Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Four Weeks Post Op!

Four weeks post op!! I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that breathing difficulties are now behind me, as are syringes. Thank God! Those first 10 days were the toughest. Here's my profile as of today (left), and my face from the full front view (below right).

I've been eating a much more "normal" diet, consisting of cream of wheat, lots of fish, cottage cheese, and mixed-berry milkshakes. Oh, AND dark chocolate. It melts on your tongue. How convenient is that? My weight fluctuates between 135 and 137 lbs. I just hope I don't ballon up after I can chew again.

As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow I'm going in for another follow-up appointment with Dr. Li, my 3rd since the surgery. I also have my 2nd MLD appointment in the afternoon. It felt good the first time. So good, in fact, that I actually dozed off for a few minutes.

Dr. Kasey Li

Brandy left two comments today, first asking if my surgeon's name is Dr. Kasey Li, then telling me how famous of a surgeon he is. He does hundreds of jaw surgeries annually, and is apparently considered one of the best oral maxiofacial surgeons in the "world". Whoa. My friend Isabelle had recommended him (she was one of his patients, too), so I knew he was good, but I didn't appreciate how well-known he is.

My experience with Dr. Li has been a great one. He is thorough, patient, and approachable. His office staff are equally efficient and impressive. I have no reservations in recommending him. He has his own practice in Palo Alto, California, and performs his surgeries at Stanford Hospital. You can get more information by visiting his website at

He has been collaborating with Dr. Stacey Quo, my orthodontist, for years. I'm not nearly as impressed with her staff (little disconnects here and there), but they do an adequate job.

All Sorts of Sensations

This photo was dated three days ago, when I went to a shooting range in Texas with a couple friends. I was running around rubberband-free. Then someone left a comment about how his/her surgeon said rubberbands help train your jaw muscles to get used to their new positions. So I've put them back on since, one on each side. Plus, my OS, Dr. Li, never told me to go completely rubberband-free. I just thought that I didn't need them, and that my jaws felt strong enough (yes, I cut corners sometimes).

My lower lip on the right side, and my right chin, have been numb ever since the surgery. If I pressed them, I'd get the same feeling as if my leg had fallen asleep and I got up and tried to walk around somehow. Tingling, numb, and uncomfortable. Last night, they started doing that all on their own, no pressing required. Even now, as I type this, I could feel my right chin tingling. Not exactly pins and needles, but close. Is this because the nerve ends are attempting to reconnect? Also, my jaws - the bones and muscles - get sore, not terribly so, just enough to tire easily.

My next appointment with Dr. Li is tomorrow. I go back to work a week from today. Tick tock. Oh my, that means today is four weeks post op. Whoa.

I'm very fortunate to be able to take this much time off. Now I'll go enjoy what's left of it. Curl up on the couch with my cashmere blanket, read a good book, and have some fish, and soup. Life is good.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


This posting has nothing to do with teeth, jaws, or orthognathic surgeries. Nope.

Has anyone ever visited Norway?

It's 2:30 in the morning, I can't sleep, and I'm dreaming about the next vacation destinations. Last year I visited Frankfurt, Berlin, Rome, Venice, Paris (again), Hawaii, and Sydney. This year I'm going stir-crazy.

If you've ever been to Norway or Sweden, please kindly give me some pointers. What are the truly memorable spots to visit? What's their food like? Do's and don'ts? Thank you.

On that note, what's the best place you've ever visited?

We can't just all sit at home obsessing about jaw surgeries (not that we HAVE been). OK, maybe *I* have been. But, it's time to change that.

Li, if you're reading this - maybe I should hop over to Stockholm on the same trip. And yeah, I know YOU've got lots of tips on Scandinavia. ;)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Flex Spending Frustrations

Faxed my flexible spending claim form, along with the receipt from my surgeon's office, to Allegiance last Thursday. I'd written an insanely big check for the surgery (my OS is out of network, so even though Aetna pays a large %, I still have to pick up the rest). Naturally, I want to get some money back from flex spending ASAP.

Just logged into my account to see that even though they did receive the claim, they didn't seem to understand the fact that I'd already paid. They only recognized the charge, but not my payment. H-e-l-l-o? What is the receipt for then? Doesn't it state clearly on there that the doctor's already received my payment, hence, the receipt? I'm seriously annoyed. Tomorrow, Doug will help me resend the fax, this time WITH a copy of my check, front and back. Unbelievable how incompetent some people can be. It's really no fun dealing with all this, on top of everything else!

Before & After Photos

During my limited online research prior to the surgery, I couldn't get enough of the before and after photos. But sometimes you have to scroll down the pages and look for them. To make it easier for the folks reading this blog, I've added a "before & after photos" section in the left column, right below the counter, that links to my best before and after photos. Hopefully that helps.

Response to the Anonymous Comment

Hey anonymous reader who left a comment - here are my responses to your questions:

1) How long did your surgery last and did you have to stay over-night?
My upper and lower jaw surgery took exactly four hours. I spent three nights at the hospital. Initially my OS estimated a two-night stay, but he agreed I should stay an extra night because of my breathing difficulties. Don't worry - not everyone experiences those.

2) How long after were you able to talk after having the surgery?
Hmm. Let me think. Maybe 10 days. Through clenched teeth and the splint and four rubber bands. Once my OS allowed me to remove the splint during the day (after two weeks), it became much easier.

3) Do you have any regrets?
Good question. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. Well, on a second thought, I proceeded with the whole thing (braces, consultation, et cetera) as soon as I learned about this type of surgery. So I *wish* I'd learned about it sooner, but really, since I acted as soon as I found out, I have no regrets. It's something I can benefit from for the rest of my life. I'm glad I did it. There IS no downside, as far as I can see.

