Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Day in the Life

One of the frustrating things about having a chronic disease that can/might/probably will progress is that I start to question every little pain I have. A twinge in the thigh can have me searching through my memories, trying to decide if I have ever had a pain like that before. Then I spend the rest of the day trying to pay attention to see if that pain continues because a new pain lasting more than a day and interfering with daily life is when I have to call the doc. The new pain in question, however, is not in my thigh, it's in my face. A dull ache on my lower left jaw, to be exact.

Face pain of varying degrees of intensity is pretty much constant for me. That's the pain that sent me to the doctor in the first place. For years I've had a pain running along my left cheek, down the side of my nose, and into my teeth. When the pain is really intense, my eye also hurts and I'm sensitive to light, then eventually the whole left upper quarter of my head hurts. That's only if I don't catch it in time; usually I pop some ibuprofen and that takes the edge off for a while. For years I went back and forth between the dentist, telling me my teeth were fine and the doctor, telling me I had a sinus infection. Then the pain just stopped, and I lived happily pain-free for years. Then a few years ago, the pain came back with a vengeance. I made the rounds to the optometrist, the dentist, and finally the doctor, who ordered the MRI and found the lesion that led to the lumbar puncture that led to the MS diagnosis. (Sounds a little like the old woman who swallowed a fly, doesn't it--who swallowed the cat to catch bird, to catch the the spider, to catch the fly . . .)

Anyway, turns out that this pain is an early sign of MS. Go figure. And it actually has a name--trigemenal neuralgia. I'm kind of a classic case, in my humble opinion, and it only affects that middle left portion of my face. When the ibuprofen doesn't work and if I start getting small shocks through my cheek, I head into the doctor's office because now I'm probably having an exacerbation of the MS. That's when the steroid treatments start, and I really, really, really, let me say that again, really don't want to go through that again.

Now I'm having this pain in my lower jaw, parallel to the pain in my cheek and that's not my usual TN symptoms. So, it's gotta be my teeth, right? And even though I fear and loathe going to the dentist, who's actually a very nice guy, I called to have them checked. We've been through this before, he and I. Last February I went in because I thought that maybe this time the pain in my cheek really was my teeth, but they were fine and I ended up getting really sick and had to have the dreaded steroid treatment for the exacerbation. So, guess what happened this time. Yep. Teeth are fine. Maybe the gum has receded a little from the tooth, but everything looks fine and I had no reaction to any poking, prodding, tapping, or scrapping.

I feel so stupid. I'm like the little boy who cried wolf, but I'm the girl who cried cavity or root canal. They are very understanding and didn't charge me to check my teeth, but I'm just so embarrassed for wasting their time, yet again. My file probably has a little asterisk on it now for "here we go again." But at least I don't have to have a root canal or anything like that.

I also feel silly because I have been having little flare ups of my symptoms, but nothing that I can't live with, and my allergies have been driving me crazy and that can make my whole head hurt (plus trigger MS symptoms), but I still went to the dentist. I know that it's better to know for sure, and even the dentist said he'd much rather I come in and it be nothing than not come in and it be something. But still.

I don't want to blame everything on the MS and just ignore something as another aspect of the disease. I, also, don't want to be one of these people who's always complaining about some pain. So, when I finally decide to have something checked out, why am I embarrassed rather than relieved that it's nothing? How weird is that? Is there a special kind of neurosis for people who aren't relieved when they're told they don't need a root canal? Well, actually there is I guess. It's the fear that it has nothing to do with fixing something and all to do with a disease getting worse. That's not to say I'm getting worse! The MS nurse has told me repeatedly that new symptoms will show up, but that doesn't mean the disease is progressing. And many times I think I must have been misdiagnosed because I feel fine. Actually, most of the time--I feel good (thank you James Brown, heh!).

Well, now I can move on. My teeth are fine. Oh, he also asked me if I had been clinching my teeth. Um, yeah. I spend a lot of time clinching my teeth and biting my tongue so that I don't snap at people (usually the hubby), but I think that's just hormones, which is a post for another day.

Enough venting for one day. It's going to be gorgeous this weekend, with highs in the low 70s and sunny skies. I think that calls for a road trip in the Miata and a picnic.

7 comments:

Newt said...

Do you have a journal or a spread sheet or something that would allow you to track those little aches and pains so you might be able to spot symptoms or signs that a flare up could be coming. I would almost say a spread sheet with symptoms in the columns and days in the rows. So you might be able to see patterns. Vs. a journal which would make you have to look back and wouldn't make trends so quickly visible.

Just a thought.

Kell said...

It's a very good thought, too. I did create a spreadsheet for just the reasons you said. I've been trying to remember to use it--that's the key. I have to actually write it down!

Peggy said...

Ok, so you grind your teeth a bit during the day, but what about at night when you are sleeping? I found out, during a very difficult portion of my life, that I grind my teeth in my sleep. Bruxism, a fancy word for grinding ones teeth.

That pesky trigeminal nerve actually runs across your jaw too. (Why do I know that?)

Chelle Y. said...

You know, Kell, I do the same thing with my pain. Wonder...now has that part of me hurt before this? Usually, I cannot remember.

I am sorry you are hurting. Pain is very real and sometimes I wonder, what it would be like without it. I hate to see other people hurting too.

susan said...

It sounds like you've found a great dentist...one that really cares and doesn't make you feel like a fool.

I'm sorry you are hurting so much...

her indoors said...

its easy to blame every pain you suffer with on your illness, my hubby does the same, but it is wrong to do so as you know. i have every respect for you and others who are coping with near constant pain x

Lena said...

I used to feel similar if my complaint turned out to be something 'trivial' but now I'm a firm believer in peace of mind and nipping things in the bud if I can.

Pain is the biggest pain-in-the-bum! *hugs*