Six Weeks of Healing

Navigating Pain and Progress Post-Surgery


Peter Pickering

3/25/20243 min read

Six gruelling weeks following my operation, the journey of my recovery presents a blend of unexpected challenges and gradual progress. Initially, the postoperative period seemed promising; however, I soon encountered complications with pain management. The stronger painkillers prescribed caused unbearable disorientation, forcing me to rely solely on minimal-strength Panadol, which scarcely alleviated the discomfort. Despite this setback, I experienced incremental improvements each day, fostering a cautious optimism within me.

However, mid-recovery, I encountered a peculiar and distressing phenomenon – an involuntary gaping of my mouth, akin to an uncontrollable yawn but without the satisfaction one usually feels. This reflex, benign in appearance, became a source of acute pain as it stretched the freshly healed scar tissue within my jaw. This unexpected jolt of pain, lasting no more than a couple of seconds, led to outbursts of swearing, a reaction so out of character that I humorously considered the possibility of developing Tourette’s syndrome.

As days pain-filled tediously passed, a follow-up with my oral surgeon loomed, filled with dread at the anticipated examination. Surprisingly, during the visit, the involuntary jaw movements abstained, and the lead surgeon, Frank Chang, reassured me, attributing the phenomenon to normal post-surgical healing and the stretching of scar tissue. As a professional, Frank used big words - Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or Orofacial Dystonia he says. Hmmm, okay. He introduced a regimen involving wooden tongue depressors to gradually increase my jaw's range of motion, a practice I approached with diligence, for a couple of days, despite the discomfort.

The exercises led to a revelation: while manually opening my mouth with the depressors caused little to no discomfort, it was the sudden, uncontrolled openings that inflicted severe pain. Nonetheless, these involuntary actions, albeit excruciatingly painful, inadvertently contributed to the stretching and healing of the scar tissue, removing the necessity for manual exercises. Well, that’s what I reasoned.

In the subsequent days, while public outings, even family visits, became daunting for fear of unexpected jaw openings, my diet which had earlier regressed to liquids and soft foods easily consumable without extensive jaw movement, slowly began to get a little more adventurous, though with trepidation. Despite the challenges, there was a silver lining, but with a caveat: although the intensity of the involuntary openings had began to wane, the frequency has not.

Now, reflecting on this tumultuous chapter, the swearing induced by pain has ceased, replaced by a bearable, brief, discomfort. The path to recovery remains fraught with uncertainty, particularly regarding the involuntary jaw movements. Yet, there is hope that this peculiar affliction will abate in time, allowing for complete healing and the restoration of normalcy. This experience underscores the unpredictable nature of postoperative recovery and the profound impact of resilience and adaptation in the face of unanticipated challenges.

Today's excursion to Belmont Forum began with a bold step; I ventured into my favourite sushi bar, a place where the mere thought of indulging had been a distant dream for so long. There, welcomed back as if a prodigal, I bravely faced the challenge, managing to savour four small pieces of sushi. Despite a few jarring jaw snaps that tested my resolve, I soldiered through the discomfort, with no cursing, propelled by the sheer delight of each delicious bite.

Following this culinary adventure, I found solace in the welcoming embrace of Jamaica Blue, a haven where the warmth of familiarity wraps around me like a comforting blanket. There, the staff, knowing me well, greeted me with the kind of recognition reserved for regulars. They remembered my order, a gesture that instilled a deep sense of belonging, akin to a bird returning to its cherished roost.

Settling into my usual spot, I clasped the familiar feel of a skinny flat white, its aroma weaving through the air, setting the stage for the ritual that awaited. Spread out before me lay the puzzles of The Sunday Times, silent companions to my coffee. Engaging with these puzzles is not merely a pastime but an exercise for my mind, sharpening my wit and wordplay. Each crossword clue deciphered, each Word Cracker square filled, serves as a subtle, invigorating workout for my writing muscles, sparking creativity and enhancing my lexical agility.

Sipping on the coffee, savouring its richness, I allowed myself a moment of reflection. There's a light, however faint, at the end of the tunnel. I'm not just seeing it; I'm moving towards it, one cautious step at a time. Let's just say, I'm cautiously optimistic.

Addendum: Culinary Progress and the Next Challenge Ahead

This evening, a surge of boldness washed over me. Gone were the days of cautiously nibbling on compressed, thin slices of bread and cheese, warily avoiding the dreaded 'yawn' reflex. Instead, I embraced ambition, assembling a hearty sandwich of cheese and beetroot between two generous slices of toasting bread. And, by George, I did it. I experienced only two minor reflexes, a testament to the new technique I've been honing, designed to sidestep the usual triggers. Triumphantly, I finished the entire sandwich, savouring every bite. Lurking in my freezer is a sizeable steak, eyeing me with a challenge for the coming days. So, here's to the next culinary venture—wish me luck.

© Peter Pickering 2024.