Thursday, September 30, 2010

Progress Report

I just got back from my 2-day follow up with Jackie Diels in Madison, WI. If you don't remember, I went to see Jackie for 3 days this past February to start the rather arduous process of neuromuscular facial retraining. Which is doc-speak for facial physical therapy. I have spent many, many hours doing very specific exercises and stretches to help manage the synkinesis that resulted from damage to my facial nerve. Synkinesis, if you don't know, is when the nerves heal wrong and send the wrong message to muscles in the affected area. For example, when I smile, my right eye tries to close and my right lip pulls up. Weird stuff like that.

Rather than try to write about the improvements, I am just going to post a couple of pictures that will illustrate the progress more than any 1,000 words. So, take a look...

First picture was taken in February, when I first went to see Jackie. This is my face at rest with eyes closed. The second picture was taken this week after working with Jackie for 2 days. Notice how my lip pulls up in the first picture, and then look at how symetrical it looks in the second picture. It is a little hard to see, but also notice that my right eye does not fully close in the first picture.

Okay, so here is another before/after with me compressing my lips. In the first picture, you can see that my right eye is half closed and the chin is all dimpled (also synkinesis) whereas in the second picture my eyes are symmetrical and there is minimal chin movement.

I am sure that the photos do not do this process complete justice since part of the improvement has to do with sensation and lack of pain which, of course, you can't see. However, I think these pictures do give a good depiction of the visible changes that have occurred. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Viva Ireland!

Okay, I know I've been off the grid for awhile (hey, like that? I learned it from watching way too much "24"). Willie and I had a fantastic 11 days in Ireland. A highlight of the trip was meeting Lorenzo and his wife - finally! Lorenzo and I have shared stories, recipes and laughs for the last few years over the internet, but this was our first face-to-face meeting. And what fun!! We had more laughs, ate lots of great food and shared some funny brain tumor war stories. And Lorenzo and Sheila pointed us to some great spots as we continued our travels around the southwest coast of Ireland.

So, what are the other highlights? Well, driving on the "wrong" side of the road is a thrill. And when you add twisty one lane roads that are meant for 2 lanes of traffic - well, can you say "WHEEEE?" Willie said that he spent the entire time in a state of terror (which is par for the course for all of our vacations.) As for me, I was screaming that he was too close to the left side of the road.

Okay, but seriously ... the coastlines and countryside are breathtaking. You can easily understand why people call it the "Emerald Isle." The coastline is a stunning combination of immense sandy beaches and rugged rocky cliffs. Really, it is just amazing. And, did I mention the sheep? OMG, sheep everywhere, including right in the middle of the road. I was ordering Willie to stop the car every two minutes so I could get out and look at the sheep. Yeah, I know - that was a little something that he didn't know when he married me 10 years ago. I am fascinated by livestock. Really.

We will definitely return to Ireland. There are more sheep to see, more food to be eaten, and more breathtaking sights to discover.