There has been so much on my mind and heart lately but very little has been able to come out. I believe part of this is from exhaustion, part from my anxiety being intolerable for reasons yet to be described, and part may just be true Writer’s Block. Regardless, I am growing tired of this war between my brain and I. Thankfully, it seems today I can finally compose something in full.
Yesterday, as I drove a whole four minutes to visit my darling friend Amanda, I thought about something she said yesterday about trusting doctors and knowing who really has the best in mind for her. I know this feeling well; as someone chronically ill, I am constantly having to explain to doctors how my illnesses work together since having as many as I do all at once (especially at my age) isn’t exactly standard. I am thankful for the doctors I have had who were compassionate towards me and tried to assist me as best they could. However, now and then I have also experienced the opposite, and many times I experience something in the middle of two extremes.
One of the first blogs I published when I started Sickly Stardust was a two part post about my battle with my facial maloclussion. To reiterate, a facial maloclussion is a genetic defect that caused my face to become malformed. It effects the shape and function of my jaw, my teeth, my speech, my ability to breathe and eat, and causes chronic pain in the shoulders, neck, jaw, and skull. I was born with the condition and have struggled with since (You can read the two posts by clicking the links at the bottom).
When I was 24 I went to the University of San Francisco to meet with an orthognathic surgeon because I had been rejected by at least six other orthodontists who didn’t quite know what to do with my rare condition. After speaking to a knowledgable and kind doctor, he had my case reviewed by a panel of experts. Since it was a complex and strange case, he thought presenting it to the panel would be the best way to decide a course of action.
In the end, They decided that I would not benefit from the extensive orthognathic surgery because they were concerned it would actually increase my pain rather than make me healthier. They were also unsure if my bones could take the breaking and manipulation needed to complete the process because my bones have been weakened by my Celiac Disease. Ultimately, they told me to come to terms with the fact that the only fix to my maloclussion was something that my body couldn’t handle, and that I would benefit most from finding a pain management therapist to learn to live with my condition.
Fast forward to a few months ago when I had one of my episodes in which my jaw and teeth go into turbo-nightmare mode and cause me great suffering. My entire right side of my face felt swollen and was riddled with pain. It somehow felt that my right side of my face had been twisted. I was in complete agony and scared because this episode was far worse than any I had prior.
I went through several dentists until I found one truly spectacular one willing to help me. She did an extensive check up and talked to me at length about my maloclussion. For the most part I was in good shape, though she did see a small dark spot in my jaw which she suspected may be a weak spot in my jaw bone. I thought, “a weak spot already? I’m only 26. This just isn’t fair…I suppose the UCSF doctors were right.”
This lovely dentist ended up sending me to an orthognathic surgeon here in St. Louis, who, after pondering over my X-rays, told me that I absolutely did need to have the surgery done because I was only going to get worse with age. I told him about the decision made by the panel at UCSF, but he disagreed and said there was absolutely nothing to worry about. He then gave me the number of an orthodontist he was certain would take me while on MedicAid, and sent me on my way.
After the appointment I felt wildly conflicted. Part of me was terrified to have the surgery while the other part of me was ecstatic at the prospect of having one of my many illnesses cured. It would have a significantly positive impact on my body and my life, and if it reduced my pain long term, there was no reason for me to not have it if I could afford it. Still, the idea of having my jaw purposely broken was frightening.
As per the surgeon’s orders, I called the orthodontist as soon as I returned home. I explained to them the situation and asked for an appointment, to which they instantly replied, “we don’t take adults on Medicaid.” The woman quickly hung up on me. My anxiety surging and tears flooding my eyes, I called him right back, and he said to try another place. I immediately did, only to be told that Medicaid does not assist with orthodontics for adults, no matter the case. I hung up and cried for hours.
For a second, I had my hopes up that I had a fighting chance. I felt a light, thinking there was something to be done about one of the worst parts of my health. Just as quickly as it was given to me, it was instantly taken. I started to think about who was right; the surgeon here or the doctors at UCSF. What if they were correct in saying that my body couldn’t withstand the surgery? Maybe that spot of weakness in my jaw was proof. What if the surgeon here was wrong, and didn’t see the whole picture? Who am I supposed to trust with not only my body, but the entire look and function of my face and jaw? And, what’s more, if I can have the treatment, will I ever be able to afford it?
To be continued…
It feels like I only go backwards, baby,
Every part of me says go ahead.
I got my hopes up again, oh no, not again,
Feels like we only go backwards, darling.