The way I stumbled across jaw surgery was through an ex-colleague/friend, Isabelle. One day we were out shopping at Whole Foods, and very casually she just said, very bluntly, word for word - "Kristen, show me your bite. Do you have a bite problem?" I was floored, and refused to. My bite problem was such an embarrassment to me! She then told me that she had had jaw surgery five years ago herself, to fix an open bite (she couldn't even cut sandwiches or eat noodles). She told me all about her experience - the braces, the surgery, the cost - as we strolled through Whole Foods picking up groceries. Boy, was I shocked! It felt as though a door had suddenly opened for me. The next day, I called her surgeon and orthodontist.... and the rest is history in the making. I'm so grateful that she told me about the whole procedure. It is truly life-changing.

4) How many weeks of work/school did you take off after having the surgery?
Five. It's been almost four, I've got one more week to go. Clarification: Kim makes a good point (see her comment on this post). Five weeks is NOT required. I've "known" people who went back to work after 10 days, two weeks, three weeks, whatever. The length of time off really depends on your speed of recovery, your company/school policy, benefit coverage, et cetera. I took five weeks because I had no idea what to expect, so I wanted to play it safe and not push myself too hard too soon. I'd concur with Kim that at two weeks post op I tired very easily. A couple hours out of bed, and I'd need a nap right away. But after three weeks, my energy level came back almost 70, 80 percent. Again, how much time you should take off really varies from case to case, due to a number of factors.

Less Is More

As in, less swelling is more desirable. Now that it's been 26 days since the surgery, I'm starting to wonder: am I permanently stuck with this slightly puffy, round face, or will it continue to deflate? I don't know quite what to expect, or get used to. There's still persistent tightness/tension/pressure around my jaws, cheeks, and neck. I go to sleep with it, wake up with it, feeling it every waking moment. How long will it take for that to go away completely? Will it ever?

On the other hand, I'm really glad that this is taking up less and less mindshare. The surgery and subsequent recovery are no longer the number one focus in my life. No more syringes - which makes it so much less intrusive and disruptive. Aside from the two rubber bands I've decided to put back on during the day - to help train the jaw muscles to get used to their new positions - I feel almost normal again (the braces are a constant, of course). It's amazing how quickly and relatively easily we adapt.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I couldn't help but wonder....

Why some people remain rubber-banded 24/7 for 6 to 8 weeks (according to message boards), while I only had to do that for about three weeks? And why some people have to wear the splint 24/7 for weeks, while I only had to do that for two weeks, after which I'm now only required to wear the splint at night?

Is my surgeon being too liberal? Is there such a thing as a liberal surgeon?

On the other hand, I feel perfectly fine. My jaws tire easily, sure, but that's to be expected after the surgery. I can't wait to ask my OS at my next appointment on March 1st.

Cookie-Cutter Houses and Rookie "Rednecks"

Another observation of mine is that all (new) houses in Houston look the same. Appealing red-brick exterior, high ceiling, beige wall-to-wall carpet, and a sizable backyard. Attractive package.... albeit a little too cookie-cutter for my taste. Here I was in front of my friend Peng's house, which he purchased last year, after leaving his engineering director position on the east coast to accept a professorship overseas.

Had a memory refresher on Texas and its love for guns this afternoon. It turned out one of our friends, Peng's neighbor, owns a shotgun. Before I knew it, the three of us were on our way to the closest shooting range, only a 5-minute drive away. I didn't want to deal with the kick on my shoulder, so I killed the time watching the boys. They killed nothing, thankfully - but they did manage to hit at least 70%. Not bad!

Clocked in another rubberband-free, splint-free day. My jaws can open wider and wider now without pain, which makes inserting chocolates easier and easier. Very nice progress. :)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hmm....Something Is Different

I'm in Houston (my hometown) this weekend visiting some friends from college. Since my estranged parents refused to see me (long story, sigh), I'm staying with Jessica, a good friend from my school days. Thanks Jess! :) Here in this photo, we were at our favorite French bistro in town, La Madeleine. Jess kew about my jaw surgery, but did not make a big deal out of it. Somehow I think Texans pay less attention to appearances than Californians. Neither good nor bad - just an observation. Jess mostly noticed my weight loss (15 to 17 lbs), and joked that maybe she should consider jaw surgery, too. :P

Group dinner with old church friends tonight felt odd - most people showed up with at least one baby, even the only couple who didn't have kids in tow were pregnant. I was floored. San Francisco and New York RULE - for singles like me. ;)

Most of the folks at dinner hadn't seen me in five to seven years, so naturally they commented that I'd changed quite a bit. So did they. Only one girl said "SOMETHING is different about you, but I can't quite figure out what". Since I was never that close to her, I just smiled politely and didn't offer any details. Her husband, who was a closer friend, commented that my eyes look different. .... Sure, if you say so. :)

Fortunately, no one seemed to notice that my face was still slightly swollen. And no one noticed that I was eating weird - attacking only soft, mushy foods, and didn't touch any meat at all. It was such a big group thing I didn't want to tell everyone that I'm on a soft diet and have them act ginger around me (trust me, it happens....). Luckily, that worked great. Don't ask, don't tell. ;)

Friday, February 23, 2007


Yesterday I ran around rubberband free. Ditto for today. It feels liberating.
Sent Wirelessly from My CrackBerry.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another Before & After at Three Weeks

The photo above shows my natural profile pre-braces and pre-surgery.

