Saturday, December 15, 2007

What a Difference A Year Makes!



So these are last year's and this year's holiday party picture -- last year (on the bottom) I couldn't really eat anything or even really smile. I was still swollen and there's a big difference in vitality between the two pictures, don't you think? The lovely lady with me in both pictures is my co-worker Delores.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cost of Implant Surgery, Implants, Cosmetic Crowns -- Reality Sets In Day after Thanksgiving

Felix post bladder surgery

So on Tuesday I had my consultation with my prosthodontist where we sat down to go over my entire treatment plan. The good news is that he came up with a creative plan that covers three years and he took into account that the first year, 2008, I would also be paying for the implant surgery. And Dr. Shlosberg did exactly what I asked him to and what my last dentist was not able to do, he itemized each expense so I know exactly what its going to cost. Of course, when I saw the total amount, I about fell off the dentist's chair!! I paid the deposit for the first portion which entails the surgery stint (so that Dr. Kaufman knows where to plant the implants), the abutments and 5 provisional implant crowns on the bottom (it will actually be 6 as he thinks I need to have my last wisdom tooth on the bottom pulled), and a night guard.

When I got home, in the mail was my surgery bill for the implant surgery from Dr. Kaufman. Dr. Kaufman is giving me a hefty courtesy discount as a returning patient, but it's still more than the BSSO was. The surgery will include nerve repositioning so that the implants will not actually go through the nerve since my nerve is very close to the top of the bone. We had talked about taking bone from my hip to add bone but that would mean taking it from my hip . . . and I really don't want to have to walk around with a cane!

That all happened Tuesday. On Wednesday we went shopping for Thanksgiving and then had a great Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. I did not even think about the whole thing -- you know, how you talk to yourself and worry and fret. I didn't do any of that.

So this morning (in a food hang-over stupor) I sat down with all the numbers to make a plan. The plain includes using money I have in my savings, putting $10,000 for each the next 3 years into my flex spending account, my dental benefit which is $1,500 a year (that's $4,500 over 3 years so not too bad) and for the remainder taking out an equity loan to be paid off over 5 years. Also, I will have to pay off my one credit card balance and not use the credit card for the next three years. Whew, I think I will be able to swing this so I won't have to worry or talk to myself about it.

Suddenly, the $3,000 we spent for Felix' bladder surgery last week seems like small potatoes.

The implant surgery will be in January. Even though its going to cost an arm and 2 legs, I'm really confident in both my surgeon and the prosthodontist and am happy about getting this all done. Hopefully nothing will go wrong!

Total cost for implants: Too Much Money! Value of new smile: Priceless!

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Bloggers Like Me"

There are so many orthognathic bloggers -- its quite exciting. And they are quite clever -- I borrowed my title from someone who listed their links "Bloggers Like Me."

I keep adding them to my links and then I find more. Its an epidemic! I'm going to try to add them all which could take days and days . . .

Coming home after having your jaw sawed in half and looking like a Macy's balloon is quite the emotional experience, I know. So its quite uplifting to see so many bloggers who are going through this and who can offer support to the one's to follow.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Scan Results--Implants are a Go


The other day when I mentioned to some of my co-workers that I was seeing my surgeon for an implant consultation, I got some funny looks. I guess you have to say "dental implants." Anyway, so I saw my surgeon and after a long chat, we decided that we would go ahead with the lower implants. I can either have the implants without a bone graft from my hip by moving my nerve during the surgery (risky of course) or I can have the bone graft to build up my bone so that he won't have to go through the nerve. My nerve is very close to the surface of the bone.

My surgeon was actually pleased when I told him that I was getting some feeling back in my lower chin area. He didn't really expect it. So he is going to be talking to my new dentist and my orthodontist and in the next few weeks I will get a plan (and of course find out the expense) for how we are going to proceed.

I think its going to be 5 implants on the bottom and 2 on the top, but I will know more in a few weeks.

Yeah, no more partial. I'm so excited!!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

One Year Later--Looking Back


It was a year ago on October 25 that I arrived at UCLA/Santa Monica Hospital and voluntary got onto an operating bed. I remember being quite nervous and afterwards feeling really silly about it. Clearly there was nothing to be nervous about, it was a piece of cake. Part of me thought if I weren't nervous, then something might happen, so better to be nervous.

