Time, Breath and Healing
In October 2007, I saw an ENT for tinnitus. He scheduled me for a polypectomy and then performed three aggressive nasal and sinus surgeries and an undocumented nose job. The nose job has been confirmed by several plastic surgeons. He left my breathing and my face a shambles. For a year, I lived with the fear that I had atrophic rhinitis, a rotting condition of the sinuses caused, in the modern world, by aggressive sinus surgery: Atrophic Rhinitis Paper. A person with atrophic rhinitis eventually develops a stench in her nose so overpowering that she can be smelled blocks away.
The surgeon who did the damage documented on three post-operative visits that I did have atrophic rhinitis. The next ENT wasn’t sure. Eventually, the AR question settled into a collective opinion that I have some type of rhinitis which remains undefined.
For the first eight months, my breathing was so compromised and my nasal dryness so torturous that I could not imagine a future. My goal was to achieve a level of breathing and nasal balance that I could learn to endure. The specter of becoming a creature emanating a nauseating stench loomed. I held the image at bay. One thing at a time.
In spite of intense pain and fear, I desperately wanted cosmetic repair. I came close to having a revision rhinoplasty less than one year after the surgeries. It fell through. Again, last summer, I saw an ENT plastic surgeon. “It’s too soon,” he said. “You’re still healing. If you have surgery, healing will stop.”
“Still healing?” I said. “It’s been almost two years.”
“Your surgeries were very aggressive,” he said. “Normally, we say to wait one year. For you, three years.”
No way, I thought, am I going to live with this hideous nose for another year. I found another plastic surgeon who agreed to do the surgery. At the eleventh hour, the surgery fell through due to a low thyroid level. By the time the problem resolved, I had changed my mind. The surgeon and I had not agreed on aesthetics.
I believe the low thyroid level was a divine intervention. The surgery planned for me was too aggressive and not what I wanted, but more than that—I am still healing.
In increments so tiny as to be almost indiscernible, my nasal health steadily improves. Some of the improvement is due to the Premarin I have put in my nose. Some of it is due to use of the natural remedies listed in the pages under Healing. And some is due to the factors that constitute Breath.
In the dark days following the surgery, I grasped that my anatomy had been altered. Bone and cartilage, blood vessels, glands, nerves and mucosa, had been cut out of my nose. The most overwhelming feeling was of something missing. Not no nose as a fellow ENS sufferer has described it. For me, it was a feeling of partial amputation, like the removal of one and half lungs. Lying in my darkened bedroom, I envisioned God breathing life into the first human. This was how the nose was formed, I thought–out of dust. The nose was formed out of the act of breathing. The same way a muscle is formed out of an act of doing.
I stumbled through the snow, in those days, pressing my lips together and sucking air in through my partial nose. I sucked with all my might, in the effort to inflate my partial lungs. That is the way I experienced my lungs, too, and still do, though not as keenly. The loss of lung sensation is due to the nose-lung reflex discussed on The Empty Nose Syndrome Association website: Respiration Article.
Sitting in bed, I practiced the deep breathing exercises from Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan. I hung my head over the edge of the bed in an effort to draw blood into my nasal area. I sat with orange slices, inhaling their scent. I envisioned wee sprigs of mangled glands springing back to life, beating their chest, flexing their might.
When I was too tired to do anything else, I meditated on the act of creation. For me, the image was one of God blowing air into my nose, forming, once more, the organ of breath. But you don’t have to share my archetypes in order to meditate upon the healing of a body part. There are many excellent resources on the subject of meditation and visualization. Here is one: Guided Imagery.
You may never be the way you were before. But I am here to tell you, you can get better.