This photo above shows my profile three days after the surgery, on the day I checked out of the hospital.

The last two photos are of my profile today, three weeks after the surgery. I think it looks slightly different from the day I checked out of the hospital. The nose doesn't seem as perky; and the lower lip seems to have advanced a little - or rather, the upper lip isn't as swollen so the overjet seems smaller. Does that make any sense? But overall, no more concave face. :)


My first MLD (Manual Lymph Drainage) massage session this afternoon went well. I learned about MLD from the Yahoo Support Group message board. It's basically a light face/neck massage to help your lymph system to more effectively transport fluids where they belong, and therefore help reduce swelling and speed up the healing process.

My OS says he doesn't typically recommend physical therapy to his patients until at least eight weeks post op (he had never heard of MLD), but he gave me the greenlight with the condition that I, well, keep it light.

And light it was. My therapist applied gentle pressure to my lower face and neck with her fingertips, moving the fluids in my swollen chin where they belong. It felt so soothing I actually dozed off. Immediately after the one-hour session, I could already feel the tension in my face and neck lessen, and could turn my head sideways with a bigger range of motion and less pain. Even now, my face and neck don't feel as tense as before.

Let me share with you an exercise she taught me. Lie flat on your back with a pillow under your head. Take a DEEP breath with your nose. Expand your rib cage to the max and fill up your lungs. Stop. Exhale through your mouth. Expell every last breath you've got. Repeat a few times every hour. This is supposed to help your lymph system do a more effective job transporting those fluids, therefore reduce swelling and speed up the healing process.

She's not cheap ($112 an hour if no insurance). I'll have to find out tomorrow how much Aetna will cover. But, it felt so good, I've already made another appointment for next week.

Good stuff!

Cream of wheat with milk. Cottage cheese in individual packages. Easy to eat, no chewing required, tasty, and great sources of calcium and iron.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Three-Week Mark!

Three weeks ago, I was still in the operating room at this very moment.

Fast-forward 21 days, I'm here, in my warm and cozy house, cleaning out the closet, perfectly happy, and almost perfectly healthy. NO breathing problems. NO splint during the day. No more syringes. Plenty of soft fish fillet to gum through. I can even open my jaws wide enough now to slip in a small square of chocolate (see traces of it on my lower lip) - and when it melts on my tongue, it's pure heaven.

The swelling has persisted in my cheeks, and you can still see hints of green bruises, but it's not freakish anymore. I have an appointment with an MLD therapist tomorrow. Hopefully she can wave her magic wand and make my cheeks and neck feel better. And if she's good, I'll post her contact information here as a referral.

To all of you out there - thank you for reading my blog and sharing this unusual experience, and thank you for your encourgements. You made my recovery a lot easier. Many of you are going through the same thing: take good care of yourselves, keep breathing, think positive thoughts, and know all this is temporary. This, too, shall pass!
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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Stranger in the Mirror

Went on a hike and had lunch (soft Korean tofu pot) with my ex colleague Cindy. When I climbed out of the car to meet her, she said that my face has definitely changed from below the eyes. Yeah, tell me about it. I'm still getting used to the stranger in the mirror. Sometimes I shield the lower half of my face just so I can still recognize myself, and see the old and familiar me. It's an odd feeling.

When I went to see my Japanese hairdresser last week to get my bangs cut, he returned blank stares when I walked in and waved at him, as if he didn't know me. When I finally sat down in the chair, he said, looking unsure and puzzled - "Kristen, you look strange." LOL. "You mean I look DIFFERENT. Yeah, I had jaw surgery and my face is still swollen." "Oh!" He looked more comfortable now that he understood why I seemed "strange". After the haircut, as I tried to tip him, he kindly pushed back and said - "No, no. Take care of yourself!". That was nice of him. :)

On a separate note, Dr. Li (my OS) called to say he didn't usually recommend physical therapy (meaning MLD) to his patients until after eight weeks - but since I asked, he'd be happy to fax over a prescription. He suggested doing some jaw-opening exercises. I think I might still go see the MLD therapist on Thursday, just to check it out and see if it might make a difference.

Monday, February 19, 2007


The removable shower head slipped out and hit me in the left jaw this morning. Ouch! OK, I have to say there wasn't much impact since it was plastic. But still. I jumped out of the shower immediately to check and make sure it didn't shift my jaws. So far, it looks fine, and there's no pain. Scary! Also, when I drive I worry about getting hit in a car accident and causing undesirable jaw movement. Argh! Maybe I should pad my jaws with marshmellows to help absorb any potential impact. Crazy thought, huh? The things that go through my head!


Came across this at the mall yesterday. I couldn't resist! :P Notice how even though I'm showing some gum here, it's not nearly as gummy as before.

What to Venture into

Can you tell that I've got food on my brain? Blended anything, even milkshakes, quickly become boring. Through relentless experiments, I've discovered a few things that may help add variety AND nutrition to your diet during recovery.
  • Cottage cheese. Really high in protein!
  • Savory egg custard. See my recipe here. Add less chicken broth if you want it to be a little more dense. It'll still be soft and never requires chewing.
  • Mashed potatoes. Add sour cream, extra butter, and/or guacamole to make it even fluffier.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A real meal!

Well, kinda. I felt ambitious enough to attack an omelette. Didn't happen. My back teeth don't even touch yet, so chewing is impossible. On the bright side, mashed potatoes with sour cream and guacamole were a real treat. Fluffy, velvety, simply amazing. :) I removed the rubber bands mid-meal (and put them back on after) as they were causing extra stress on my jaws. Without them, I can open wide enough now to accommodate a fork without hurting. Hooray!