Looking back now a year later, it all passed too quickly. I feel nostalgic about the days and weeks after the surgery. They were actually really great. Except for the first few days after I came home from the hosptial. I wasn't prepared emotionally for how I would look, like a total freak! Appropriately it was Halloween.

But that soon passed and I basked in the care I received from Jeff. He went shopping and brought home all kinds of soy shakes and made fresh soups everyday. He pretty much indulged my every whim. I remember being pretty hungry for a week or two but I was soon eating mashed potatoes with gravey which went a long way towards making me feel like I was actually eating something.

Finding blogs by other people who had or were having this surgery was a life saver during those first weeks. I spent hours reading other people's blogs and it helped me to feel normal and to know what to expect. I really appreciated that people took the time to write about their experiences as I had no idea what this surgery would entail until after I had it.

There were a lot of ups and downs, like having a splint wired onto the bottom of my mouth. And the hardest part to deal with was and still is the numbness in my bottom lip and chin. I learned to drink with my tongue under the cup or glass. I'm so used to it now, I hardly notice. But it still would be nice to get the feeling back . . .

My orthognathic surgery really was an adventure. And now I am finally moving on to dental implants. I have my consult on Monday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Still Numb After All These (11) Months



So I'm just coming up on 11 months post surgery and (except for the numbness on my bottom lip and chin) life is pretty much back to normal. Next month I get my scan to find out whether I'm a candidate for implants. I have the feeling that the answer will most likely be not. My new dentist, a prosthodontics, thinks that the bone and tissue loss is to severe. So, we'll see. In the meantime, I have my new partial and even though it doesnt fit that well (which is why I switched dentists), I am chewing quite well these days -- so well in fact that I have gained back 10 pounds.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nine Months Later!


So its been nine months since my orthognathic adventure began. Things are pretty much back to normal, including eating (especially since the braces came off and I got my new partial). I do have little chipmunk-like pockets in my cheeks where the scars are on each side. Food likes to gather there, even though its not winter! Also, I'm not crazy about the retainer that is glued onto the front of my bottom teeth. Its a strip that is the color of teeth but tends to get discolored from food I eat, such as blueberries or things of that nature. But overall I have good mobility of my mouth (I can now open my mouth to about 53 mms.) and the weight is slowly creeping back up. I'm trying to maintain my weight at 110-115. Oh and in this picture you can see where on the left side I have a fat bottom lip -- that was where I was biting myself (see previous post).

So I'm now waiting to start the implant procedure which will be in about 3 more months (October). Its all kind of up in the air until I get the results from the scan I will have to have to see whether I can have implants, etc.

In the meantime, I'm still numb on the surface of my bottom lip and chin although I am getting more and more feeling back in my bottom gums and I also have feelings underneath my chin and bottom lip, just not on the surface. I still get a lot of different sensations like itching that I can' scratch, hot and cold feelings on my bottom lip, etc. So that's about it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

%$$^$^^$%*)*{OUI#@%)_&

For some reason, I keep biting my bottom lip on the left side. I have been walking around with a fat lip. The inside of my lip in not numb so I actually feel it!!!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thirty-Three Weeks Post Op



Too much carrot/beat juice do you think?

I'm beginning to get a tiny bit more feeling back in my chin and on my bottom lip. Just a wisper.

Also, I'm gaining my weight back. I was down to 105, now I'm back up to just over 110.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The "Plum Pit" Is Back

At 7 months post surgery, my biggest health issue at the moment is the return of the "wicked lump" sensation in my throat. Along with this feeling of something being stuck in my throat, I feel crappy, under the weather. In Chinese medicine its called "plum pit" syndrome. Here's an interesting blurb in an article I read:

Plum pit qi refers to an abnormal sensation of something in the back of the throat which can not be swallowed down nor spit up. In modern Chinese medicine, this definition is supplemented by the comment that, upon examination, there are no pathological changes observable in the throat. In Western medicine, this condition is referred to as neurotic esophageal stenosis and globus hystericus.Within contemporary Chinese medicine, this condition is now associated with psychiatry. It frequently occurs in those with depression and/or anxiety disorders.

We are driving to Vegas tomorrow to spend a couple of days with my parents. And other than the typical work issues (dealing with petty rivalry and antagonism of co-workers), I have a very happy, satisfying life. So if I'm depressed as the article suggests, then the cause is completely unknown to me. Well, I'm depressed right now because I couldn't go to yoga today and because I feel like crap right when we are going on a short trip.

