It’s been just over 3 months since my life-changing journey. Despite my rapid healing process – a recovery I would not have achieved without the undying support of my close circle of friends and family, I’d be lying if there weren’t a few hiccups along the way.
One of the most difficult challenges I faced a few weeks after my surgery: relearning how to chew. An ingrained, simple and day-to-day function we seemingly take for granted, attempting to chew my first few pieces of penne pasta was nothing short of hilariously challenging; a strange, bizarre experience to say the least. I often felt like a small child stuck in a continuous cycle of trying and failing. After being bound to a soft foods only diet for as long as 2 months post-surgery, prior to an already arduous all-liquid diet for my first 3 weeks, I became more and more anxious to properly chew anything beyond a bowl of rice or soft cooked vegetables. However, this sense of overprotectiveness over my own healing body, which developed into a subconscious fear and resilience to push myself back to normal eating habits, soon resulted in yet another, unexpected hurdle. Once I started noticing a stiffness within my jaw muscles, I first thought it might have developed from the pressure of the rubber bands I wear each night to help stabilize my bite. However, as the stiffness increased, I was left with nothing other than to see my surgeon for an emergency appointment. Subsequently, my surgeon instantly diagnosed me with TMD. Also known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction, this resulting diagnosis became a consequence more painful than the surgery itself. A condition that is classified by the malfunction, and consecutive pain, of the jaw muscles, my stiffness became so severe that it particularly affected the lower right side of my face to an incredibly uncomfortable degree. Needless to say, I was pretty intimidated by, and frankly quite scared, of the severity of this underlying issue. However, I was luckily comforted by the fact that TMD is not only a common issue amongst a plethora of adults, but that this issue could be treated by a specialized physiotherapist who will use weekly, individual jaw exercises.
Upon meeting my physiotherapist, I quickly grew to love her hopeful nature and persona, as she oozed positivity and confidence as she explained her techniques with tactile precision. Despite her kindness, however, these very exercises turned out to be the most physically painful experience I’ve ever had to endure, point-blank. From twitching and turning my jaw, to pressing and pulling my facial muscles with utmost force, every exercise left me with tears streaming down my face. Regardless, I knew I had to pull through and go into each session knowing that every week it’ll get better. And eventually, it did. Two months after my surgery, I was not only free to resume a normal eating habit, but my stiffness and jaw muscle pain has become nothing more than a distant memory. While I still see my physiotherapist on a weekly basis prior to heading back to Queen Mary, I’m hopeful that I have overcome the worst challenges of my orthognathic recovery. Not only am I looking forward to a painless life of normality and confidence, but I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who has joined and supported me throughout my my journey.