Goodness gracious, before I get into any of the topics in the title of this post, I want to apologize for being so absent lately. Not only has it been over a month since I've been able to post here, but I've also been scarce on social media, including, but not limited to, twitter, facebook, instagram, text messaging (not a social networking site, but definitely an oft-used social networking method) and the like. In the interest of keeping this blog a place of honesty, I'll admit that I've mentally been having a hard time lately. I still have zero doubt that God has already started my healing process and will see it to completion, but between the constant physical pain and the current worsened state of my OCD, anxiety, and depression, I've spent the majority of the past month in bed (due to pain and the things mentioned above), with the covers up around my neck for comfort, generally just not wanting to deal with anything. Which isn't good, as far as emotional health goes, but sometimes this just happens and I've learned to accept it and ride it out until I'm feeling better (which always happens at some point...although I don't necessarily recommend this method to everyone). I've also spent the past month or so hating my phone every time I hear a text message or call come in, simply because I don't have the stamina to talk to people. If you've texted me and I've not answered your texts right away, please don't take it personally (resisting urge to say, "it's not you, it's me"), communicating and maintaining relationships is just very difficult for me right now. I say all this not to garner pity, but to give you a brief glimpse into the reality that even someone who usually tries to stay upbeat and positive has times when things are too overwhelming to put into words. It's also not that I don't care or don't want to know what's going on in the lives of my family/friends, because I definitely do care and want to know what you've been up to, it's just that trying to hold conversations right now takes more energy than I'm able to delegate, because the energy I do have needs to be conserved and spent on things like showering, changing clothes, eating, and other such necessities.
(Note: This does not mean I want you to refrain from texting/contacting me if you have something to share or just want to say "hi," it simply means that I want to make sure you're aware that if I don't answer you immediately (or even reasonably fast, as defined by 2014 culture), it's only because I'm physically/emotionally unable to answer at that time, and eventually will give your chosen form of correspondence the attention it deserves.)
But enough about that, I have some very exciting (to me) news to share! If you've been following my journey for any length of time, there's a good chance you've seen me mention trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and how it is absolutely the most painful symptom I deal with daily. (If you're new to all this, my short explanation of TN as I experience it is this: excruciating and constant stabbing pain in my right eye, ear, jaw, and right side of my head to such a degree that no methods of pain management deliver any relief.) TN is a result of damage of some sort to the trigeminal nerve, the location of which you can see near the top left of this diagram:
As you can see, this nerve divides into three main branches, and to avoid trying to create my own definitions for these branches, here's a short summary from our good pal Wikipedia (I know, I know, I cringe when citing Wikipedia as a legitimate source, but it works in this instance) of the functions of each of these branches:
So basically, this means that if there is damage to the trigeminal nerve, the effects of said damage can be felt in any or all of the area listed above. In my case, the pain infiltrates all three areas, to the point where I am rarely (if ever) seen without huge sunglasses on (and if I have the glasses off, 90% of the time I have to keep my right eye shut and/or have something cold on my eye in an attempt to lessen the pain), without having my hand or a hot water bottle against my ear (the cold helps my eye but makes my ear much worse, and vice versa), or without constantly moving my jaw so it will pop (it is a joint, after all), which gives me relief for the split second it actually pops but then the pain comes back and 10-20 seconds later I do it again.
The kicker for all of this is that we haven't been able to find anything to give me any notable relief, and believe me, we've run the gamut of remedies time and time again. We've been told from a few different sources that "the only treatments for trigeminal neuralgia are anticonvulsant medications and/or surgery to deaden the nerve." Needless to say, after successfully breaking my 10+ year reliance on multiple strong prescription medications in June of last year, I have thus far refused to accept that my only options for relief would be going on any of the suggested medications (some of which I was on for long periods of time for unrelated reasons during those 10+ years) or having my nerve permanently deadened. You might be thinking, "Well, Becca, your pain can't possible be that bad if you refuse to try the medication." And if that thought crossed your mind, let me assure you that this is the absolute worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life.
There's a reason why even the mainstream medical community refers to TN as "the suicide disease," and the reason is because the pain of this condition is so severe that it can make a sufferer feel like there's no point in trying to live anymore because they already feel like they have no life due to the pain. Many people actually have taken their lives because of this condition (by the grace of God alone I've never been in such a state where I've considered that an option, but from experiencing this pain every day, I can see how someone could be pushed to that point). Just because I'm not comfortable with the "conventional" treatment options doesn't mean my pain is any less. I just already have so much long-term damage from the years and years I took every prescription medication that was suggested by my plethora of doctors, and now that I've seen the light of alternative treatment methods (speaking of, who decided that the things God put on this earth in their natural form are "alternative" and the things created/engineered in labs are "conventional"?) and the restorative healing they can bring in countless situations, I just refuse to accept that there's not something out there that can bring me relief.
*Enter my Godsend of a doctor with the suggestion to see a biological dentist*
This next part I'll summarize as briefly as I can, because the end result/discovery is what matters most. In February, the doctor I see in Nashville recommended I look into seeing a biological dentist after I described how my TN pain was becoming unbearable. The reason for this? To confirm or rule out a NICO lesion as a possible source for my TN pain. A brief summary of a NICO lesion is as follows:
A presence of cavitations in the jaw bone in conjunction with chronic facial neuralgia. The concept implies direct and causal relationship between the bone pathology (cavitations) and pain itself. Pain in this setting is commonly described as atypical facial neuralgia and is chronic in nature. Cavitations represent areas of necrotic (dead) bone. [source]
So the goal was to determine if a NICO lesion in the area of the trigrminal nerve is the source of my pain, and whatever the result was, we'd have a better idea of what treatment options were available to us. I eventually was able to see a biological dentist in Louisville, who sent me to have the necessary scan done, and then I also saw another biological dentist/oral surgeon who is the expert on reading the scans. It was this final doctor who confirmed that I have a NICO lesion directly underneath my first molar on the right side (one of my "6-year-old molars"), which not-coincidentally was the tooth I had a root canal/crown on in 2004/5.
What caused this NICO lesion in that particular location? Well, it was a combination of things, but again, I'll try to list them briefly because this post is painstakingly long already:
Figuring all of this out was such a relief. Not that I'm excited to know that there's a section of dead bone just chilling out in my lower right jaw, but I am excited that we finally know what is causing this pain and we now have a plan for treating it that doesn't require prescription medications or nerve-deadening surgery. However, in the interest of not adding several paragraphs to this novel-length-blog-post, I'll share about the treatment we've decided to try in another post (hopefully it won't take me a month to type it!). Although I will mention that there will be lots of talk about ozone (and not in relation to climate change or the debate of the existence or non-existence thereof...because controversy doesn't lend itself to healing!) :-)
As I close, and in honor of yesterday marking the start of classes for Centre College (yep, it was Labor Day), I'd like to leave you with a message I heard courtesy of President John Roush many times in my 4 years there.
Do your best. Be your best. No regrets.
There will probably be a post centered around that quote at some point in the future, but for now I say it with the following clarification: Doing your best and being your best doesn't necessarily mean going out into the world and tackling a radical, world-changing mega project. Sometimes, especially when dealing with chronic illness, it simply means continuing to fight for your life, making it through another day, and never, ever, ever giving up.