From a Western medical point of view, globus hystericus is caused by acid reflux. So why do I have acid reflux? I don't know anyone with a better diet! I don't drink coffee nor alcohol. I don't eat junk food. Recently I went through a two week course of the "triple threat" treatment for h-pylori (which I have had for years): Cirpo, Protonix, Pepto-bismol. About a week or so after getting off of that crap is when this came back. Those stomach acid suppressors seem to do more bad than good.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Is it just me? I noticed since I first learned about orthognathic surgery that I look at people differently. Today I was watching a taped Opera show with Tommy Hilfiger as a guest. And the whole time I was looking at his mouth. I would guess that he had an overbite and his orthodontist just slapped braces on him much like my first orthodontist had proposed. Dr. Aronowitz pointed out to me that if I just had my overbite fixed without advancing the lower jaw, aside from all of the other problems, my top lip would just hang over my teeth and I wouldn't like how it looked. And that's exactly how Tommy looks -- his top lip just kind of collapses over his top teeth (which are beautiful by the way). Of course, I'm probably completely wrong, Tommy probably never wore braces.

And I do this a lot, notice people's bite, their jaw, their lips, etc. Its funny HOW MANY PEOPLE actually have a misaligned jaw. Mostly I notice people with overbites and a receding chin. I guess I kind of wonder if they can go through life with an overbite, why couldn't I? Why did I go and have this surgery. Ha, its six months too late for that kind of introspection. But actually, I'm glad I had the surgery. Even with the numb chin.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dr. Aronowitz & Staff


So getting the braces off was not that much fun for me! (I'm sure not for Harry or Lashon either -- I'm no prize patient -- they are really patient!)

I had a band on one of my top molars and I thought that the whole tooth was going to come off. The brackets came off fairly easy. To get the glue off, Dr. A used a drill and I had to hold my breath each time he started it. It took about 45 minutes to get everything off and for a good polish (Dr. A did a really nice polish). My teeth and gums are very senstive, particularly on the bottom.

Then I got a permanent retainer glued onto my bottom teeth -- a wire in the back, a bonding thread on the front. This keep my bottom teeth stable while my bones settle down. There is a raging debate about whether I will get implants on the bottom. Well, not really raging. It will depend on whether I get my feeling back. My dentist thinks I will; my surgeon doesn't and he wants to go right ahead and put the implants in which would most likely severe the nerve.

I picked out a removal retainer for the top which I pick up next week. I went with a very exciting color -- clear.

Total time spent at the orthodontist was 2 hours 38 minutes with one minute to spare on the parking meter. I didn't go back to work. Instead, I decided to stop off for a chocolate muffin! Time in bottom baces: 23 months; time in top braces -- about 9 months.

I just realized that I am six months and 2 days post surgery.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thursday, Not Monday


Slight delay in the "de-bracing." I called my dentist to tell him the braces are coming off on Monday and he said that he needed them to be on for my appointment on Tuesday when he is going to add some bonding to the lower teeth to build them up. Apparently they have become grinded (grounded?) down over the years because of my overbite. So instead of getting the braces off on Monday, it will be Thursday afternoon. Dr. Dybnis made it sound like the de-bracing would cause some pain and/or discomfort. Mmmm, haven't heard that from anyone. Guess I'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, here is an updated photo taken at Spagos. Right before the batteries went dead. My bottom lip and chin are still completely numb on top. My lip has been burning a lot and it feels like something is pressing across it making it kind of pushed in against my teeth. Dr. Dybnis told me that he has no patients who have a numb lip or chin in their 60s so he thinks that everyone gets their feeling back eventually. Gee, that's comforting!

Lunch at Spago's


So David, my office administrator, took a few of us out to lunch at Spago's in Beverly Hills the other day (for my birthday actually). There was not a whole lot on the menu that I could eat. I had some dish that turned out to be raviolis (not that it said the word ravioli anywhere) and of course as always, I was the last one eating. But it was awfully good! No star sightings. And I'm glad I wasn't the one paying the bill (I felt slightly guilty about inviting so many co-workers to go with!). My camera batteries died about a minute after we got to the restaurant so I didn't really get any good pictures. I was glad I could find this one on line.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Untitled

The braces are coming off on Monday! Yeah!

