Voyage Around My Face

One of the many attractions of canal boat life is waking up each morning with things a little different from previous days.  I haven’t needed to be on a canal boat this week for that to happen!  My main focus has been on my operation and recovery from it.  We have been very appreciative of the good wishes and enquiries after my health.

I’m known for being squeamish – as soon as people start talking about painful experiences I squirm and ask them to “tell me less”.  I want to describe some of my week in a way that would not make me squirm.  Amazingly I haven’t really had much pain, and nothing that has required anything stronger than ibuprofen and paracetamol.

The short version of what happened during my operation is that the lump was removed, along with right side lymph nodes, parotid gland and parts of my Sternocleidomastoid muscle.  I have plenty of other salivary glands, but a slight pain in the neck.   To replace the skin where the lump had been, I have had what I describe as a sideways face-lift.  The skin on the right side of my face has been pulled behind my right ear, which is probably causing most of my discomfort now.

A side effect of an operation is a lot of localised swelling.  So although I will probably end up with a thinner looking face on the right, for now that side of my face looks like it belongs to someone much heavier than me.  The changes in the amount of swelling have given me the interesting start to some days this week.

Immediately after the operation, I was quite dehydrated and had low blood pressure.  I drank a huge amount of cold water over the next days.  The nurse advised me to sleep with my head high up to reduce swelling.  I woke with various parts of my face, head and shoulders numb.  I knew I would lose feeling in some places, but this was more than I expected.  I now think this is mostly temporary numbness caused by the swelling.

The second night, I probably should have had my head much higher.  I awoke very early feeling as if someone had inflated a football in my right cheek.  This subsided gradually as I started to move around in the morning.  One of the staff later gave me an advance driving lesson on the bed to show me how to tilt the whole thing so I could have a flat bed that wasn’t level – with my head high.  I planned to use the technique that night, but I was discharged in the afternoon.  I’ve built a low tech ramp of pillows at home instead.

On my first morning at home, the swelling had reduced, but it now felt like someone had wrapped an elastic band around my ear and tied it to my chin.  This is the face-lift in action.  I also found that it was sore to chew.  Something had gone awry with my jaw, which took the pleasure out of eating anything more solid than soup.

This morning, I woke to find that my jaw seemed to have settled down again, and the swelling had reduced further.  The inside of my mouth has been a different shape every day, so I have had very slushy speech for the first hour or so.  I decided it was safe to have a shower and wash my hair.  So now I feel (just) presentable enough to offer another photograph.  

Shane Taking a Shelfy

I’m assuming the swelling will continue to reduce and that will make everything feel a lot more comfortable.  I have a set of physiotherapy exercises to do which are intended to get my neck more flexible again.  They will become easier to do as the swelling reduces too.