The Funny Side of Facial Paralysis

It has been just over a year since I had brain surgery; and a little longer than that since I heard the dreaded words "you've got a brain tumor." And, I am here to tell you that I am still, at my core, the same woman I have always been; and yet, on some levels, substantially changed. Sure, there are some physical changes: I'm deaf in one ear, my balance is not very good, and there are still some parts of my face that do not work very well- but those things are not really such a big deal.

What has changed is how I view life; and how I view myself. Most of all, I have re-discovered a great ability to laugh at myself and not to take myself too seriously. Laughter is liberating, and the ability to see humor in my own human-ness is particularly freeing. Take facial paralysis, for example. I know that this is not a particularly funny thing – and laughter was certainly the last thing on my mind when I saw my face after surgery. Heck, half of my face just did not move at all. My smile even scared me! However, you can either hide from it or embrace it as best you can. After a short period of hiding, I realized that I really did not cut out for hiding. And, so my public journey began. There have been a few tears along the way, but mostly there has been a lot of laughter. I'd like to share some of it with you …

1) Eating out was and still is particularly amusing. Think about trying to eat when half of your mouth is immobile. The closest thing I can compare it to is when I've had a load of Novocain at the dentist and my lips and tongue feel like sausages. So, now try to imagine eating a sandwich – yep, it ends up being a lip sandwich because my lower lip just gets sucked right into my mouth. Yeow!

2) And, liquids are a social minefield, too. If one does not master the quick-swallow technique, the liquids tend to come dribbling, or even spewing, right out the side of one's mouth. Emily Post would not approve!

3) And, then, there is the little matter of sensation – or in my case, lack of sensation. One side of my lip and chin are basically numb, so if a small scrap of food should happen to slip out of my mouth and land on my chin, I am blissfully unaware. Until someone politely says, "Excuse me, madam, did you know that you have a steak on your chin?"

4) And how about that eye that does not blink very well – or sometimes at all? In the hands of someone experienced, like myself, this is a weapon to be reckoned with! When I want to distract someone, I just look them right in the eye, dead serious, and let my right eye stare at them while my left eye blinks normally. I am told that it is unnerving and allows me mastery of nearly any situation. I call it my Monty Python Stare. Eat your heart out.

I do not mean to make light of facial paralysis, or bells palsy. It is serious and it can be quite daunting. But, if you allow yourself, you may find that it can also provide some much-needed moments of unabashed laughter.