The bad news is that it will be at least six months before my dentist can proceed with the next phase of my dental work, which will include implants and crowns, because the bones need a chance to heal from the effects of the braces. Darn!

Oh well.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Whose Blog is it anyway!

Since there really isn't much going with the orthognathic blogfolks, I've been trolling civilian blogs. Wow, there's a whole virtual bloglife-culture out there!

And so many blog tools. Here's an interesting blog tool link I found, oh, and here's another.

I don't know, this could cause me to loose hours and perhaps even days of my life . . .

Monday, April 02, 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

So Many Blogs, So Little Time

So before I had my jaw surgery I had never read a blog. I mean, with almost 7 billion people on the planet, who's (whose??) blog would I pick? Right? When I came home from the hospital from my surgery and I looked and felt like a freak, I started looking for information about the surgery to see what I was in for. (Yes, I know, most people do that before the surgery. But I did not want to have anything freak me out and have me cancel the surgery, so I did not look.)

The first pictures I found were Dovie's and that gave me a lot of reassurance. She was about my age when she had her BSSO and her result looked great. Plus she had pictures of her swelling and bruising and that was exactly how I looked. So I felt hopeful.

Then I found Mrs. Shanton's Wacky Teef. She didn't have any gory pictures but she had lots of links and that's where I found Kelsie. Kelsie had just had her surgery about five weeks before me and she was still all nice and swollen so it was helpful to see what she was going through.

From there, the whole Blog experience exploded. Every person who had a blog had more links. I mean, you could spend all day just finding people who have started a blog relating to their orthodontic and/or orthognathic experience.

So today I spent some time updating my links to include all of the ones I have been reading at all their various stages. (Hopefully I didn't miss anyone.)

We are an interesting bunch. Several Canadians. There's Brandy in Alaska who is the most supportive and is having her surgery in May. Poor Graham doesn't have a date yet. And then there's Bill, the marine, who has to have his surgery again! And Kelsie just got her braces off; so did Beneath The Stars (what IS her name!?). Steph's blog is the funniest but we haven't gotten any updates for a while. Rebecca looks really great. Cary is healing quickly. And Kristen's blog is my favorate, she's so interesting! And people are so clever with their blog titles.

Oh and I added a link to a blog unrelated to orthognathic surgery -- Petite Anglaise. Petite is a 33 British (ex-pat?) woman who lives in Paris with her daughter Tadpole (the ex's name is Frog -- isn't that clever?) and her blog has made big news since she got fired because of it. I've always wanted to move back to Germany or Europe and write entertaining and witty stories about my life. Sigh!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Harry Makes My Day!

So I had my orthodontic appointment today and Harry -- my orthodontist -- told me that with my dentist's approval, my braces can come off next month! Yeah, so I'm just following right behind Kelsie. She had her braces off at six months post surgery and (hopefully) I will too!

I still had a little gap so I got one power chain. Other than that it was a pretty uneventful visit. I got to floss and brush while the wires were off so that was fun.

I'm still having sensations on my lip and chin but so far nothing else is happening ie no more feeling has returned. I am however getting more feeling in my lower teeth. Today, for example, I felt it when the ortho assistant, Marcy, took the ties off my bottom teeth. And in fact, my bottom teeth in general feel pretty normal. And I do have more feeling and sensitivity in my lower gums but still not 100%.

Its just all so interesting. And thanks to all for your comments and support. Its just so much easier going through all this with other orthognathic "blogfolks."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I'm Itching and I Can't Skratch

Talk about frustrating. I wish for just one good scratch, right on my chin! Ugghh!!!

I've been having a lot of sensation in my bottom lip (mostly burning but also some pain and some pulling feelings and it feels frozen and indeed looks frozen). And I've been having a lot of itching, burning, tingling, and warm sensations on my chin. Almost like I can feel something on it but when I touch my chin or lip, nothing. Like its not there.

I still have to feel whatever I'm eating or drinking with my bottom lip. And I still catch myself drooling. Mostly when I'm home alone as if I'm out I always have a napkin in my hand to wipe! And it still takes me a long time to eat. Today we had an office lunch at a Chinese Restaurant to celebrate a birthday. Everyone got up to leave and my plate was still full of food!

So anyway, that's what life is like at almost 5 months post surgery.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ouch!

