When I last saw my plastic & reconstructive surgeon, one comment stuck with me.
Have a low threshold, he recommended.
We were talking about recurrence and monitoring. I have a stabbing pain in the joint just below my ear and I’ve not had a scan – xray or CT – since December. If I’m worried by symptoms and it doesn’t feel right, I should have a low threshold for requesting a scan.
I like that philosophy. Alannah often chooses – chooses, I tell you – to get symptoms of impending sickness on the day before a public holiday. Just before Christmas and just before Australia Day. Like clockwork. I always end up in at the doctor’s saying that she’s not really sick yet, but if I don’t get a prescription today, she’ll most certainly be sick tomorrow. And I feel like the over-reacting first-time mum. It makes me feel better to think of it as the ‘low threshold’ approach.
Which brings me to the stabbing pain. Before the titanium plate was removed from my jaw in mid-January, I had a strong constant pain in the ‘jaw bone’ left of my chin. That has gone, replaced by the pain in the ‘jaw bone’ joint below my ear that I mentioned.
Last week, I decided enough was enough. I called my oral surgeon to check at what point I should worry about the pain. My lip has also lost function since the surgery and, at the time I called my surgeon, my face was more swollen. The swelling can fluctuate depending on how I’ve slept.
Removing the plate, he said, has removed the support for new jaw bone. The stabbing pain is, in fact, a good sign. It’s the nerves getting used to the increased load my jaw now bears. The jaw bone is working hard, building in size and strength. It’s not unlike a fever in a child, as I understand it: it seems bad but actually shows the child is fighting off the infection. The surgery also interrupted the lymphatic flow all over again.
The verdict? The pain should get better week on week and month on month. I should worry if it gets worse. It could also take months for the swelling to subside again. As for the lip function, he suggested I do exercises, like using a straw or blowing up a balloon.
Time is a great healer, he reminded me. I forget that I’m only six weeks post op. Patience, patience.