Saturday, October 18, 2014

My "Jaw Journey"

I was thinking the other day... for a 27 year old, I have been through a lot... actually for a person, regardless of age, I've been through a lot. I've never really dove into all the details but I think I'm going to start. I need to share my experiences with others so I can encourage and empower people! First off I have to say that my faith and relationship in God has been the majority of my strength. I can't imagine going though it all with no hope or promise of something better.
So lets start at the beginning of my "jaw journey".... Once upon a time... haha
When I was a freshman in college (I had been in school for about a month), my dentist saw a growth on my jaw at a normal routine cleaning visit. I had no idea why she seemed so concerned and started urgently scheduling tests. I didn't even know it was there. Within a week I had a bone biopsy done. Luckily they told me they were pretty sure it was something that would resolve by the time I was 20 and should cause no more issues. The oral surgeon tried to shave down the growth so that it was smaller and less noticeable. It was so painful. I would say its was worse that wisdom teeth removal but I wouldn't know-the Lord blessed me with 0 wisdom teeth. One less surgery for my poor jaw.
Anyway, flash forward 4 years to about a month before our wedding. I kept bleeding every time I ate and it was painful, so back to the oral surgeon I went. We didn't want to do another biopsy before the wedding, so we scheduled one for when we got back from our honeymoon. 2 weeks after the honeymoon I had 1 bone biopsy done, 3 days later they called and said it was inconclusive and needed to do another. So 2 days later they did 2 more biopsies and explained that it could either be 1 of 2 things... The one option was the growth that would stop growing or a more aggressive growth that would need removal. A few days later I received the bad news that it was the aggressive growth. They informed me that is was a cemento ossifying fibroma and its extremely rare (lucky me). I had to have it removed, which meant removal of my jaw bone. So lets set yourself in my shoes for a moment. We hadn't even been married for a month and I found out I am going to have my jaw bone removed from the outside of my neck. scary. life-changing news. If I opted out of the surgery they told me it would keep growing and impair my ability to swallow because of its placement on my lower jaw. The growth was about 7cm x 4cm. pretty large. They had to remove all 4 molars on my right lower jaw in March (we found out in February, married in January). It was so much to deal with. We had just moved to Chicago, gotten married, left our friends and families, Zach had started a new job... I was however extremely thankful that it was not cancer!
My bone had to heal before they could remove the growth so the actual surgery took place in August. It was a 10.5 hour surgery. They removed 1/2 of my lower jaw through the outside of my neck. They replaced the bone with bone from my hip, cadaver bone, and a large titanium plate. I was wired shut for 4 weeks. I lost some of my nerves so I no longer have feeling in 1/2 of my lip, chin, or front teeth. My tongue and motion nerves went undamaged. Although the trauma from surgery caused my motion nerves to not function for about 3 months.
This whole situation changed our lives. I had trouble looking down, lifting, turning side to side, etc. I couldn't drive, do dishes, laundry, read... I still have muscle issues and nerve pain. I am still in physical therapy for chronic pain (over 4 years later).

It has changed Zach and I for the better. It has made us courageous and strong. We are each others support systems. No one else knows what this situation is like and it has drawn us closer together and to God. It truly was a blessing in disguise, because our marriage is better than I ever could have imagined. God has a plan and a purpose.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.                                                               Romans 8:28

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