So I had my weekly acupuncture appointment this morning. Ping, my acupuncturist (doctor of chinese medicine really) usually puts in 5 needles, two on each side of my chin on the jaw and then one right smack in the middle of my chin. And its always so wierd because I can hear it go in and there is a sensation of it going in, but without any pain at all. (Don't believe anyone when they tell you that the needles don't hurt-there is usually a small sting and sometimes not so small depending on where it is inserted. On the feet, right between the toes for example, its a rather large ouch.)

Anyway! This time, when she put the needle in the chin, I actually could feel a small sting deep in the chin. It was quite exciting. I now have hope that I will actually get my feeling back. Yeah! Well, I guess I'll have to wait and see. But still, I'm excited!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Nerve! (The inferior alveolar nerve that is.)

More info on nerve regeneration, this comes from ThunderDent at Igobraces:

On average, nerve tissue in the maxilla regrows at an average rate of 1 mm per day. With the bloos supply in the maxilla, everything grows back (mostly) and you get feeling back to your teeth, etc.With the mandibular surgery, if you sever the Inferior Avelor Nerve (IAN) then it is gone for good. In which case you'd loose sensation to your chin, lower lip, teeth and mucosa on the Buccal (outside toward your cheek) of the side that is damaged. You'd still have your tongue side mucosa, and your tongue (unless the Lingual nerve is severed). People that suffer from severe Trigeminal Neuralgia often get the IAN cut on purpose so the pain will stop.

Here is a link to an interesting article about nerve damage and BSSO surgery: http://herkules.oulu.fi/isbn9514267508/html/x440.html. I'm not sure what to make of all this and whether I would have gone through with the surgery had I known that I would have permanent numbness. As it is, I have a lot of burning, tingling and itching and I'm still hopeful that I will get the feeling back completely, but with everything I have read, and based on the comments my own surgeon made to me, its quite possible I will have to live with this.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hot Dog Anyone?


I don't know if its all the excitement of watching Meredith come back to life on Grey's Anatonomy on Thursday night, or if I have phantom sympathy pains for my fellow bloggers who have recently undergone their orthgnathic surgery, but I've had a lot of sensations (pain, tingling, itching--how I long for just one good scratch! ) on my lower lip and chin in just these past days. And then I read Jennicole's post about nerve regeneration and I realized that at 4 months post surgery, my nerves may be at the point where they are trying to reconnect. How exciting is the possibility of that!
Here is Jennicole's post, which I thought most interesting:
The reason it takes so long to get feeling back in your face is this. When a nerve is severed, if not reattached immediately (within an hour or so) the nerve will die. At that point the nerve slowly dies off, imagine how roses slowly wither away. In about the third to fourth week, the stub were the nerve was severed begins to try to make signal to the old nerve. This is what causes the itchy pin and needles tingly sensation. The remaining nerves then acts like an octopus; it send signals to other nerves in the area, once a signal is made the nerve bud begins growing towards the nerve pathway. My OS explained it like this...The old nerves that died are like a hot dog. The inside dies away, but the outer bun stays in tact. The nerve then reaches through the path of the hot dog bun. The average growth of nerve is 1/2 mm a day. So depending were the nerve is cut...you can expect that there is about 25-50 mm of growth around the jaw that has to be regenerated before feeling comes back to the face. So for yself, I have a very long face...so I can assume based on this fact that including the 3-4 weeks it takes for the nerve to die, and the nerve regeneration to grow...I'm looking at a minimum of four months based on 50 mm of growth.
Now don't you just want a hot dog!!!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Proud Mary Keeps on Burning

Sunday will be my 4 month anniversary since my surgery. I am still numb on my bottom lip and chin. For the past couple of days I have had more burning on my lip and more itching. I hope that's good! I also continue to have a strange feeling across my lip, like someting is pressing against it, restraining it, even though I can move it. Its hard to explain. Sometimes I have a really strong ticking sensation on my chin that I can't scratch. I had a lot of that right after the surgery and then it kind of subsided. My acupuncturist thinks there's a good chance I'll get my feeling back but I have to admit, I'm a tad discouraged. I wanted my feeling back since day 1!