Not sure if you can see in the photo, but the monkey on my t-shirt wears braces, too. ;)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Recipe: Egg Custard

If you're as sick of milkshakes as I am, you might want to try this savory egg custard recipe:
  1. Scramble two to three eggs in a bowl.
  2. Mix in one can of chicken broth. Real homemade chicken broth works even better.
  3. Steam the whole mixture in the bowl for 10 to 15 minutes, until it becomes custard-like.

This is rich in protein, and super nutritious. Enjoy!

Postoperative Instructions

Wow, these post op instructions are really helpful. They cover swelling, jaw joint pains, jaw opening, and recipes, etc. Very nice! Wish I'd come across them earlier. Specifically:

During the ten day to four week period after surgery, stand in front of the mirror and open and close your jaw 3-4 times a day when your elastics are off. A good time to do this is after you have eaten and cleaned your mouth. At this point you should be able to get one finger in between your teeth. By four weeks after surgery you should be able to get two fingers in between your teeth.


Your jaw is weakest ten days following your surgery. Simply move your jaw forward and backward, and side to side, and open and close, while attempting to stretch your jaw muscles. Moist heat placed on the side of your face before and during these exercises may make them more comfortable and effective.

During the fourth to eight weeks after surgery, you should be able to get two fingers between your front teeth very comfort­ably. Near the eighth week, you should be able to approach placing three fingers between the front teeth. At the sixth week you can begin using GENTLE finger pressure between the front teeth on each side to help gently stretch your jaw muscles, increasing your opening.

In the past, and occasionally at the present time, teeth are wired together after jaw surgery. This allows the bones to heal while they are being held still. In the majority of cases today, we use small bone plates and screws to hold the bones still to assist in healing. Support is also given by the splint and elastic traction. This allows the jaw to move and function during the healing period of 8-12 weeks. It must be remembered, however, that the bones are not completely healed and are being stabilized only by the screws and plates. Therefore, we encourage a gradual progression of movement and use of the jaws, keeping in mind that adequate healing does not take place until approximately 8-12 weeks. REMEMBER: Your jaws are weakest at 10 days.

Food during this period does not need to be liquid. It can consist of soft foods that require minimal chewing. This can consist of mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, soft pasta that is cut into small pieces, soft rice dishes, or soft sandwiches that are cut into small pieces. One can also eat the foods that were eaten during the initial period. Light chewing can start during this period of time.

At this point, chewing can be attempted. The food must be initially soft, progressing into softer meats such as hamburger and soft chicken. The portions should be small so as not to place too much force on the healing bones. Soft fish dishes are also excellent. You will find that your jaw will tire easily. This will continue for the first 2-3 months until your jaw muscles have accommodated for your new jaw position. Avoid eating food which requires chewing for prolonged periods of time.

REMEMBER: IT TAKES 6 TO 8 WEEKS FOR INITIAL HEALING OF YOUR JAW OR JAWS AND 3 TO 4 MONTHS FOR A FULL BODY HEALING. If the jaw is hit or bumped early after your surgery, this may cause some shifting in the jaw and bite, SO BE CAREFUL!

This is also an excellent site for information:

You should expect some soreness in lengthy conversations; however, the more you talk, the more you exercise your weakened muscles and aid your recovery. You may be sore but try not to depend on writing notes to communicate. Go ahead and say it!

This depends on the complexity of the procedure and type of problem you have. Studies show that people grow very impatient with the braces at 6 months postoperatively and can become depressed if the braces are not off by then. You can insure that your braces come off as soon as they can by keeping appointments and wearing elastics as prescribed.

With the use of elastics and different archwires, we will complete final bite detailing. There is often some space closure and final root positioning left to be done the last few months as well. Cooperation from the patient during this time will play a large part in the completion of treatment.

Farmers' Market

The weather is unbelievably nice today. Went to the farmers' market at the Embarcadero to enjoy some sun. There were so many - SO MANY - fresh fruits and vegetables. Salmon, sausages, eggs, warm pastries.... tempting smell of food permeating through the air. Divine....torture. I couldn't eat anything! So I threw a fit. LOL. Had fresh squeezed celery and beet juice at the juice bar. It smelled worse than it tasted, and it was absolutely disgusting. But I needed the iron. After downing a whole 16-oz of that, I also needed a gelato milkshake to wash away the unpleasantry. Ciao Bella didn't have my favorite flavor today, the Fromage Blanc, so I opted for a Spun Monkey instead, a mixture of ground espresso and chocolate gelato (they ran out of bananas). It tasted heavenly, especially after the beet and celery juice!

My upper and lower teeth don't touch yet, there are quite some gaps in between. My OS and ortho had prepared me for that, and said they'd fix it with further orthodontics work. That's alright. For now I'm just amazed to even have a normal overjet. The first post-op brushing felt so oddly unfamiliar because my teeth are positioned differently now. Weird, but good. My jaws feel tired without the support of the splint. It was a relief to put the splint back in last night before bed. But I suppose I need the exercise to help restore the muscle strength. Assuming Aetna covers part of it, albeit out of network, I have an appointment with an MLD therapist next Thursday to help reduce the swelling. She sounded very nice over the phone. Can't wait! The heaviness in my cheeks, jaws, and neck is taking its toll on me.

Now I need a nap.

My Natural Bite

This was my natural bite in 2004 (here in the streets of Hong Kong, as a giddy tourist). My lower teeth continued advancing throughout the years. What a nightmare!

