A Slow Process​

I thought I would bring some of you up-to-date who have been following my post-op from the total parotidectomy I had done in August.

Recovery has been slow and painful. I had no idea I would be going through these conditions and certainly didn’t realize the length of recovery. I’ve always been a high energy and very restless person. I’ve been an insomniac for decades, but that isn’t the case anymore. Even being on steroids for the last year hasn’t helped to increase my energy although it has increased my weight.

For two years I was shuffled from one specialist to another. I couldn’t swallow and my tongue was swollen. I had numerous CT scans, specialized blood tests, and MRI’s. I was referred to an infectious disease doctor, an ENT, and then a rheumatologist. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, nodules in my neck, and that I no longer made saliva. I had four biopsies on the nodules in my neck. Trust me…these are not fun procedures. Thankfully, all came back showing the nodules benign. However, to prevent these from turning malignant it was highly recommended I have the salivary gland completely removed (parotidectomy). Knowing the risks involved in this tricky procedure (the surgeon works around the three major facial nerves to get to the gland) I eventually flew the surrender flag and consented to the procedure. I either made the right decision or I’m a glutton for punishment. Only time will tell which one is correct.

Being impatient is one of my major character flaws. Admittedly, I am my worst critic. I loathe sitting on the sidelines of life but have been resigned to the fact I don’t have the energy to do routine tasks. I’m plagued with constant fatigue and lethargy. I love to read, but the incurable dry eyes make reading for any length of time painful. Laugh and the world will laugh with you was my mantra. Unfortunately, due to partial paralysis, my face doesn’t want to cooperate in allowing me to have a full smile. I have swelling, redness, and numbness in my left cheek. There is limited mobility in turning my neck from left to right. I have limited feeling in my left upper lip, left nostril, and under the left eye. The left ear feels dead. When Cathy applies cream to my face it feels like a dog brush with 200 steel prongs stabbing my skin. Angst and depression were two things once foreign to me, but have now found a comfortable home inside my psyche. My wife and daughters keep reminding me the doctor said recovery would be a minimum of six months. Apparently, I have conveniently forgotten that particular doctor and patient conversation.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. After spending countless hours researching the internet I finally came across a blog which dates back at least 10 years and is filled with patients who were in the same spot I am now. I am finding out I’m not unique and that my signs and symptoms were commonplace in many who underwent the same procedure. There is a common theme among this group’s members. You see, many mentioned that a complete recovery from this major surgery took a full year.

So, I now realize how important it will be for me to practice patience over the next 10 months and let the whole healing process happen. Meanwhile, for the rest of my life, I’ll continue to take my three pills per day to help create saliva and use lubricating eyedrops every two hours.

I thought these golden years would be a lot more enjoyable. However, on a positive note, I’m still above ground.

Dennis L. Page

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