Sunday, 28 December 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a lovely festive period. I cannot believe another year has come to an end and what a year this has been! Like all years there have been ups and downs, some magic moments and some not so nice moments. Here is Jaw & Face’s recap for the year 2014.

In January 2014 my story hit international news. My puffy face was everywhere from London to Paris, to Italy to Peru. The kind words and support I received after my article was amazing. If you have been a long standing reader of my blog you will know why I started this project. For those of you who are new, I started my blog because there was not enough honest information out there for people like us. Surgeons and hospitals have to be very careful what they say to patients. But I don’t, I am a normal person and I can share my case and the possible risks with you.

I felt so alone whilst I was going through surgery. It was horrific. I was underprepared and scared. After my surgery I was mortified. What the hell had I done to myself? I wasn’t myself, I was in so much pain, I was losing hair, not having a period for months at a time, my teeth were weak, I was getting sinus infections, I was pale, I was tired and I hated my new face. On top of that, I had to deal with a number for personal issues. My whole life was crashing and burning around me. They say you find out who your true friends are in your hour of need. But regardless of all the bad stuff that happened, I am thankful to these people. If it wasn’t for them doing that, I would not be writing to you today. I would have never had that push to make this project into something amazing.

I have been asked by a few readers to give my advice or guidance about making their own blog. All I would say is…. Write what you want to read. Write like you are a compassionate friend, somebody who understands what you are going through and offer advice to others who are going through the same. Do not get caught up in making it sound right or worry about your grammar. Your blog should be an honest and open reflection of you.

After my media success in January I was inundated with emails, skype messages and friend requests. These people felt as alone and scared as I did and had finally found somebody who they could talk to about their concerns and who they could really relate to. I was more than happy to help and even started my own mentoring project. I also started to sell my “Jaw Surgery Survival ePacks” and set up a dedicated website. From a few thousand views, my profile rocketed to 1.8m in a matter of months.

In February, I was approached by a couple of modelling agencies who said that they would like to work with me. If you know me well, you will know I am not too much of a girly girl and I definitely do not do well in front of a camera. Lidl and their training videos will be able to prove this! I spoke to a lady called Jan from one of the agencies and she was really friendly and upbeat. I decided to go for a test shoot and asked if I could bring my brother #mrdiva/perfect eyebrows along.

We trekked up to Earls Court one afternoon. I was told, do not wear any makeup and be prepared to send 1-3 hours at the test shoot. A very flamboyant photographer opened the door and threw us into a waiting room with 2 other hopefuls. As we sat in the waiting room we were surrounded by pictures of famous models and people. I could not help but feel out of place and quite ugly with my hair messy and no makeup on. Everybody seemed a bit on edge and everybody was glaring at one another like we were part of the Hunger Games. I felt really uncomfortable. One of the girls came out of the office crying. Gosh what were they going to say about me and my asymmetrical features? Then it was our turn and we had to go into the interview room. The two agents loved our looks and were amazed that we were siblings. They were really complimentary and said some really nice things to me. They loved my brother’s freckles and his fashion. We then went into the studio to have a test shoot to see if we were suitable. I had to do the shoot without any make up! Apparently, I did not have enough attitude and my brother had too much attitude haha. Says it all really!

After the shoot we were accepted almost straight away. However, the agents said that we would have to get a portfolio together. I cannot say this is something I ever want to do or get into, but at least I gave it a go. I realised my self-esteem and confidence is not what it should be and this is something I need to work on. Although I look in the mirror and see a monster staring back, this is not what other people see when they look at me.  So it was a comfort to me.

After working alongside my surgeon and the NHS providing research and mentoring, in June I was approached by the charity “Saving Faces”. The charity is the brainchild of consultant maxillofacial surgeon, Iain Hutchison, who launched Saving Faces in 2000. Over the years Iain and his colleagues came to realise that very little research was being conducted into the treatment of facial diseases such as oral cancer and that many of the facial injuries they saw everyday could be prevented through education. Much like my work, they saw an opportunity to help people and to raise awareness for a very underrepresented area. Saving Faces asked if I could become part of their patient led research group, provide feedback on research proposals and collect much needed patient data.

Which reminds me; if you live in the UK and have undergone Jaw/ Orthognathic Surgery could you please fill in this patient questionnaire? It will take about 5 minutes to complete.

So this year in the summer I also decided to try a chiropractor. My friend’s family use one all of the time and have recommended somebody to me. I was a bit nervous as I did not have a great experience with the osteopath last year. I was really hoping that this would be something that could help me and maybe bring me a bit of relief. I will be writing a separate blog about my experience in January.

