Neck dissection scar at 3 months post-op Compare to 3-week photo
Overall, I'm doing very well. The scar is not healing uniformly, and it is somewhat annoying (if predictable) that the part that is least visible (around the right side of my neck, usually covered by my hair) is healing best, and the part that is most visible (center-left) still looks like a bright red gash. OK, slightly less bright than a fresh gash, but still. Mom commented this morning: Part of your scar looks irritated, but I think she only noticed it because I've been wearing turtlenecks a lot recently, so she hasn't seen it in a while.
Moving to the more important aspects of recovery (looks aren't everything, after all), I'm happy to report that my strength and mobility are both doing very well, although I have lost strength since I quit doing my physical therapy. I am a slug these days, and it's not helping my overall fitness, of which I have none. I'm working on getting up the motivation to get back to the Y -- which also requires coordinating with my mom. It will happen.
The surface-level nerve damage is slowly, slowly healing. I note that normal sensation has returned around the right margin of the affected area, and that my jaw line is entirely free of numbness now, although it is sore and tender underneath the surface. My ear, too, finally feels normal now. There is still an area of numbness starting at the midline under my chin, extending about 3-4 inches to the right, and all the way down to just above the incision scar.
I continue to massage the scar once or twice daily, and to massage the affected area and my right neck in general; there was a lot of dissection in there, and it helps to get things loosened up in there. Even gentle massage is very uncomfortable. I frequently feel stabbing pains in and around the affected area, as well as the unpleasant tingly feelings and electric shock-like feelings. All of these are good, I know, because that means that nerve function is returning. But it still hurts and there isn't much I can do about it, except wait for it to go away. The one good thing about these random sensations is that they seldom last more than 5 or 10 minutes.
I have a big lump in my right neck which of course freaks me out: I'm sure it's a lymph node (they were not nearly all removed, after all). I'm not sure it's cancer. DH was reassuring: Maybe you just have a little cold, he said. It's true there's all sorts of respiratory-type junk floating around this house, so I could, indeed have a cold. I have been having more trouble swallowing lately, though... but that could also be from having a post-nasal drip.
I've noticed that the deep-breath/out of breath feeling I was having, which was related to aspirating stomach acid (ew), has not been bothering me lately at all, so perhaps the Prilosec is actually working. I need to follow-up with my ENT to see if I should be getting speech therapy for my slightly paralyzed vocal folds -- my voice control seems better lately, but maybe that's just because the kids are back in school and so I'm not having to talk so much or raise my voice much.
My RA is kicking my butt these days, literally -- major problems with the tailbone on waking, as well as hands, hips, feet, and shoulders. This is definitely the worst I can remember feeling on waking, ever: the pain is bad enough to get whimpers out of me even though I hate it when I do that, and I try my damnedest not to squeak just because it hurts so much. (I would describe these sounds as sighs that suddenly betray me and turn into squeaky almost-sobs; it sucks.) There are any number of reasons I could be feeling so crummy, including changes in my thyroid meds and lack of exercise (biggest culprit, I think), but one thing I have been good about is going to bed at a decent hour. I'm disappointed that's not helping more. Fortunately I'm off to the rheumatologist in early February; we'll see what she has to say.
I hate writing these things because they come out sounding so negative when really, things are going pretty well. The kids are all healthy for once, there's nothing stressful hanging over my head, and Life is more or less on cruise control so we can, you know, enjoy the scenery.
I'm itching to make our summer plans but we've decided to wait until I get back from Houston. I'll feel a lot better about things if that node in my neck goes away before I get there.