In life friends seem to come from places you frequent. School. Work. Football. Online dating sites.
My return to football after a four month gap was heralded by John bounding down the steps at Boundary Park, looking me in the eye and saying “has that shit not gone away yet?” – a clear reference to my Bell’s palsy.
He actually summed up my own level of frustration rather well. Eleven months in an exceptionally long time to have this condition. Three weeks, three months and nine months are, apparently, the key dates when the condition magically fixes itself overnight.
My occasional online browsings are now revealing people who’ve suffered from it for over a year. Over a decade even. And despite some people looking and thinking “well it’s a shame but it’s just your face” it has been debilitating.
It’s made me deaf in my right ear. The amount of neck twisting I do to hear others is high. The frustration of background noise making it much harder to hear somebody talk. The reduced sound quality from my Bose headphones. A reduction in the pleasure that music gives me.
I can only smile on the left side of my face. While I’ve sort of mastered drinking through a straw or out of the can it’s much easier to pour into a glass and drink from the glass. But that still offers a risk of seepage through my wobbly lips on the right side. The beer stained tee shirt from a dribble. The over carbonated cola from my inability to swallow as fast as before. Interesting sensations.
Then there’s the nostrils. The seismic shift in my face has torn my right nostril internally. It bleeds and heals daily. The left nostril runs unexpectedly. Whether it’s the palsy or a side effect of the cancer medication I don’t know. But the mucus hardens and, especially when eating, provides a route out for the runny nose that offers no sensation, so it just appears unexpectedly. Classy in company! I assume, back in the pre-palsy halcyon days, I was able to sense this early and subtly sniff it away. No more.
My right eye is the biggest issue. Sore a lot of the time. It can find bright light, especially sun, hard to cope with. In the early months I was prescribed eye drops which were useless. More recently a gunge called lacrilube. Supposedly for overnight use only, I’ve found this really useful two or three times a day. It virtually obscures my right eye vision, but that was a rubbish eye anyway. The relief it gives is immense. A key side effect is that it mixes with “sleep” and every now and again leads to my eye emitting a gross yellow blob requiring careful removal with a tissue. Not fun for those who see it before I’m aware of it.
My daytime driving is nearly always done with prescription sunglasses. Other outdoor activities benefit from a pair of shades picked up in Salem, USA. They proved particularly useful when flying in a window seat to keep sun glare out. The low winter sun of Chile was also invasive.
My night time routine involves surgical tape. It took the medical profession a couple of months to advise me to tape up my eye at night. It took me six months to realise that the tape they supplied was too narrow. Every evening now involves applying lacrilube to my right eye, pulling down my eyelid which may or may not stick on the lube for a moment. Grabbing tape and scissors and cutting a five inch length of tape to keep my eyelid firmly down overnight. This action reduces the risk of ulcers forming which may in turn lead to blindness.
My speech is often incomprehensible unless I hold up my lips with my right hand. And my confidence to talk to people, order a drink etc is inhibited. I don’t want to introduce my look to a new person. I don’t want to risk them not understanding me. If I’m in company I prefer company to do the talking for me.
There are worse things that people suffer in life. But Bell’s palsy is a bugger. A reminder that any facial droop or sore eye at all means get to your GP quick. Quick prescribing of steroids can get rid of it in weeks.
The football? Lost 2-0. I’m glad Vegas and Australia will allow me to miss a few games this season!