In September I met with my Surgeon and Orthodontist to have my annual review. I had an x-ray and had my face and joints examined. They were pleased with my progress and asked again if I would like another surgery “genioplasty” to straighten my chin. My face is extremely asymmetrical and I did not do well with the plates or the swelling last time. I think that my body has gone through enough! The operation would not help my functioning or decrease my pain, so I decided it would not be worth it.

Many young people have this operation because they are deeply unhappy with the way they look. I, more than anybody, can sympathise with this.  I was taunted and bullied throughout my school and working life. I still get called names now. But the nice comments totally out way the bad. I have been seeing a psychologist now for over 2 years and I realise that the reflection on the outside can change as many times as I like but the feelings I have about myself cannot be changed. I often think of Michael Jackson as an example of this. I know some people have this operation and are surrounded by amazing and supportive people. They go on to be confident and outgoing individuals.

However, for some of us, our problems do not really stem from the way we look, but more from the feelings and core beliefs we have of ourselves and the world around us. I would recommend to anybody who is suffering with anxiety, self-esteem issues or depression to seek some psychological help. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel like I am more empowered and can take ownership for my life. Before this I felt like it was all out of my hands. I also realise that I am of value and I can go out there. Confidence does not just appear overnight, especially after going through your whole life as a withdrawn and shy person. Confidence must be a conscious choice you make before you leave the house. It takes practice and guts to get out there into the big wide world. Just because you do not do it today does not mean that you won’t ever do it.

I am looking to campaign more in 2015. I feel like it is so important for people to have access to the help and support that they need. I feel passionate about my project and I know that I now have a solid platform to continue to expand and make a difference.

In October this blog was nominated for the National Blog Awards in the Health Category. I was very humbled and grateful. I would like to thank everybody who voted for me and my blog. Your votes have seen me being shortlisted for the final…YAY!. It is now down to an expert judging panel to decide the winner. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony next year. I shall keep you up to date with any news.

October also saw the launch of my new personal business website:

This was just an extension of my virtual office work. I now offer personal assistant services for sole traders and small businesses in and around the London area. It has been received well and I have taken on many new clients. This has been such a great opportunity and it has really helped me to gain confidence in myself and my abilities. After being out of the world of employment for almost 2 years I seriously doubted my experience and abilities. I was not sure if this was going to work. But what did I have to lose? I am so glad I did it and I would not change it for the world. I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to continue to work with some amazing and enterprising people.

Pain Level in 2011: 10
Pain Level 2013: 5/6
Pain Level 2014: 5/6 sometimes 7

Pain levels are stable and mostly controllable. However, I have been experiencing a lot of migraines and optical nerve pain this year. Muscle spasms and muscle strength has not improved. Current pain medications include: co-codamol 30/500mg, ibuprofen 400mg, Amitriptyline 20mg, Sumatriptan Nasal Sprays 20mg and Diazepam 5mg. I am still taking raspberry ketones, green tea extract, multivitamins and fish oil supplements. It really is not ideal and I do worry about the effects these medications are having on my body. I have tried to cut the medications down, but these attempts have been unsuccessful. I have recently started using Sumatriptan and diazepam because my migraines and muscle pain was becoming relentless. I had a crazy migraine on the whole of the right side of my head for 5 days straight. The pain would start at the top of my head; travel down my face and also through my eye to the back of my head. When this happens, the nerve that runs down my right arm fires off and I cannot grip with my right hand. These episodes started to become a weekly occurrence and it was stopping me from functioning at all. I could not read or drive, or do anything, so I decided to try some new pain medications. I am quite sensitive to many medications, so I was very reluctant to try anything new. I have tried muscle relaxants in the past and they had a very negative effect on me.

I am currently waiting for funding to undergo some treatment for CFS. Fingers crossed I get it and it will help with my pain levels. I really want to get off of these heavy medications. I have just finished another group of CBT sessions for depression and I am waiting for my case to be assessed by Professor David Veale. This is in hope, that I will be offered some more long term support.

So in terms of my year’s recap that is all. I wish you all a Happy New Year and I look forward to speaking with you all in 2015. I have more blogs to work on and will continue to keep you informed about the work I am carrying out. As always, feel free to message me if you have any questions and I will be sure to respond to you as soon as I can.

Sending my love and hugs. Enjoy the celebrations.


P.S. Congratulations to my friend Aashbir who got engaged this year. We have been friends since we were 3. I am so happy and proud of you! I cannot believe where life has taken us. You and your family have always been a constant in my life and I am so privileged to be part of your journey. You have been my light in very dark times and for that I am truly grateful. Wishing you and PJ all my love and best wishes for the future.

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