And I'm eating quite normally even though I still have an issue with the mobility of food in my mouth. Seems I just can't chew as big as a mouthful as I'm used to. But I'm eating quite normally, almost everything. My scale says I still weight the same, 105, but my yoga pants say 125. I'm sure its just a matter of time before the weight comes back on. Its interesting how it took its time coming off.

I'm getting more comments from people who see me about how I look, how different I look, positive comments. Its kind of nice. Now I'm looking forward to getting my braces off and getting the rest of my dental work finished. Seems like it will be forever!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Nostalgia--a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.


It's kind of wierd that with several bloggers just having gone through their surgery, I am experiencing this nostalgia for those first days post surgery. I know realistically I would never want to go through it again, but there were so many new and interesting experiences. Like going to Starbucks for a soy green tea latte (which I was seriously craving) and being completely embarrassed about my monsterous look and inability to speak clearly. And for the first week after the surgery, I seriously regretted doing it and I questioned my motivation and sanity. I rembember having a conversation with a girlfriend who had had a breast augmentation and she told me she felt the same way. But there was also something very special about those days, getting flowers, having Jeff cook yummy soups and being very supportive. And being off from work for two stress-free weeks and just enjoying, as much as I could, napping, watching TV (Oprah) and reading. I guess what I did enjoy was indulging myself, my emotional self, and being okay with it.

But then again, after looking at this photo of about Day 3, which I just came across, I think my nostalgia has now worn off. :-)


Sunday, February 11, 2007

So here's my new chin

That's quite a chin, don't you think?

And here's a "before" picture which kind of shows a side view of my chin.



And here's an updated frontal view, 15.5 weeks post surgery.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fifteen Weeks Post Surgery

So I saw my surgeon, Dr. Kaufman, yesterday, for my 15 week post checkup. My orthognathic adventure is pretty much over and everything turned out well, all 3 of my doctors (orthodontist, dentist and surgeon) are all thrilled with the result. Now we are moving forward with implants, starting with the three on top. And then finally, the cosmetic crowns. I can't wait until I won't be embarrased about my teeth.

I have decided to have Dr. Kaufman also do my implants and we had a long talk about it yesterday. He told me that there is a good chance that the numbness on the bottom will be permanent due to my age. I wasn't so happy about that. But, if the feeling does not return, this means that he will be able to do bottom implants without bone grafts. So it won't be all bad if I stay numb.

However, if the feeling comes back, he said there is a good chance he may not even be able to do the implants on the bottom, even with bone grafts, because of my small face structure and the nerve is too high. He would not be able to put the implants in far enough without damaging the nerve. Interesting. So, we'll see.

So now its just a matter of waiting for the braces to come off so that I can proceed with the implants on top. Probably about three months.

I really like my surgeon. He spent a lot of time with me yesterday. And he told me all about his adventures in India. Sounded a little hairy!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Good habits are easy to break!

Its funny how bad habits are hard to break. Like it took me years to wean myself off of coffee. But a good habit, like getting up to walk every morning, is out the window in no time flat. I got sick about a week and a half ago with a really bad cold. Of course I haven't been to yoga or walking in the morning. And finally I'm starting to get better. And this morning it didn't even occur to me to get dressed and go on my walk. Instead I have now gotten used to sleeping in! So its going to be like ripping a bandage off -- having to make myself get up and put on my sweat pants. And the funny thing is I love to walk. I have been in this routine for years. Oh well. Just a thought I had this morning.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My "Benzo" Story

Anti-anxiety medications known as tranquilizers such as valium, zanax, ativan, etc. are drugs commonly referred to as benzodiazepines. Those of us familiar with these medications call them "benzos". I thought it might be worthwhile to post my benzo story here for others who are considering taking them to decrease their surgery anxiety. My advice unequivocally is -- DON'T!!!

I started taking valium in my early 20's which were prescribed to me by a military doctor for pain. I didn't think twice about it. Not too long after I started taking valium, I started having strange health problems. I never equated the two and when my perspcription ran out, I stopped taking them. Until about a year or two later when I was getting a divorce and I found another doctor who perscribed them. That's also about the time my panic attacks began. Again, I did not equate one with the other. What I didn't know was that benzos cause rebound anxiety and panic attacks, especially the ones with the longer half life. I then took valium and other benzos over the next 20 years mostly on an as-needed basis for panic attacks, sometimes as little as .5 mgs per month. Throughout these years, I continued to suffer from strange symptoms for which I went from doctor to doctor with no diagnosis.

