Recap from Chapter 1 of my health story:
There’s nothing quite like hearing at the age of 37 that you “have the temporal mandibular joint of a 90 year old boxer.” Shuddering, I replayed a Mike Tyson knock out punch in slow motion in my head, watching the jaw of the opponent dislocate and go slack.
I was sitting in a world renowned TMJ specialists office in Dallas, TX, talking to one of the most knowledgeable and experienced TMJ surgeons in the United States, possibly in the world, about my jaw, rather my Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), to be exact.
I sat there in silence as he pulled out three colored pencils. One green, one blue and one red. On top of my x-ray he placed a piece of tracing paper and started to draw. I watched with interest, listening to my heart beat out of my chest. Finally I asked, “What are you drawing?” Casually, he replied, “Why, I’m drawing your new face.”
Calmly, he explained the process. “First we’ll dislocate the maxilla, or upper jaw bone from your mandible. Then we’ll slice the cartilage above your teeth, below your lip, so that we can place the upper jaw correctly on top of the lower jaw. Now, this tissue is as thin as an egg shell, so I have to be extremely careful…..”
As I tried to conceal my horror over the very idea of a 10 hour surgery, a year long recovery period, and having my face literally cut in half and screwed back together with titanium, Mr. TMJ surgeon kept the conversation upbeat by ending with, “Hey, the good news is, you’ll also be getting a face lift out of the deal!”
I mean seriously, who wouldn’t jump at the very thought of getting a face lift at the ripe old age of 37?! And, the added benefit of getting to drink through a straw for at least a month, be drugged up on numerous pain killers for God-only-know’s-how-long, all whilst missing my babies grow up? Count me in!
Every ounce of me wanted to run screaming from that office, but I had flown thousands of miles and paid hundreds of dollars to hear this man out. If it meant pouring fast-setting concrete over my feet, then so be it. I was determined to make it through that appointment.
I might have left that day feeling like I had no options, but fortunately I was not only in Dallas for this one appointment. I’d just experienced my first Weston A. Price Foundation Conference, a foundation devoted to educating the world on how diet impacts every part of the body, including the formation of the jaw and teeth. It just so happened that Dr. Weston A. Price had been a dentist, and had traveled the world studying indigenous people whom had yet to be impacted by the modern world. He reported the differences he found between the people currently in the tribe and those that had left and been raised on processed foods. The results were astonishing. Additionally, I had been fortunate enough to hear Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride discuss the implications that diet, grains and dairy in particular, had on the body, both physically and mentally.
Because of this wonderful conference with these knowledgeable speakers, I came away with hope and a game plan. I knew where I needed to begin and I knew that if I didn’t take it into my own hands and take it very seriously, I would one day be back in Dallas for that surgery.
Let me just add here that it’s easy to say you’ll take your health into your own hands. However, it’s not easy to do. Before all of this I’d listened to doctors. I’d followed their every last living piece(s) of advise, taken their drugs, and been the model patient. I had wanted to please them, get a pat on the head for my inordinate ability to be a sheep. I thought they had all of the answers and if I just “did it right” everything would turn out okay.
The problem was things were getting worse instead of better. The prior year I’d spent $2500 on a jaw splint that caused my back teeth to erupt, throwing off my entire bite. Why? Because I wore that splint faithfully, never even second guessing that things were wrong and maybe, just maybe this doctor didn’t actually know everything.
As I see it now, the drawing of my new face was a gift. It was a picture of someone else. Someone who I was unwilling to become. It was at that point that I knew that I was going to have to fight to stay out of that operating room. That if I didn’t take charge of my own health, challenge the status quo, and displease just about every person but myself, I would have a titanium jaw and likely be on pain killers the rest of my life.
And guess what? It worked!
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