October 23rd marks the three month anniversary after my surgery to remove a parotid gland tumor I had on the left side of my face, just below my ear. It actually seems like it's been longer than three months, but I'm happy to say things finally seem back to normal.
I wasn't always so optimistic that it would end up that way. My surgery was complicated and left me with significant weakness on one side of my face. While my tumor was benign, it still did a number on my facial nerve- leaving me looking like I had a stroke with a drooping eye and mouth. It was hard to eat because my face was numb and it hurt to move my mouth. My left eye watered almost constantly, making me look I was crying because someone said good morning.
My brain was foggy for almost a month because of the anesthesia and I was very unhappy about how I looked. I hated not being able to smile the way I used to. It was hard to look at myself in the mirror or even fathom being in a picture.
But I've said it before, and I'll say it again- I'm one of the lucky ones. Just in time for my sister's wedding my eye and mouth began to fully cooperate. I could wear my contacts again and my smile...well...looked like me again. A little bit of my face is still numb and I have a scar right behind my ear, but I don't even notice it anymore. I only needed tissues for tears of happiness at the wedding and not for conversations about the weather.
I'm a big believer in gratitude, and even though there have been some of the more difficult and stressful times I can remember since my surgery, I am so thankful for the family and friends that pitched in to help me along the way. To the loved ones who stayed with me or visited during the first few days after surgery; friends from all over who sent cards, flowers, and well wishes; co-workers who put up with my lethargy and general grumpiness when I came back to work; and to the strangers who reached out because they read about my story here and shared a similar experience.
Thanks for helping me know I wasn't alone. And telling me I looked 'just fine' when I know I didn't. And for not saying anything when tears were streaming down my face for no reason. And for some good Nic Cage/Face Off and Kindergarten Cop jokes. You guys rule.
I would also be remiss if I didn't give a big shout-out to Dr. Steven Charous, the most excellent ENT surgeon I know, and thankfully the only ENT surgeon I know. He's a straight-shooter who didn't seemed phased at my near-Pavlovian response of tearing up the minute he walked into the room. Thanks for cutting into my face so well, Dr. Charous. See you at my follow up in a year.
And please...get those lumps and bumps checked out!
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