Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why You Should Always Get Dental X-Rays

This post is going to be more personal than previous. Proceed if you wish.

At first I thought that this was ironic. But, upon further study of the word, I decided that what is happening is a coincidence.

However, the most recent chapter I wrote in the sequel to Songs Eight Six—before I knew that any of this was happening—was about how one of the central characters of book two doesn’t believe in coincidence.

Is that ironic?

When I wrote Songs Eight Six, there were many pieces of the story that required some research. One such area was Micah’s injuries. I knew little about broken jaws at the time, and so I had to spend many hours on Web MD and Google Images (I do not recommend this) to figure out the hows/whats of injuries to the mandible.

This is knowledge that, in light of my recent diagnosis, I can’t decide if I’m glad I possess.

Earlier this year during a routine dental X-ray, my dentist discovered an area of concern behind my bottom lower left molar where my wisdom tooth used to be. When I had those suckers removed seventeen years ago, I remembered that there were cysts/tumors growing on them, but being I was young and was never told that I had to worry about them after they were removed—I didn’t. My dentist thought it best to pass along the X-ray to an oral surgeon who confirmed that there was problem, and that the problem was to be solved with hopefully oral surgery.

"chipmunk" phase after first surgery
I opted to remain awake for the surgery (because I’m a little bad-a and more so because I ABSOLUTELY HATE ANY SORT OF SEDATION/PAIN MEDICATION). Afterwards, the doctor showed me the tumor (gross) and said that he thought he’d gotten all of it out (I’d kept my eyes closed for the procedure, but I pictured that he’d extracted it with a mini-ice cream scoop). He then informed me that pathology would categorize the tumor in one of three ways. Two of them meant I was in the clear. The third option was bad, not Cancer bad, but bad enough that he mentioned words like “bone graft.” We both decided that we didn’t want to talk any further about door number three unless we had to, so we didn’t.

I left the surgery feeling really confident that everything was over. The surgery had been an experience that I’d survived. I was going to look like a chipmunk for the days following, but then life would return to normal.

Today was my post-op. I was suspicious when the office called to see if I could come in earlier than my scheduled time so that I would have “more time to talk with the doctor.” You should probably always be suspicious if this happens, because while a lot of doctors are personable people and some can even be a little chatty, few of them have the time to chew the fat with patients during work hours about non-scary health issues. And, as it turned out, I was right to be suspicious.

The doctor wasted no time not-sugar coating everything he had to say. At the time, and even in retrospect, I’m glad for this. If he would have seemed sympathetic or sorry, I would have cried. But, as it was, he gave it to me straight and answered my questions, and I sat there shocked for a few minutes, and then went on with my day.

My tumor was the dreaded third option. While not cancerous (thank God), it’s still aggressive. It’s called ameloblastoma (you probably shouldn’t Google Image search it), and left untreated very unpleasant things could happen to me (I’m warning you, don’t Google Image search it). There will be surgery in my future (one at least, possibly more), and (very likely) a bone graft (the-hip-bone’s-connected-to-the-(pause)-jawbone!). The was talk of long hospital stays, long recovery time, facial scars, loss of teeth, and permanent loss of feeling in my mouth/face.

My book research hadn’t included all of this. I hadn’t needed to know any of how Micah’s body was going to heal, because Micah’s injuries were healed by a miracle (spoiler alert… sorry, but really if you are reading this blog, you SHOULD have already read my book, unless you’re a really bad friend or strange stalker). So far, that is not the direction the author of my life has taken my story (though, I’d be grateful for it if it happens… hint, hint).

As the doctor was describing this future for me, I was just sort of…shocked. I mean, the tumor had been detected incidentally through routine X-rays. It has never caused me pain (except when it was cut out of me). And now, in its absence, it was going to be changing drastically the next season of my life. Of all mouth tumors, only 1% of them are ameloblastoma. They aren’t hereditary. They aren’t caused by anything I did or didn’t do (though if I like and said flossing prevents them, would you do it?). They are just, as the doctor put it, “bad luck.”

post-surgery (artist's rendering)
My bad luck, or irony, or coincidence is going to shape the next chapter of life for my family and me. I’m already pre-grateful for all the love and support that I know my great friends and family will selflessly heap upon us while we figure everything out. I’m also expecting (and kinda excited) about potentially being called “Trap-Jaw” (any He-Man fans?) the rest of my life. But as someone who doesn’t feel she handles many things in life with grace or poise or really anything other than panic, I’m hoping that this journey will give me an opportunity for new levels of faith in God as my father, my healer, and my comforter. I know I’m going to need him in new ways, and I know he’s going to show me he’s there in ways I’ve never known before.

Throughout this season, I will be marching ever forward in writing the sequel to Song Eight Six. The story is not over, and Cosette’s journey is not nearly complete. However, perhaps I’ll try to refrain from writing about bodily injury (and mute characters… did I mention I won’t be able to talk for awhile? Avalon would make really good company…) since my life imitates my art.

Maybe I should just change book two to be all about Cosette meeting Benedict Cumberbatch…

Over the course of the next few months as all this unfolds, I will update here (it just seems more personal than a Facebook post). I’ll also try to update more with other things (since I won’t be much for talking ;)).