One year! WOW!! I woke on June 7th, and at first it didn’t even hit me as I woke up even though I was talking about it the day before. While getting ready for work I had to sit down as this flood of emotions came over me. I was crying before I knew it, but it wasn’t because I was sad. I was thankful for everything I had overcome not only in the past year but the past 11!!!!
11 years ago on January 4th my life changed. I’ve experienced more pain than ANYONE should every have to. I’ve seen more doctors than I can even remember, been stuck by more needles than I would have ever liked, had more MRIs or CTs than advisable (yeah, I’m not ALLOWED to have anymore unless I’m practically dying). It took 2 years before I received my first accurate diagnosis and another year and a half before I would experience my first remission – August 13, 2009.
That August day my life changed again. The first month I was more or less waiting for my head to start hurting again, but it didn’t. I went crazy! I was working 3 jobs and coaching a high school dance team. I was finally able to go out and REALLY act my age. Life was great! I met my husband, we had our daughter and shortly after she was born the pain I had forgotten about reminded me how we used to be frenemies. It didn’t’ stick around long that time and would only show up every once in a while over the next 3 years.
February 13, 2013 (wow, a 13 again) I received my promotion at work to Property Manager. Hello instant stress! I was a first time manager and learning to run my asset like it was my own. I think it was around April that I decided to get Botox to help with my “migraines” I was having again. YES! 3 months of NO PAIN!!!!! Well once it came back again I decided to live with it again before I started what would become my final downfall into complete hell and “Bitch” face was born, except mine never rested.
All the painful details from the day Bitch came leading up to June 7, 2016 are documented in previous posts. I documented a good portion of the year since then. I also started an instagram (@theachybrain) to allow me to quickly add pictures of how I was feeling on days I didn’t want to write and I found myself posting there more frequently. I’m thankful to have this blog and those pictures to look back and remember just how strong I can be, especially on days I feel like giving up.
Am I 100% pain-free now, no but I’m a hell of a lot better than I ever was before! And I was told it was a possibility I would never be completely pain free again. I tend to have 2-3 good weeks now followed by 1-2 bad days. Stress and weather still seem to play a huge role in how I feel. Mother Nature and I haven’t come to an agreement yet for my little bubbly of continual sunshine so I try to limit my stress as much as possible. My face can accept touch now, the wind doesn’t always hurt it AND I have my hair back! Would I do all of this over again? IN A HEART BEAT! Dr. Casey SAVED my life.
So it’s been FOREVER since I have posted an update on going back to work and how I’ve been. My last update ended at 6weeks. I am now almost 2 months away from my 1 year anniversary. WOW!! Time has really gone by quickly
After my last post I became complete PAIN FREE and we were starting to lower my medication. I would say I was completely pain free for about 6 weeks before my lovely children decided to share their cold/sinus infections with me. That’s when I went down hill again. I want to say that was in August. We amped up my Tegretol and I walked around in a complete stupor for about 2 weeks before I adjusted to the massive increase. On the bright side it did seem to help. My pain leveled out and I was back to having really good days and the occasional bad day.
Around November/December I started experiencing excruciating burning on the left side of my face. At times it felt like my face was being burned off by acid, others it was just a blow torch on it. I emailed Dr. Casey the day that started and we decided to try a tri-cylic antidepressant that works well with that type of pain sensation. I started Imipramine and it took about a week before I could really tell a difference. About two weeks of being on it I was back to being completely PAIN FREE again! I would have about 4-5 pain free days followed by 1-2 days where the pain wasn’t as bad as before but enough for my frown lines to appear again.
Due to an issue with Dr. Casey being out of the country for 3 weeks in February, my prescription of the imipramine lapsed and I dealt with the pain again until I was able to speak with him. There was a mix up at his office on getting my script refilled. Dr. Casey quickly took care of it when he returned and deeply apologized. Up until about two weeks ago I was still in pretty regular pain again. I was at my work annual seminar when I was hit with a whopper of an attack. I seriously work for the BEST company and people. They took care of me and made sure that I was ok and resting. I decided that day I was going to get the daith piercing when I got back home. At this point I figured I have a 50/50 chase for it to work and if it doesn’t help then I have a cute new piercing.
I get asked all the time if I feel this has worked. 100% is the only way I can answer it. Even if I still experience pain it is no where near the GOD AWFUL pain it was before. I can live and function now. I would do it over again in a heartbeat. To me, I have had a successful MVD.
I’m sorry I have. It been keeping up with updating weekly. Getting back to work and my kids and husband’s schedule is just hard and most nights I am in bed usually before 8pm. 😴😴😴
I promise to post an actual update about all the happenings in my face post surgery either tonight or tomorrow!
Thank you for reading!
Wow Major update coming. I have gotten way off track updating the final weeks of my surg-cation from work and my actual return to work.
I’ll start here with weeks 4-6.
