costs for all citizens (very different to Medicare in the U.S).  By the time we returned it was time for another early afternoon nap.  The evening was spent walking into Newtown (my local area) and even stopping for a quick beer at the local pub which I did not think I would be doing only seven days after surgery.

A friend popped over for dinner in the evening which consisted of take away food from the local Italian restaurant - and I even got my dinner from there as well.  You'd be surprised at what you can blend for dinner and it's been interesting testing out some new recipes, but more on that in a later post.

I'm now 3kg down in weight from the day I went for surgery, so that will be something to watch as the days go by.