How a Blocked Salivary Gland Validated My Decision to go Forward with Jaw Surgery
By Nicole Hand
I've been having cold feet about my upcoming jaw surgery. It's not a secret that the whole process is frightening to me, and I've been semi-seriously considering living the rest of my life in pain in order to avoid the surgery. Well, today I received confirmation in the form of a lump under my chin that I must have this surgery. There really is no choice.
The pain started with a minor headache yesterday afternoon and progressed so rapidly that I was afraid it was going to develop into a migraine. I took a nap and felt a little better, but as the night wore on the discomfort returned. The pain was all on the right side of my face and nothing made it better. I mistakenly thought it was the result of a particularly stressful work week and thought a good night's sleep would sort me out.
I woke this morning and the pain had grown. I began to massage my face and neck and finally my fingers found their way to the underside of my chin - and that's where they froze. I found a lump, about half the size of a golf ball, and it was radiating with pain and heat.
Now I don't know about you, but lumps scare the crap out of me. My mother and great-grandmother both had breast cancer (my mother, thank goodness, survived), I have a good friend who was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, my Auntie in England has been fighting cancer, and I have an overactive imagination, so I tend to go into full freak-out mode when I feel a lump. (By the way, why does the imagination work this way in these situations? Why can't I imagine all the wonderful things that are possible, instead of the worst scenario? So frustrating.)
I took some deep breaths and slowly regained rational thought. It was highly unlikely that the lump was cancerous, it was more likely that lump was somehow related to my off kilter bite. A few hours later I had this confirmed by a doctor.
Turns out I have a blocked salivary gland, which is caused by me grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw. The pain is severe.
The treatment: hot compresses and I have to eat sour things to make me produce saliva! I've been happily eating Lemonheads, a childhood favorite, all day.
I don't know why, but this painful little lump finally solidified my decision to have the jaw surgery.
I've been wrestling with my own fear as well as guilt. The surgeries and treatment will be a financial strain for Tom and me, and it will also mean that I won't be pulling my weight around the house for a while. I'm a very self-sufficient person and the thought that other people will be burdened with caring for me is uncomfortable. It's even distressing to think about my friends and family worrying about me. But now, finally, I feel that my decision is made, and validated somehow, by the pain I'm in caused by this little lump.
I cannot live like this and I am so thankful that I don't have to.
***Update on May 1: Went to see my wonderful oral surgeon today, Dr. Fonseca, because he wanted to be sure that I didn't have an infection. Good news, I don't have an infection and so the surgery can go forward as planned on May 15th. He says I have passed the stone on my own and that the swelling and lump should be completely gone in a few days. He does not think that the lump was a result of clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth as the other doctor said. I've never had a blocked salivary gland before, so I have no idea why I developed one now. I'm thrilled that it won't interfere with the surgery. Now that I've officially decided to go forward, I want this the process to begin as soon as possible.