Week 4 – Just as crappy as week 3. I had lots of pain in my neck that I was able to control with ibuprofen. The underwater pressure feeling in my left ear FINALLY went away this week and I was able to completely hear again. My left ear is still completely numb and very painful where it meets my head. Being active for more than a couple hours just wears me out. As soon as I sit down I fall asleep. Dr. Casey said everything I was going through is completely normal at this time. He stressed about getting in light exercise to help the body’s recovery system going. I was supposed to walk a mile a day (in increments) and now I’m to do 30 minutes of light exercise every day.
Week 5 & 6 – It’s amazing what getting your body moving will do for you. I finally felt good enough to be outside in my flower beds that were completely overgrown with weeds (YIKES!). I was able to spend short spans of time outside pulling weeds. Working up a sweat and being more active than I had been was finally feeling good! AND my flower beds looked awesome again 🙂 . Driving… well after I hit my ouch after driving around the 2 week mark I took a big hiatus from it. Honestly, I was just scared. I started driving again a few days before I went back to work. Weeks 5 and 6 I felt amazing!!!! The only pain I experienced was a little headache in the morning that usually went away after some coffee and my medications.
I had asked Dr. Casey about when he would typically wean his patients off their medications and he said it was after they told him they were feeling great for 3-4 weeks. I have yet to have just that yet. Stupid pesky headaches.
Back to work! – I went back to work on July 20th. My first week back was a short week, I only worked Wednesday through Friday and that was ENOUGH! My body was so exhausted. I came straight home and slept until it was time to wake up again the next day. I had a lot of anxiety about going back to work. My senses are heightened since the surgery and lots of noise and ciaos can send me into a panic attack very quickly. My residents are super sweet. I had quite a few visitors in the first week back and even more in the second week. My second week back to work, I had to take a 1/2 day on Wednesday because my body just said no more! I came home and slept and felt so much better the next day. That day I also noticed my incision was more red and inflamed around the area. It ended up being nothing. I love that I’m able to stay in touch with Dr. Casey via email and he answers my questions so quickly. Week 3 back to work was my first full week back. I slept the whole weekend away. Week 4 was a little easier to get through the week. Usually by the end of the day I’m pretty tired, but I’m starting to get my Go Go Go back. 🙂 I just finished up my 5th week back to work and it involved travel. It was so much fun! I love the company I work for and my little region even more!!!
Complications – I have been very lucky to say that I have not had any major complications from the surgery. I experienced the underwater feeling/pressure in my ear which went away by week 4. I have had ghost/healing pains from time to time. It almost feels as if the nerve is saying “I’m still here, don’t forget about me!” The pain doesn’t really hurt. I’ve only had one ear zap that has made me squeak with the pain. The worst complication for me would be when my body started to reject a couple of the dissolvable sutures. I had a pain on my incision that I went to touch to help calm the pain and when I pulled my hand away I had blood on it. I took pictures over the next few days and emailed Dr. Casey. He reassured me that there wasn’t anything MAJOR wrong. I applied Neosporin to my incision and the raised bumps went away. The pokey sutures went away too.
So all in all the past few weeks have been pretty ok. I have a pesky headache just about every day still, but that is all it is. Coffee and Ibuprofen seem to take care of it pretty well. I really can’t complain too much about that. I still tire more easily than before. Everyone has to remind me that I just had brain surgery and to slow down. As much as I like to be wonder woman, I’m just not! I would call my surgery a success at this point and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Today I am 3 weeks post op. Today has been probably one of the most painful since I’ve been home. I had been warned about how weeks 3 & 4 are probably the worst in recovery. Well I’m here to tell you that these people are correct. The stupid pain didn’t wait very long before it decided to say “Heyyyyyy, I’m here let’s play”. Probably the past 4-5 nights have been awful for me. I’ve been crying myself to sleep. I’m having a lot of sharp pain around my incision. Today I had a few zaps at the very top of my incision. My neck muscles are so tight and I can feel the pull all the way up to my forehead. UGH! Finding a position where I can fall asleep is a LOT of fun. HA! I usually end up wedged between two pillows since laying on my incision is painful.
Ghost pains – Healing Pains that run along trigeminal nerve but have no trigger. Today I felt my first ghost pain, in my chin. I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to experience these. I wanted my face to be completely free from all types of pain. Even though these are to be considered healing of the nerve, it’s never fun to have pain of any kind after going through this for the past year. Now granted this pain is more annoying than anything, it may register as a 1-2 on the pain scale compared to the off the charts pain from before.
My ear has been my biggest annoyance out of all of this. My left ear feels like I’m underwater constantly. In the past few days its has been popping and loudly! Every time I swallow it pops. Sometimes the echo of my voice is so loud that I have to plug my ear just to talk without hearing myself talk. Today I’ve also had intense pain inside my ear; I’m telling myself it’s ghost pain.
I’m hoping tomorrow is going to be a better day.
