I’m going to tell you all the story of my horrible facial pain, devastating diagnosis, and subsequent treatment. The first half of October almost broke me. This is how that story started…
On Tuesday, October 1st, I taught my second grade church school class from 3:30pm to 5:00pm. By the time I had sent off the last child with the last parent, I realized my jaw was killing me. I chalked it up to having no assistant that day and having had to talk a LOT. I rushed off to get fingerprinted– required to volunteer in our schools– and went home.
That evening, my jaw throbbed and I cursed myself for being a “clencher.” I’ve long known that I sometimes clench my teeth in my sleep and the resulting ache is always pretty miserable. I took a couple of ibuprofen and went to sleep, expecting I’d feel better the next day.
Wednesday dawned and the pain was still there. I sighed, frustrated, because I knew I would, once again, be reaching for the ibuprofen. I did. And, to my dismay, it didn’t touch the pain.
By Wednesday evening, something had changed. The persistent throbbing ache that had plagued me for a day or so remained, but I had developed excruciating shock-like pains that shot from my lower jaw, along my cheek, up to my ear, just under my temple.
I had never felt pain like this in my whole entire life.
I paced. I dug my nails into my palms. I curled in a ball.
At one point, I punched the tile floor and bruised my knuckle.
By the time my husband got home, I was wild-eyed and desperate.
What was wrong with me???
By this point, I had taken ibuprofen. Acetaminophen. Even half a Vicodin I had leftover from a prior surgery. (<– you should know I NEVER take medicine for anything but its intended purpose. I am a to-the-bone rule follower. But I was so desperate.)
Nothing touched this pain.
Crying, cringing, gasping for breath, I would wait for the shooting pains to pass. They lasted anywhere from thirty seconds to a few minutes and they made me want to cut my jaw off.
I’ve told everyone the same thing– and I swear to you from the bottom of my heart that it is true– it hurt far more than unmedicated labor.
My husband offered to take A., and the girls, to karate that night so I could stay home and rest. I knew I wouldn’t be able to relax, given the way I was feeling. I asked that he keep the girls and maybe get me a milkshake to drink since I couldn’t bear to eat with the pain in my mouth.
I got in the car and drove A. to karate.
Just before I pulled into the lot, the pain came back. It felt like an electrical shock ripping through my face. I could barely keep my eyes open and focused through the pain and, in fact, I was so horribly distracted that I missed a turn and had to park in a different spot. Not only was it miserable to try to talk, I couldn’t even pull myself together to listen to and focus on my kids. I would hold up my hand in a gesture begging them to just STOP for a second, wait, let mommy make it through the next jolt.
I walked into the class and a friend and her husband asked how I was doing.
I started to cry. They held my hands as I white-knuckled it through the class.
By random coincidence, I had a dental cleaning scheduled for the next day.
I could hardly wait to go and find out what on earth was wrong with my mouth.