As you can see here, I had an edge-on-edge bite, with an open bite tendency. There was already a small gap between my upper and lower teeth, which made certain things difficult. For instance, cutting ramen. Before I found the solution (jaw surgeries), I was mortified that one day my lower teeth would've advanced so much that I'd be able to neither eat nor speak properly. Yikes!

Almost The Profile

It's 3 in the morning, and I can't sleep. Just going through old photos and archiving them onto an external storage drive. The photo on the left was taken in January 2004. The photo on th right was taken days after the surgery. These are almost exactly three years apart. I almost never take shots of my profile - every one of them was a rude awakening of the jaw alignment problem, so I avoided them.

I should mention that tonight I had my first post-op cocktail, a vodka martini. Couldn't enjoy the olives.... but it was a brave step towards feeling normal again. :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

MLD Therapy

After reading a message on the Yahoo support group discussion board how MLD (Manual Lymph Drainage) therapy helped relieve tension and tightness for one fellow surgery patient, I looked up MLD therapists in San Francisco. Spoke with one over the phone, she doesn't take any insurance - no go. Left a voicemail for another, and sent an e-mail. It seems like she takes PPO, albeit out-of-network. We'll see what happens! I'm dying to relieve some of the pain/pressure in my face and neck. My OS said it's OK to do MLD (strangely enough, he's never heard of it). In fact, he said as long as I don't stress out my jaws, I can do whatever I want to feel better. :)

Sprint to A Splint-Free Day

It's 6:42 am, I felt groggy until a thought sparkled absolute excitement and just... made my day. Why? Because I came to the sudden realization that this is the first day, per Dr. Li's orders, that I can 1. remove the splint during the day and wear it only at night, and 2. wear two rubber bands, as opposed to four. Yipee!! I wonder if my jaws would feel tired by the end of the day, as I've found the splint oddly comforting. But, I'm willing to give freedom a shot. :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Out and About

This marks the first day where I spent a large portion of the day outside of the house. Had lunch in Berkeley with my younger half-brother, Sam, and his girlfriend, Gina (who's visiting from New York). They had pasta, and I had a yummy peanut butter and chocolate milkshake - which I drank from the cup directly. God it tasted so good! It feels so much better now that I no longer have to use the syringes. My zip 'n squeeze packs still haven't arrived. I wonder how much longer it'll take?

As soon as he saw me, Sam said that my face is still very much swollen. "If I didn't know you, I'd probably think that's just how you look. But I KNOW you. Your face is still puffy. Plus, you've lost so much weight, so it's even more noticeable since it's a bigger head on a smaller frame." I showed him my chipmunk photo to prove that it's a LOT better now. He exclaimed - "Wow, I wouldn't have even guessed that it was YOU!"

By the way, the photo of me in pink WAS over-exposed. Sam thinks I look more swollen than that, and I agree.

The photo on the left was from Thanksgiving last year. See the difference? :)

Sigh. I can't wait to deflate completely. It's a long wait. Some articles online say it could take up to 6 months. Six months!!

But, I suppose as time goes by, this would weigh less and less on my mind. After all, there are plenty of other things to focus on - for instance, simply living a life. Work. Social events. Friends. Museums to check out. Books to read. Cities to visit. Food to savor. Oops. I'm back to square one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The World's Dorkiest Smile

I'm smiling more now because it doesn't hurt my upper gum anymore.

Another day without pain killers, not even Tylenol.

Spent two hours in Berkeley this afternoon. Bought fresh raviolis, salad, and a slice of tres leches cake for Doug, and some rice pudding for me. Got a new pair of jeans at Anthropologie. Woohoo! All the store clerks were super nice to me, and extra friendly. Surprisingly, I never had to repeat myself - they all understood me perfectly even though I was mumbling through rubber bands, a splint, and clenched teeth. The only time anyone really couldn't "guess" what I was saying was when I ordered the tres leches cake. The poor guy had to come out from behind the counter to see exactly what I was pointing at. Tres leches! LOL. The only person that asked what's going on with my face was the cashier at the Italian deli. He said - "Why did they bind your jaws?" "Oh, I had jaw surgery." I said. For a split second there was a hint of horror in his face, which quickly disappeared when I smiled - and he smiled back. Coolio!

Doug and I stayed at home for Valentine's Day dinner. I boiled the raviolis for him, and he made a delicious milkshake for me, with rice pudding, vanilla ice cream, and a banana. I drank it from a bowl (no more syringes!!). Just perfect.

Milestone: Two Weeks Post Op

Two weeks post op falling on Valentine's Day. Just perfect. I'm so happy that the surgery and the hospital stay are over. Breathing remained difficult for at least a week, though I've learned some remedies to nasal congestions first-hand. My face continues to deflate, which is a very good thing, as Valentine's Day provides ample opportunities for photographs, and certainly no one wants to look like a chipmunk in those. :P

Can't believe I'm showing you all the photo on the left, taken the day after my surgery, almost two weeks ago. OK, laugh all you want. :D This was my swelling at its absolute worst. I looked like Miss Chipmunk-Piggy (hyphenated last names are so cool). No make-up (of course!), no jewelry - nothing but a big 'ol pumpkin head/chipmunk face. Everything felt painfully swollen and stretched to the max starting from right below my eyes. Dr. Li laughed when he saw me, as did Doug and Isabelle. Hmmmmmmmm.... I WONDER WHY. Note to self: do NOT run this photo when I campaign for public office. ;)

Today, thankfully, I look somewhat normal again, as seen in the photo on the right, from yesterday. I've definitely come a LONG way. Still noticeable swelling in my face - however, the rest of me has definitely deflated - as in, I've lost 15 lbs since the operation. My clothes fit better now, and they hang loose. Don't worry, my BMI is a healthy 21.1, right where it should be.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wanna Kiss?