The muscle relaxers were a god send for my recovery. I have been able to sleep easier at night and a short nap during the day if at all. It’s been nice that I’ve been able to move around more easily and get out of the house and ride in a vehicle without feeling like I was going to puke.
Just a couple days after I added the muscle relaxers I was able to get out of the house and have a lunch date with my dad. This past weekend was wonderful! I had 3 amazingly pain free days. I have not felt this good in over a year! I had so much energy. I spent 2 days doing housework along with the help of my daughter so I was not doing too much bending over. Sunday was father’s day and I was able to spend the day at the pool with family. Monday was just as great! We went out shopping, I didn’t tire as I had previously. I swore that life was going to be great again! Tuesday I drove for the first time since surgery. My daughter and I had a huge day, I drove everywhere. It was great to have my freedom back again.
Well that freedom came to a screeching halt Tuesday evening. Tuesday morning I had taken off my final pain patch post surgery and I didn’t give that little square enough credit. The driving and constant moving my head really flared up the muscles in my neck and head. By that night I was in tears. Wednesdays wasn’t a whole lot better. I thank my great friend and fellow TN warrior for watching my daughter all day so I could rest. The pain level was so bad by last night that I thought my husband was going to have to take me to the ER. The ice and medicine was not enough to help relieve the pain. I love my husband so much and his ability to calm me down. There is just something so calming and reassuring when he holds my hand and tells me that everything will be okay. I finally fell asleep a little after midnight last night and slept in until about 11am. Pain kicked my butt. I ended up napping for the majority of today too!
I had given myself a goal to go back to work before July. I completely underestimated how much brain surgery was going to kick my butt. Every day is still unknown whether its going to be great or I have to sleep the day away to allow my body to heal. I’m just a little over 2 weeks out of surgery and I still have a whole lot of recovery left to go.
On June 7th at approximately 8:30am I was finally taken back for my microvascular decompression of my trigeminal and geniculate nerves. About 3 hours later my husband and my dad met with Dr. Casey to discuss what he found inside my skull. (According to my husband-nothing-) Dr. Casey found a very large vein sitting on top of my nerve and was pulling other vessels over with it. He had to separate the vein to fully pad the trigeminal nerve and then he put the vein back together. With my geniculate nerve, Dr. Casey wasn’t able to to fully attack this nerve without causing damage. He tried to pad the nerve as best as he could without causing permanent hearing loss. He feels that both nerves were fully padded and I should not have anymore issues.
I was woke up in the OR to make sure that all of my functions were still intact before being take up to my room. Eric and my father met me in my room about an hour later. I knew that recovery was going to be hard. My body does not like anesthesia. I spent the next 24 plus hours getting sick with the littlest movement. The only plus side to recovery is that I woke up without ANY Trigeminal or Geniculate pain!!!!!!!
The first 2 days were rough. I didn’t really have any appetite. The nausea was awful. Dr. Casey liked to show up at 6am to complete his rounds. His biggest thing for me was that I needed to get up and walk. Getting up was hard. I was short of breath with any large movements. Just getting to the chair or bathroom was a challenge. I finally made it around the half of the wing with the help of my nurse and assistant. Which I have to say were completely wonderful. I can’t say enough about them.
I was able to leave the hospital on Thursday around noon. Experiencing a 6.5-7 hour drive home was not comfortable following the surgery. I was very thankful for all of the recommendations to purchase a travel neck pillow prior. It definitely made the car ride a bit easier. I was able to sleep for a portion of the car ride home. There were times it was a bit rocky but overall the ride wasn’t too bad. I was welcomed home with a beautiful sign, a shirt saying “I survived brain surgery” with the kids hand prints on it and 3 beautiful Gerber Daisies.
Friday (Day 3) consisted of me staying in the recliner with the exception to pick up my medication. The Pain wasn’t too bad however, the nausea was still awful. Zofran is my best friend, we meet up about every 6 hours. Saturday (Day 4) – Sleep is not my friend at the moment; broken and only for a few hours here and there. I woke up in pain that day, my muscles around the incision were tightening down all over my head. I was able with the help of ibuprofen to get the pain down to a tolerable level that I made it out to my daughter’s skating practice. I do not recommend getting out of the house for anything at 4 days post op. I learned my lesson. I spent Sunday and Monday in bed barely coherent with the nausea plague. Tuesday (Day 7) I had an appointment with my NP to check out this cough that rattles my brain each time. Let me just tell you, it hurts when your brain hits your skull. My lungs sound ok, I just have to continue with deep breathing exercises. We decided that a muscle relaxer would be good to try and help release some of the tension I experience first thing in the morning and at night. Wednesday (Day 8) Last night was the BEST night sleep I have had in a very long time! I was able to sleep all night and I woke up without feeling like I was going to puke with every tightened movement.
It has been a week since my surgery. Recovery was rocky in the beginning. I was overzealous in trying to get out and about. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It has been wonderful not having the pain in my face.