This past Monday, I had the unfortunate pleasure of spending the bulk of my day like this...

 

 

My new and improved palatal lift is still getting fitted just right.  Even after about 2 hours of fitting it, surprise, surprise, it still feels like I have small car engine shoved in the roof of my mouth!  Oh well, like braces or any foreign object, I'm sure I will get used to it over time, but wow, it's annoying!  Even worse, they haven't put on the "tail" yet (scary, I know, and "tail" here means, a giant bulbous plastic piece that will hold up my soft palate--to aid in swallowing and speaking--while simultaneously creating a perma-gag, nice, right?)

 

 

The day got progressively "Monday-ish" as we raced to a follow-up appointment with my vocal cord surgeon.  This appointment included a swallow test (apparently, my swallow is still very messed up, and I will likely be re-visiting some form of swallowing therapy soon), and having a camera shoved down my nose to check on the vocal cords.  It seems the surgery was successful, though it will be about 6 months before the full effect will be attained.  The vocal cords were noticeably coming together now, as they are supposed to.  My voice has been hoarse since the surgery (probably from using it too much, oops), but going forward, the surgery should really strengthen it all around.

 

 

  I guess I somehow convinced myself that this surgery may change the quality of my voice, but my doctor, who is very "matter-of-fact" informed me that my voice will always sound how it does now.  Despite the hardships of my stroke and recovery, I still am and will always be an eternal optimist, so I guess in the back of my mind, I just thought I would have a more normal-sounding voice someday.  I'm not giving up hope, but that was pretty hard to hear, honestly.

 

The final stop was my facial surgeon.  Since my first facial surgery about 3 years ago, I had anticipated that this would be a 3 surgery process, with the third and final surgery being to shave down the transplanted muscle in my face, so it doesn't bulge out.  It may not be very noticeable to most people, but as we all notice about our appearances, the muscle bulge really sticks out to me and bothers me.  The surgeon's recommendation was that doing a third surgery was kind of unnecessary at this point.  It's very hard to hear that and then decide how to move forward/what to do now etc.  I guess Jay has had to bear that type of burden up to now, and he has done it quite well, maybe I'm just more "with it" now and the weight of that sits much more heavily with me than it has before.

 

{hilarious picture of me & my sister, Amie, kind of sums up our relationship, also shows the implanted muscle bulging on my right cheek}

 

After the appointment, in the assistant's office, I got a bit overwhelmed with sadness.  So much effort has gone into my recovery, and somehow, I still feel like so much is lacking.  I even had the rather claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in my own messed up body.  I looked up at her bulletin board and saw the picture of a very badly burned man smiling back at me.  I remember this man, an Iraq veteran who I had met in the waiting room years ago.  The assistant reminded me the man's name and of the fact that he comes from Texas to UCLA for all his surgeries as part of Operation Mend.  I was struck by the perspective of my situation compared to this man's, not to mention the fact that I drive about 15 minutes to get to this world-class hospital.  Perspective always helps, though it doesn't erase all the hurt.

 

Neither did the Peet's coffee and Stan's donut holes, but it was worth a try!