My smile was taken away from me.
It happened a year ago, just a month after Knightly was born.
First, the left side of my tongue went numb. I started noticing that my mouth and left side of the face was becoming misaligned, then completely asymmetrical. My speech slurred. I couldn’t close my mouth. I couldn’t blink my eye. Strong muscle aches began. From there, I experienced constant migraines and nausea.
For a month, it was really hard to even stand because I had such strong vertigo.
When I woke up the next morning, I had hoped that the paralysis would go away. But it didn’t. And, immediately, I was terrified that this was serious. Before I saw the doctor, I did a quick Google search and all the results showed it was either Bell’s Palsy or a stroke. It SCARED me.
Quickly, I visited urgent care.
Bell’s Palsy is a rare disease that approximately 10,000 Americans get each year. The direct cause of Bell’s is unknown. It’s believed that the facial nerve gets damaged in the process causing one side of your face (sometimes and rarely both sides) to collapse.
I had always had faith in western medicine – that you could take a pill or get some kind of surgery to recover quickly. But my case was rare. Doctors gave me all kinds of medication and physical exercises to try. They were telling me to wait a few weeks, wait another month, then another month, then a full year.
After several visits to my ENT and traveling around to find the best doctor for my case, I was being talked to about facial surgery reconstruction so I started looking at what eastern medicine had to offer as well.
So I started doing acupuncture, electrotherapy, herbs.
I tried every outlet,
every recommendation people were giving me
But after 6 months, there was very little improvement.
And I felt terrible
because I thought I couldn’t smile for my son,
and I couldn’t really kiss my wife.
I was afraid to look at my son because I thought that he would learn and copy my crooked smile.
I was scared to shoot weddings or leave the house because I didn’t want people to feel embarrassed around me or see something wrong with my face.
I was ashamed of having this disease.
I really missed whistling, eating, smiling.
I never realized how much I missed all the things I used to be able to do.
But one thing I knew, something had to change.
I had to change my lifestyle and to be an example to my son by starting to exercise and actually stick to and achieve a goal.
Because of this experience, I learned to cherish and enjoy life more, enjoy every muscle movement of my face, every wrinkle.
Now it’s been over a year since my recovery and I’ve gotten about 60% functionality back.
I won’t stop believing that I will get full recovery. I’m not going to give up. I honestly I feel like this is a challenge God has allowed in my life so that I can pursue Him, know Him better, and understand what life is all about.
I never expected the love and support of family and friends and strangers, who’ve been incredibly encouraging. I will be forever grateful to them. They’ve been a big part of helping me grow through this.
After many hardships, doctor visits, therapies, and relearning what life is all about,
I have a new smile now.
And, honestly, I love it.
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Mandy Pena says
I would just like to encourage you to investigate into chiropractic. My husband has treated people with Bell’s Palsy and has gotten good results.
I have had Bell’s palsy 7 months now. I had the same thought about not being able to smile at my kids! Thanks for your post.. Beautiful photos 🙂
D. Park Photography says
Therese! Thank you so much for your sweet comment. Please let us know if we can ever be of any assistance to you. You are definitely not alone in this journey.