Monday, September 26, 2011

A few pre-surgery thoughts (and some facts, including pre-surgery pictures)

I'm not sure where to start...
It was hard to say goodbye yesterday and walk out the door.  All eyes, except the boys, of course, had tears in them.  Emerson was just flat out crying for me.  It was so much more painful to leave this time.

Of course, after I left, I realized I had left some things.  We had to turn around and come back for them, hiding around the corner where the kids wouldn't see us from their play in the driveway while my dad delivered them.  THEN once I got them put into my suitcase and shut the trunk, I realized I also put the keys to the car in my suitcase as well - locked in the trunk.  Whoops!  I think Jon thought I was trying to miss our flight so we couldn't go!  (I know I didn't do it on purpose, but you know how subconsciouses can be!)

This morning began with three two and a half hours of appointments, followed by a short break (spent at the ocean), and then another few hours of appointments.

Dr. Gunson (my surgeon) measured and took pictures and analyzed my face.  He spent so much time staring at my face that the awkwardness had time to fade into routine by the end of my day there.  He stared at me like he was looking right past me - studying everything about my face and facial structure, I'm sure.

Their kindness was conveyed as they walked through all the aspects of the surgery with me.  I'll have bone grafts, bone shavings, lots of screws and plates placed in my jaw and after 5 -6 hours of surgery, I'll come out looking like a new woman - literally!  My airway will be twice (or more, I believe) the size it is now, my jaw will have been moved up and out while my upper teeth will have been moved as well (that's where the bone shaving comes in).   My face will, after all is said and done (in a year approximately) be better - it'll both feel better and look better.

In the meantime, however, it'll be painful.  The nurse very kindly, yet bluntly, told me the first 6 days are terribly hard.  A sore throat, major swelling, coming off of a steroid high (used for the surgery), nerves that will not yet wake up for several days, nauseousness, inability to breathe through my nose, teeth banded shut, the inability to speak and the very hard task of learning to swallow again will make the first week the hardest, she explained.

Swelling lasts several weeks, tiredness hangs on just as long, and while 80% of my swelling will be gone within 16 weeks, there will still be some residual swelling that will last for 12-18 months.

Some of this I knew, some I didn't.

Another thing I learned, they will place a screw in my upper gums along with a hook in my lower gums to stabilize my jaw with elastic bands.  They will also place a screw in the bridge of my nose during surgery and only during surgery as a stabilizing point, something to use as a point of reference because  my face will be so manipulated and moved around during surgery.
They will also stitch my eyes closed to keep my eyes safe from flying debris of bone and dust.

At one point, I began feeling a little panicky.  I guess no one can actually be ready for something like this, and yet they have had hundreds and hundreds of patients with successful surgeries.  Overwhelming, though, to say the least.

Last I decided to post some pictures of the process.  I guess I desire for you to understand what it is that I'm going through - NOT because I want pity.  I don't.  But I want people to understand, to be knowledgeable, to know that no, I didn't have plastic surgery, and to recognize why and what all I will be facing in the process.

Also, I don't mind questions and talking about it (once I can efficiently talk again!  Ha!) and explaining things.

(And if you didn't know before now, a very, very brief explanation is that I'm having surgery on my jaw to fix my torn and mangled TMJ joints and degenerated bone to prevent my jaw from just breaking in a matter of years)

So, the reveal (which, by the way, is slightly difficult for me to post and look at!).  Here are my official 'before' pictures.  *** You can see how the splint (which I had on my teeth at the beginning of this treatment), while putting my jaw in a healthier position, made my face, mouth and nose a little lopsided (which I knew would happen when we started).  ***

Imagine my jaw and mouth being moved forward (and slightly up) 17 mm.  Pretty crazy, but a reality in two days! 

The board is hard to read, but it says 3 days before surgery.
I took the pictures the way I did (with my face completely relaxed) because I want to be able to show the full results to all of my face (including how much is may - or may not?- affect my nose. and lopsided-ness of my face)

Anyway, here goes nothin'!  Surgery is on Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m. Pacific Time.  I appreciate and welcome any prayers - for me and my family, especially my kids.  It's so, so hard to be away from them. 

It makes my heart so heavy to know that I'm not there to tuck them in and hug them each day.  The worst is knowing that when I return, in 15 days, that I may not be recognizable to them and the thought of them turning away from me just makes me ache.  Please, please pray for them, too.  Emerson, my sweet girl, seems to be having the hardest time.  Talking to her on Skype and seeing her cry is one of the worst things for me to see.  So, please remember them in your prayers as well.  This will be a long hard adjustment for us all.

