Saturday, July 5, 2014

JAWS....

Greetings and handshakes.
Pipes and politicians...
...and jaws!
          I mean, look at the jaws on that man!
          I’ve been looking at jaws a lot lately, especially after these past few months; it’s incredible how we take our jaws for granted!
         
Last March, after a few weeks of severe pain in my lower right teeth, my dentist took a panoramic x-ray of my face—one that started just below my eyeballs and ended below my chin—and he saw a shadow. It was long, set deep in my mandible; it was below my teeth and partially in my jawbone.
          “What the hell is that?” I whispered.
“I don’t know,” he answered, “but I know it shouldn’t be there.”

I had a biopsy: the oral surgeon punched a hole in my jawbone, went in, cleaned out the area as best he could; sent a sample to a laboratory near Boston.
          “I think it’s just an infection,” he said, “but the biopsy will make certain.”
          I relaxed a bit—the surgeon wasn’t too concerned. I started taking an antibiotic, lived through several painful days of stitches in my mouth (and another course of antibiotics when it became infected).
          On the tenth day, my phone rang.
          “It’s not cancer,” he said, “but it’s not good.”

I was diagnosed with an odontogenic tumor—a tumor caused by a rogue toothbud.
The method of treatment?
“Jaw resection,” he said.

People say that life changes in an instant, and I now know exactly what that means; I was terrified.
I wanted a second opinion. I was referred to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The oral surgeon there (who looked to be about fourteen years old) sat me in a chair, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m not going to take your jaw; we don’t do that here anymore.”
I burst into tears.

I had surgery in mid-May. They took my lower right teeth, went in through the top of my jaw and inserted an irrigation port that sits on my gumline, then wired it to my other teeth for stability. And my job is to irrigate twice a day...the tumor will shrink and my jaw will begin to replace bone that the tumor has destroyed; in about a year, they’ll go back in, remove the smaller tumor and freeze the lining of the cavity.

And I’ll be done.
Whole.

Amen.

19 comments:

  1. You poor thing. I hope you are now getting relief from your previous pain and make a rapid recover with your beautiful new jaw. Thank goodness for all the improvements in medical diagnosis and treatment.

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    1. There's much relief, thank you! I only hurt when I bite "wrong;" I have to chew everything on my left side, but forget occasionally. It was a lousy three months this spring, but I am feeling much better and hope to be blogging regularly soon!

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  2. Dear Deb - Take heart! My mother had to have a tumor on her lower jaw removed 50 years ago. The operation left her with that portion of her jaw bone the mere thickness of a fingernail. But over time, the bone grew back and the tumor never reappeared, nor did she develop any other, and she is now 96 with a very firm jaw - in many ways. :)) I don't know if her doctors, back then, knew what caused the tumor to form. But yours do, and today's knowledge and expertise on the matter is so much better than back then, so I believe you have an excellent chance for a full recovery.

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    1. Thanks, Gail -- I love hearing about your mother's recovery, for it does give me hope. My jawbone, too, was destroyed by this tumor, but they say my body will generate enough new bone to allow for cryotherapy in a year or so. I feel like I've dodged a bullet, as we say. It will be a long year, but I'll be fine at the end! Thanks for your thoughts!

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  3. What an experience. Who knew a toothbud could go rogue - terrifying, but what good news that bone will regenerate like that. I hope you continue to progress in your recovery.

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    1. It's been quite a ride, Helen! Ups/downs, etc. But I'm on the mend, and I'm grateful for the advances in medicine over the last 10 years or so! I appreciate your good wishes...and I'm so glad to be back here on Sepia!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your personal story. Hoping that things continue to get better and better for you quickly.

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    1. They are better and better, Sharon! And Sepian Support is a good part of that "better." Thanks!

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  6. My heart goes out to you and I send you my very best wishes for the future.

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    1. Thanks...it's really not too bad, now. I just wanted all my Sepia friends to know why I disappeared so suddenly! I'll be back on a regular posting schedule soon...

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  7. A YEAR?!?!?!?!? May as well put me in a coma. I'm a big baby. I hope the remaining months of treatment are kind to you.

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    1. That was MY first thought, too, Wendy. But, when I consider the alternative (having part of my jaw removed), this seemed a much better deal!

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  8. Best wishes for an excellent recovery! It doesn't sound very pleasant, and I can certainly understand why you've honed in on Harold Wilson's jaw here

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    1. It's really strange, Jo; I now notice people's jaws before I notice anything else! My oral surgeon tells me that this obsession will go away, but not for a while. I'm feeling better each day; thank you.

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  9. No wonder you highlighted Jaws in the theme photo - they are definitely on your mind after such a harrowing experience. Hope the recovery goes well.

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    1. Thank you...recovery is progressing. If the surgeons are right, I've only got another 10 months to go, which sounds like an eternity right now, but it will end...

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  10. My father had this many years ago, but did not have to have as radical surgery as you did. He was in a lot of pain and there was a lot of blood. I can also appreciate what you're going through having suffered jaw problems for over 15 years. Speedy recovery and no pain is my wish for you.

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    1. I send my best to you, too...jaw pain is brutal (anything involving mouth/jaw/teeth is brutal as far as I'm concerned). The hardest part for me now is simply EATING -- I have to concentrate so hard on chewing correctly that it makes eating a long, laborious process...not fun anymore. But, I tell myself...I still have a jaw!

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