Happy Valentine's Day! I've always found this david & goliath mint tin amusing. Go Miss Metal Mouth! ;)

ArchWired has an interesting poll for February: How has wearing braces affected your love life? View the results here, or vote (it's in the upper right corner of the page).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

No Pain, No Gain

The day came and went without much ado. Highlight: NO pain killer taken yet today, not even a single drop. I feel very happy about that. For the past week or so, I've been taking liquid Tylenol at least twice a day - once during, and once before bed. If I don't feel miserable before bedtime tonight, I'd consider that a milestone. I look surprisingly "normal" in the photo to the right, taken 5 minutes ago, even though my cheeks are still very much swollen. The photo's a bit over-exposed so you probably can't tell. Was going to dash out to Safeway to pick up some catfood, so I put on blush to look somewhat presentable and not scare any innocent fellow shoppers. But, I feel exhausted, so the trip will have to wait till tomorrow. It felt odd to put on makeup, however minimal, since I hadn't done that in two weeks. When the brush skimmed over my still swollen cheeks, it tickled a little bit. What an odd feeling!

My roommate just came home and told me we have a whole container of catfood in the pantry, so we didn't run out. Yay!

Oh, now the "no gain" part - I've lost 15 lbs since the surgery on January 31st. It's not as bad as it sounds. Because.... well, I knew I'd lose some weight so I pigged out for two months prior to surgery, and gained 10 lbs. So by now I've given all those back, and then some. :) I'm not wasting away, folks (fat chance!). At 5'7" and 135 lbs, I'm practically the poster child for good health.

Sayonara, Syringes

Woohoo! I just discovered that I CAN, as a matter of fact, drink from a cup, if I'm careful and do it slow, and if the liquid is thin enough. Absolutely wonderful! Sayonara, syringes! I finished a whole mug of diluted cranberry juice in NO time. Funny how a little thing like this can make me so excited. :)

I'll learn how to talk again.

The photo on top shows my natural bite/jaw alignment as of November 2005 (I didn't start braces until February 2006). The photo below shows my bite today. See how the lower jaw has been pushed back to create an optimal overjet? One of the things I've learned from fellow orthognathic surgery patients is that there's a misconception out there thinking this is a cosmetic surgery. It is not. Gosh I hope I won't have to explain to my friends and colleagues that no, I didn't take weeks off to get plastic surgery. But, que sera, sera. *I* know why I did it. Words that start with the letters "d", or "s", or "t" (think "two", "delta", etc.), used to be problematic for me, and I compensated with tongue thrusting. I imagine a speech therapist would be helpful since I'll need to learn how to talk the right way. Recommendations, anyone?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Necessary Evil

Dr. Li said I could brush my teeth now. As soon as I got home from the appointment, I proceeded to remove the four rubber bands binding my jaws together, and carefully opened my mouth just wide enough to remove the splint. Freedom! I had no idea I'd find teeth-brushing so enjoyable. After about a minute though, my lower jaw started feeling, well, suspended, and sore. I actually missed having the splint - having something to bite down to and rest on. What a necessary evil! It almost feels like a pacifier, in a weird way. LOL. I was saddened and relieved when all the rubber bands and the splint reported back to their posts after the brushing. Very limiting, yes, but they also provide the much-needed support right now. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Straws Suck

I bought 200 straws prior to surgery, thinking they'd come in handy during recovery. NOT the case. As a matter of fact, sucking through straws is neither recommended, nor possible (without hurting). Straws suck! Zip 'n Squeezes rock! Thanks for the tip, Brandy! ;) I ordered the hospital pack tonight - hope they arrive soon!

Look at all the references!!

Look at the long list of references on Class III Malocclusion studies. Of course this is way beyond my understanding.... but it's very fascinating. Nice to know they've been studying this for at least decades, dating back to 1957, if not earlier.

Progress Since Last Week

The photo on the left was taken a week ago on Monday, right after my 1st follow-up appointment with Dr. Li. The photo on the right was taken this morning, right before my 2nd appointment, exactly a week later. It's comforting to know that even though it feels as if it's taking FOREVER for the swelling to go down, it IS happening, slowly, but surely. Patience is never a virtue of mine.... but in cases like this, what CAN you do but to wait it out? ....Um, any ideas, fellow surgery amigos?

All Clear!

The follow-up appointment with Dr. Li went really well this morning (the photo was taken right before we went into his office). He said my lower jaw is, in fact, NOT crooked. The fact the lower teeth appear to be misaligned is precisely why I need further orthodontics work. He showed me the model they took of my bite prior to surgery and moved the upper and lower jaws to demonstrate their alignment, and how that affects how the teeth meet. Thank God I don't need to go in for a Take 2!

He was pleased the swelling has gone down - "We're not quite there yet, but this is much better than the chipmunk look." Ha. You can say THAT again. He said my chin looked more defined now, and asked if I were happy with the way it looked. YES! Yes I am. :) He's a brilliant surgeon!

Unfortunately I'll remain banded shut for the next two weeks. The good news is, I'll only have to wear the splint around the clock for another week - after which it's only required at night. That would make it so much easier - the splint is my least favorite thing! It's annoying and ever-present. Tick tock. Just another week....