Monday, September 19, 2011

An apology

I need to apologize.  I'm sorry for the rant last night.  It was written out of anxiety and partly some anger, which is never a good place in which to write from, especially not writing through something I should think more carefully through, something that does not represent the entirety of this journey of mine, thus far.  It was a moment in time, and thankfully my 'tantrum' has passed.

I've said in the past, and it is still true, that God has brought us through TREMENDOUS obstacles to get this far, so while it seems like I expressed doubt, I have genuinely never thought He wouldn't bring me through.  I know and trust He will.  I let my anxiety take hold last night and again, it's not a good place to express the best of my thoughts and feelings.

Second, I have had SO many people love and bless me through service over the past several years and I am deeply sorry if it seemed that I have not been so thankful, humbled, and blessed by those acts.  The funny thing is that I feel that one of my 'love languages' is acts of service and when others need help, my heart desires to help.  Matter of fact, if my help is refused, it's hard for me not to be unnecessarily sensitive about that.  
Unfortunately my heart is also prideful and I let my pride speak before I thought through what I was saying.  

For those of you who have helped me in the past (and there are many), I love you and I am SO thankful you allowed God to use you to minister to my heart and serve me.  That's one of his greatest commandments - to love and serve your neighbor as yourself, to pour yourselves out to help and serve others - and He will richly bless you.  I truly believe that and I'm sorry I did not show or express that in my previous post.  It was a lie and an ugly part of me that I let speak instead of Truth.

Thanks for loving me through this journey friends and fellow bloggers and readers.  This venue has allowed ME to be richly blessed and encouraged and I am so thankful that I do have an amazing support system, tremendous people who love me, my husband, and children enough to recognize that while it is so hard for me to ask for help, they offer and intervene anyway.  They love me enough to speak truth and love to me.  Enough to try and understand the giant I'm facing and bear this burden with me.  

So again, I'm sorry.  Thanks for loving and encouraging me through the thick and thin.  I so appreciate it.  I can't promise I may not have another tantrum after next week ;), but I'll try my best to be thankful for what I DO have and how God will use this trial in my life for something Good, for His purposes, and so somehow I can serve others through this as well.  

Thanks for sticking with me.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pre-surgery rambling and venting

Warning - this post is probably a little emotional (probably not probably, it is emotional) and raw.

  Tonight I found a blog written by another person who had very similar surgery by the same surgeons as I will have.  It's been so interesting!  She did a great job of writing day by day with pictures to document her progress, frustrations, and celebrations as time passed.
  I'm only 3 weeks into her journey post-op, however, and I'm feeling more and more discouraged.  I had to stop reading.  Her posts, while actually very upbeat and encouraging, are showing me what I'm really up against.  She is three weeks out and between muscle relaxers, pain medication, and her body just needing to rest between the lack of calorie intake and plane tiredness from major surgery, she is still extremely exhausted every day.  She sleeps A LOT.  I just don't know how I'm going to do it when I get home.  She is exhausted and rests all day.  She's young (24 years at the time, I believe) and had no complications and it's really hard for her to get up and even make herself her blended meals.
 My reality is that when I get home from California, I'll only have Jon home for four more days before he has to go back to work and I"m on my own with my two year old and five year old at home, drop-off's, pick up's, making lunches, and just trying to keep up.  I'm SO overwhelmed at this thought.  I began crying about it (I know, I can be pretty emotional about all of this!) and I think it frustrated Jon that I was stressing so much about something that hasn't even happened yet.  I just don't know how I'm going to do it, though.

I guess this is the part where I should just trust in God, day by day, to give me the strength to do exactly what I need.  And so I'll try.  I'll make my moment by moment choice to trust.  It's just hard, it's overwhelming, and I, unfortunately, can be a worrier by nature anyway.
My kids will need me and I'm worried I won't be able to do it.

Another thing - It is SO hard for me to take help from friends and family, especially when they have families of their own, because first, I just feel guilty that I can't take care of the family that needs me, and second, I'm constantly thinking about how the people helping would probably much rather be taking care of their own family and not mine - that they'll be resentful that they had to.  I don't want to ask for help, I don't want to make people uncomfortable and pressured into helping, but I don't know if I can avoid it and I HATE that.  I want to be in control and independent and not need anyone else.  It's very much an inner struggle for me.  And perhaps I won't, and honestly, I hope it's that way.  
Jeeze, do I sound negative, or what?  I guess I just needed to be real.

I'm nervous, I'm scared, it's going to be hard and painful and the swelling, I've heard that's the worst.  Right now I just feel mad.  I don't want to do this.  I want to just say, you know what, I'll just deal with the headaches and pain and popping and locking.  I don't care! I just want to quit!  This is too hard - and I've not even made it to surgery yet!  I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about walking into the surgeon's office again.  I don't even want to look at them again.  I don't.