Then in my early 40's I got really sick. One of my doctors told me I had "anxiety neurosis" and prescribed 1 mg of ativan on a daily basis. For a while the ativan did help alleviate my symptoms. What I didn't know was that I had developed tolerance withdrawal even though I was not taking the valium on a regular basis because of its long half life. That's why the ativan helped. But then I continued to get worse, having trouble even walking. I went to many specialists who diagnosed me with among other things, MS, myesthenia gravis, lupus, toxo plasmois, and finally, chronic fatigue. It got to the point where I really didn't think I could go on. All of the doctors knew my benzo history but not one of them thought to consider that they were making me ill. Such a small pill has such a tremendous effect on the nervous system.

Finally, it was my accupuncturist who suggested that I slowly taper off the ativan. And when I did, that's when it hit me like a DUH! that it was the benzos that had been making me ill all those years. By then, a lot of nerve damage had been done. But fortunately I was one of the lucky ones who was able to taper off and actually recover my health and my life. Unlike most drugs, benzos are not something that you can just detox off. Benzos alter the landscape of the brain, its ability to naturally calm itslef down. You have to taper very very slowly and even then its barely tolerable. It took a good 2 years before I started feeling somewhat normal again and even today, almost 6 years later, I still have chronic muscle fatigue and other benzo damage issues. For about a month after my surgery, the panic attacks and aggitation came back most likely due to the benzo they gave me right before they put me under.

So anyone who may be considering tranquilizers to deal with anxiety, I recommend that go to "benzo.org.uk" (click on My "Benzo" Story title for link.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Three Month Update

Actually, not that much has changed. I'm still numb in my bottom lip and chin but more feeling is coming back into the peripheral areas. I actually have more pain on the inside of my lip and some sensation on my gums when I brush my teeth. I saw my orthodontist on Thursday and I am done with my rubber bands. I should be getting my braces off soon, within the next month or two, after some final tweeking, so that's good news.

I saw my dentist a few weeks ago and he is happy with my new bite and we talked about proceeding with a cat scan and implants as soon as the braces come off.

I'm still holding steading at 105 pounds for a total weight loss of 15 pounds. Two weeks ago Jeff got chicken pox (I know !!??) and just as he was beginning to feel better, I came down with the worst cold I have ever had, so I haven't been eating that much. I have been holding off buying new pants (inspite of people telling me I am "getting too skinny" coz my pants are bagging) because I am sure that the pounds will creep back on sooner than later.

I was looking at my profile the other day and it seems that my chin is now a little more pronounced than I realized. Mmmmmmm. Maybe its just me . . .

So that's about it, no big changes or anything. I see Dr. Kaufman next week so we'll see what he has to say.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

All choked up--GERD & Globus Hystericus

Felix aka Fat Boy
So about a month before my surgery, I had a bad GERD episode, what is commonly referred to as globus hystericus (my accupuncturist said in Chinese medicine they call it plum pitt syndrome). Anyway, it feels like there is a lump in my throat or food stuck in my throat, or like someone is choking me like when my cat felix sits on my throat. It makes me tired and cranky. It was of course understandable that the anxiety of the upcoming surgery was the cause of my episode. But now, 12 weeks post surgery, the big bad lump is back. I suppose I got too lax about what I was eating. I had some friend fish last weekend when we drove up to Oxnard to visit some friends. Fish and chips just sounded good, although I had the mashed potatoes. And I also ate a burger and fries (not on the same day). And on New Year's day I had French toast at Kate Mantalini's. I guess that's what I get for getting a little excited about being able to eat more foods. So its back to mashed potatoes and bananas which seems to help with the GERD. Ughhhh!!! So frustrating.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Before & After


Here are before and after photos. Its kind of interesting looking at pre-surgery photos with an eye towards how I look different now. I don't think we ever like to see photos of ourselves and I can't really say that I feel any different about it now. But I definitely see a difference.

I also got these below before photos, which include my 5 mm overbite, and a diagram of my before measurements, from my orthodontist on my visit today. It turns out the gaps on either side of my front teeth were caused by my new bite. So he put some ties on the teeth to get rid of the spaces. I have to admit, I don't know much orthodontic jargon.


Another before & after set:

PS--A lot of people ask me about the grey streaks in my hair -- they are natural since I don't color my hair.