Horizon Organic Chocolate Milk

This stuff rocks! The best part is that even though it comes with a straw, you don't need to suck through it. Just squeeze and drink! I bought a whole case of it at Costco yesterday.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


  • Glad the swelling seems to be going down today, though I don't FEEL that way. The bruises under my eyes have disappeared. The cheeks are still swollen, of course, and numb to a certain degree, but not as badly.

  • My lips seem to have deflated a little as well, much to my disappointment. ;) Upper left has 100% feeling; upper right maybe 80%; lower left 80%, and lower right 30%. Everyday it comes back a little more.

  • See how my hair is up in a ponytail? Yay! I used to HATE ponytails. Still not my favorite.... but they're not something I avoid anymore.

Blueberry Milk Shake!

Dulce de leche ice cream, whole milk, and lots of blueberries. Blend well and warm up. Doug made the yummy concoction for me, and I'm ready to drink it up! Tomorrow at 11 am I'll have my 2nd follow-up appointment with Dr. Li. Have so many questions for him! #1: Is my lower jaw crooked? It APPEARS to be crooked. What is going on? :(

Until then - I'm hungry like you wouldn't believe. Time to finish the blueberry milk shake!

Plain Vain

God I miss my lipsticks! Also, my cheeks are peeling a little as a result of all the stretching/swelling. Don't repeat my mistake - apply lotion to your cheeks liberally after the surgey. I think that's safe.... yes?

Bitter Sweet

The liquid Tylenol has apparently worn off. Sleep has been elusive this morning. My jaws feel like they've been filled with lead. The splint between my upper and lower teeth is cutting into the side of my tongue whenever I attepmpt to "talk" through clenched teeth. So I don't.

Not sure whether this one's good or bad - but my laugh line (yes, I have only one) has promptly returned after a 10-day hiatus, because the swelling in my face has finally deflated enough to allow it. Life is....bitter sweet, sometimes.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rambling Thoughts

Pretty tough day today. Maybe it's because I over-extended myself by running around all morning and didn't get home almost 3 pm. Thank goodness Doug drove - in the rain, no less.

I have a follow-up appointment with my OS, Dr. Li, on Monday at 11 am. My burning question? Well, I noticed that my lower jaw appears to be slightly crooked. It's not in perfect parrellel to my upper jaw. Does that make any sense? It's almost as if the lower jaw needs to be slightly rotated, again. I know it was one of the problems my OS and ortho wanted to address via asymmetrical set-back (yes, problems, not issues. George Carlin made a good point: Isn't it strange how no one uses the word "problems" anymore? Instead, we skirt the "issues" and have "concerns". But problems? Nooooooooo.) But, I digress. My lower jaw was slightly "crooked", as you can see from the photo hours before surgery. However, that problem seems to have persisted, though to a lesser degree. I have to ask Dr. Li about this! Please, please, don't let me go back to surgery again. And, IF, in the unfortunate event that I have to, please, please, don't make me wait a long time (I know he's fully booked through the end of March). Sigh. I suppose the fresh x-rays on Monday will tell the story. We shall see.

Since there's nothing I can do between now and then, I'm going to put down the mirror, push this to the back of my mind, and focus on the positive.
  • For starters, no more breathing problems! It's SO NICE to not have to HEAR yourself breathe.
  • Second, the swelling has gone down quite a bit.
  • Third, the pain is still there, but I only need liquid Tylenol about twice a day - once during the day and once before bed. Not bad!

Doug just came in with a bowl of warm Chinese food while I was writing this. String beans and sesame chicken. Yum. I've been craving Indian food (garlic naan, curry chicken, and lamb) and sashimi for the past few days. Sadly, warm, liquified ice cream and blended porridge make poor substitutes. I've lost 13 lbs since the surgery and my jeans are loose. As much as I love food, the effort of working the giant syringe effectively deflates my enthusiasm. Oh well. Until Monday. Wish me luck!


Went to see my friend Anna. She and her husband have a 10-month old daughter now, named Summer. She's got such piercing blue eyes! A cute bundle of pink - a joy to behold. :)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Before: Smile and Laugh

Boy, did I show some gum when I smiled. These photos were from about a year ago, when I spent Christmas in Vancouver (December 2005). Two months later, I got braces.

My main objective was the lower jaw set-back. I didn't even think there was anything wrong with my upper jaw. Funny how if it's something you grew up with you learn to accept it. My gummy smile did not bother me at all. When both my ortho and my OS brought it up that they could minimize my gummy smile, they caught me off-guard. Huh? So what if I showed some gum when I laughed (a "dynamic smile" was what they called it, now I see their point)? Long story short, Dr. Li cut off a horizontal slice across my upper jaw, 6 mm, to be exact, to make it shorter. He also brought it forward 1 or 2 mm to work better with my lower jaw. I'm so fascinated with the whole thing! Can't you tell? ;)

Still Round

My friend Anna came to visit and brought some really yummy ramen noodle soup. She also gave me a lentil dal recipe she tried yesterday. Maybe I'll give it a shot too sometime. As far as lunch today, I scooped out the ramen, blended the broth and the seaweeds, fish cakes, and boiled egg, and drank half of the mixture through a giant syringe. That tasted so good! Thanks Anna! :)

Anna's deciding between using Blogger or Vox for her blog. Does anyone have experience with Vox? Is it good/bad/easy to use? I recommended Blogger to her because: 1. it's a breeze 2. it offers mobile blogging and 3. it's popular and versatile.

It's raining hard in San Francisco. Very gloomy day out there. Couch time!

Still haven't taken a single drop of pain killers yet today. Now that's a good sign.

