Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Does Your Face Hurt?

Because it's killing me.

That hilarious 5th grade joke has been in my head for the past week.  Because actually, my face does hurt. 

It started Thursday evening.  My left jaw muscle seemed a little sore.  I didn't think much of it though until Friday, when it continued to be sore all day long.  Each day over the weekend was a little worse than the day before.  Especially first thing in the morning.

My first thought, of course, was ohmigod the cancer has returned and now it's in my jaw!  It was the only logical conclusion.  For about an hour anyway, until I calmed myself down and realized how ridiculous that sounded.  Even just to me, because I certainly didn't share that gem with anyone out loud.  Sometimes I've got a pretty good filter for the crazy that goes on in my head.

Anyway, after calming myself down, my next thought was that it must have something to do with the extraction I had at the beginning of January.  I called my dentist Saturday morning and left her a message.  She never called back...which I have mixed feelings about.  But by the end of the weekend I did realize that 1) this was not an emergency (I could still eat, open my mouth, etc.), and 2) that face/ jaw pain may not be her area of expertise.

So, Monday morning I placed a call to the oral surgeons who did my extraction.  They made an appointment for me on Tuesday.  And then Tuesday morning another thought occurred to me.  Could it be something with the radioactive iodine (RAI) again?  Why yes.  Yes it could.  I came across several message boards where people who had been treated for thyroid cancer complained about face pain anywhere from a week to nine months later.  It's been about six months for me.  The issues range from problems with salivary glands, to TMJ, to Trigeminal neuralgia.  I wasn't sure what to think.

I went in to see Dr. D.  and talk with her about the pain.  She was very nice.  She took a quick look inside and out to say that she didn't see any immediate issues, the site of the tooth extraction looked really good, etc.  I brought up salivary glands and RAI.  She started to say, 'Oh no.  That couldn't happen because the RAI only goes after your thyroid cells.'  I told her that actually, when you go in for the RAI treatment they specifically tell you that you can experience trouble with your salivary glands.  That I was told to suck on lemon drops right after the treatment for a few days.  She was surprised and had never heard of this before.  'Well', she said, 'your parotid gland is in the same area where you're experiencing the pain.'  So she took another look.

Turns out my left salivary gland is not functioning as well as the one on the right.  Source of pain found!  I told her that I had read on one of the boards (thank God for the boards, by the way) that I should either try sucking on lemons or at least go back to the lemon drops.  She said that would be good since it will stimulate salivation.  She recommended ibuprofen and heat for the pain.  I also just read today that massage will be good for it too.

The pain is better today than it has been.  The lemon drops seem to be helping as do the heat and massage, although I'm doing those less frequently.  When I do any of those things I get sort of a salty taste in my mouth.  From what I've read that seems to indicate that these things are working and I'm making progress.  I'm hoping that this trend continues.  I know that for some people the pain never goes away. 

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