It's not like me to want to throw a tantrum (except maybe only to myself or even Jon sometimes - ha!).  But I'm feeling it now - at 30 years old.  I think this is the most raw and real I've been feeling about it. I feel like I've been poured too full, and now it's spilling out.

Tomorrow will probably be better and hopefully I'll be through with all the negativity.  Please, please pray for me to have the right attitude, that somehow I make it through the days when I get home (that my kids won't starve, accidentally hurt themselves while I'm passed out in a muscle-relaxant coma, and make it to school each day), and to have hope and somehow even joy through the process (which, honestly, seems absolutely impossible right now).  Right now, I just don't know if I can make it!

Seriously, can I back out now?

How's that for some venting, huh?


Monday, September 12, 2011

Magic Moments

This week I decided to take my daughter's pictures.  I've begun taking my children's pictures, special pictures, for their birthdays.  I like to have one set of special photos to look back on, to remember just as they looked and hopefully show a little of their personality they've grown into during the past year.  I'm a little early this year - her 7th birthday isn't until mid October - because Jon and I will be gone the few weeks leading up to her birthday, so I decided to get them done now.

She and I found the dress she wanted to wear, slightly curled and put up her hair and after some sweet eye batting and begging from her, I agreed to let her put on just a touch of makeup.  We waited until almost sundown and drove to a field next to a beautiful church in town.  We trekked out into the middle of this field and began our little photo shoot.  At first I told Emerson to sit this way and pose that way, but she quickly became distracted by the abundance of wildflowers around.  Trying to keep her focused on the task at hand - I didn't have much more time with visible sunlight left - I kept trying to redirect her so I could get some more shots.  She obeyed, but then would find another, "just perfect" flower.  And as she would wander this way and that, finding her perfect flowers, admiring them, smelling them and dancing her own sweet dance in her own little world, oblivious to my camera, I caught some magic moments with my sweet girl.
(It reminded me that I could still breathe this girl in.  I remember when she was a wee little baby and I loved to breathe her in.  I had a small moment of fleeting pain because my sweet baby girl is still growing, wishing I could just preserve her and keep her, but it passed quickly as I thought of all I have to look forward to with her...sigh!)

Her personality is soft and sweet and tender (with a little spunk and silly in there, too) and I feel I was blessed to be able to capture just a little bit of that a few nights ago.  I'm so thankful for this girl and for the chance God gave me to capture her sweet spirit on camera.

Here are some of our magic moments:
The church near where we took the pictures.

Teaching Grace

We had our first real test of what it means to give grace freely, at least at a 6 year old level.
Emerson had her first "bullying" experience last week.  I won't go into all of the details, but suffice it to say Emerson was pushed and another girl hurt by one of her classmates.  Thankfully no one was really hurt (no trips to the nurse).  Ugly words were also thrown.  I'm so thankful for her teacher who handled the entire situation very gracefully and peacefully without singling any of the students' involved out.

When Emerson got home from school that day I got her version of the story (after receiving an email from her teacher earlier in the day explaining generally what had occurred that day) and while it seems (and teacher confirmed) that Emerson was purely on the receiving end,  it beckoned a conversation about how to handle the situation - both while at school and in her heart (even though the mama bear instinct in me wanted to march in the shool and approach the girl and her parents! I resisted. Ha!).

The words Jon and I shared with her I prayed were full of His wisdom, because we certainly couldn't get the right point across on our own (and I still don't know if we really got it right)!  A conversation of this nature is hard, at least it seemed, when it comes to when and how Emerson should protect her heart versus the nature of grace.

It was not ok for this classmate to hurt her or her friend in the way she did.  If it happens again, I explained, she needs to make sure an adult knows what happened and try to get herself out of the situation right away.

It turns out many of her classmates involved turned on this little girl.  They decided they weren't her friend and they wouldn't include her in their play at school.

And that piece of information lead to the conversation of grace - what it means and why we give it.  I asked Emerson to think about why this classmate could have been angry, why she responded the way she did, and where she may be coming from while trying not to condone what she did.  I reasoned that while maybe it didn't feel like the girl didn't deserve to keep her friendship, that the first thing we should do is pray for her, and then Emerson needed to choose to show kindness to her and even invite her to play again when the time arose during her school day.

It didn't seem fair, Emerson said.  Why would she play with her if she wasn't going to be nice.
This verse was found:

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."  -- Luke 6:35-36

Grace is a heavy thing - it's hard to do and it's hard to understand - especially at 6 years old.  It gets even harder, though, doesn't it?  The older we get the more pride we can accumulate.  I genuinely pray that Jon and I can demonstrate and show grace - to our kids, to each other.  

As parents, do you have a way to demonstrate this?  Would you have handled this differently?  If so, how?  I'd really love to discuss this more - to sharpen and encourage each other.  What would you have done?


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