The Super Sticky Gum

Had a dream two nights ago that someone gave me a piece of chewing gum, which was sooooooo unbelievably sticky and strong that it binded my jaws together. I tried and tried but couldn't "chew" it because it simply got stuck between my teeth. I tried to stick my fingers into my mouth to get it out (I know, gross!).... and woke up. Thank God my jaws are already "wired" shut so I couldn't reach into my mouth anyway. But wow, that was surreal.

Good Thing My Birthday's Not Coming Up Anytime Soon

Obviously, there are quite a few things you simply can't do with your jaws wired-shut. Here's a funny one - I lit a scented candle the other day, only to realize later that I couldn't put it out. Had to ask for help with that one. Haha. Also, yawning and coughing are hard to do. I cradle my chin when I do it, which helps.

Watch Surgey On A Skeletal Model

I'm sorry I saw this video, but I'm happy that I saw it AFTER the surgery, not before. Is this what my OS did to my face? (Gasping for air.) Ignorance IS bliss sometimes.

Ideal Facial Proportions

Interesting! Ideal facial proportions. 1/3, 1/5, lines here, there, and everywhere.

Class III Malocclusion

Found a case study on Class III Malocclusion. It says Class III represents a very small portion of the total malocclusion, and it's most prevalent in Asian populations. Its etiology is generall believed to be genetic. Hmm, interesting. Both of my parents have perfect teeth and jaws. But, according to my mom, one of her brothers does have a bite problem. I barely ever see him so I don't know for sure.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Food Cravings

Daniel (a fellow blogger from the Yahoo Support Group) asked me what I craved when I was at the hospital, enjoying the fine cuisine of clear broths and juices. The truth is - nothing. My throat hurt each time I swallowed. Because of all the meds and the breathing difficulties, food was the last thing on my mind. In fact, I still don't have muh of an appetite. Ate a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup for lunch (pureed), and found it WAY too salty. Warmed up some French vanilla ice cream and mixed it with whole milk (I know, it sounds disgusting) - but my appetite disappeared while I waited for it to cool off. Then late in the afternoon I blended an apple with some cranberry juice - and just ended up dumping it.

If you went through the surgery as well, what did YOU crave during your recovery? Got any interesting recipes to share? I'd love to hear from you and get some ideas. :)

Wanted: Pain Killers!

I've been weaning myself off of the prescription pain killer Dr. Li gave me. It's hycet, 10 to 15 ml every four hours. As soon as I checked out of the hospital and came home on Saturday, I decided to take it only as needed. Doug bought some liquid extra strength Tylenol for me as a substitute. For the past two or three days I've only taken Tylenol once during the day and hycet right before bed time. So far it's been working fine, except the little moments in the late afternoons where I got these dull, heavy headaches/jaw aches, and I just have to calm down with some hycet. But by then it's almost time for bed anyway. :)

Ha, "Chunky" No More!

Before, and after, of the pureed Campbell's Classic Chicken Noodle Soup. Mmmmmmmmm!

Soup Galore

I bought a bunch of canned soups this morning. Enough of the clear broths and juices. I w a n t m e a t !

Feeling Much Better

Still looking chubby, with lots of light green colored bruises in my cheeks, but I feel so much better today, folks! :)

Swelling Be Gone

Someone from the Yahoo support group shared this tip with me - Bromelain can help with the swelling. I'll let you guys know how well it works. Someone else told me yesterday that after the first few days, warm packs work better than ice packs - and she is right! Applied warm packs to my cheeks overnight, and I do look less puffy this morning. Thanks for the info!

Brace Face!

I love this Paul Frank brace face t-shirt so much I have it in both pink and red. Funny thing is, I bought the pink one two years before I even had braces. Pure coincidence.

Google "Paul Frank brace face t-shirt" if you want to get one, too. Heck, why not? I wore mine to my first ortho appointment to get the braces on. That added some chuckles to an otherwise humorless day. ;)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

One Week AND One Year

A week post op. Doug took this photo tonight with my BlackBerry Pearl while we were in the living room downstairs (yep we have our matching Pearls, haha). I'd decided to get out of the bathrobe and dress somewhat normally. I'm sick of being a patient! Two nights ago I woke up crying at 3 am. It also happened to be time to take the pain killers again - so there I was, tears streaming down my face, with a giant syringe in hand, squeezing the medication into the back of my mouth. Pretty pathetic.... felt like a big baby. Poor Doug. He had no idea how to console me. The crying wasn't from the pain, really. I think I was really emotionally exhausted, and had to just let it out. It's not cancer, of course, and I'm very grateful for that. But it's been just emotionally and physically draining. The bright side is - it's getting better everyday, slowly, but surely.

Spent some time tonight looking over the profile photos and paperwork my ortho gave me right when the braces started. That's when I realized that the braces went on exactly one year ago, on February 7, 2006. In fact, I got the upper half done on the 7th and had to go back for the lower half on the 14th, Valentine's Day, because I was late for my first appointment and they ran out of time. So, newly crowned Miss Metal Mouth, on the night of Valentine's Day 2006, I went out for drinks with two girlfriends to commemorate the event (see the photo to the right). Gosh I was so bummed out thinking the braces would effectively end my dating life - and that couldn't be good for any single woman, let alone a single woman of age 29 (I'm 30 now, and heck, 30 feels great!). But, as it turned out, that wasn't the case. ;)

A Week Ago Right Now

.... I was on the operating table under the knife.  YIKES!  NOW I'm freaked out.  Thank God it's over.

Chin Chin Chin :P

See how my chin stood out in this picture (dated July 2006 in Hawaii)? It made my neck disappear. Sigh.