How the Dentist Went!

img_4162Well, I cannot tell you how petrified I was going to the dentist this morning!! It’s hard to tell in the photo (ever tried to take a pic of teeth with a phone???), but that crack goes all the way to the gum and it’s right through to the back. I’ve already lost a tooth because it cracked below the gum line, so I wasn’t holding much hope for this one.

I had also stopped going to the dentist because I was feeling I was getting nowhere. Mr. S goes to the same dentist I used to go to, and he’s happy but I’ve had two (yes TWO) fillings done twice over in the last decade or so, so I wasn’t feeling confident in him anymore. After my EDS diagnosis, I was sent to a “gentle dentist” to replace my old metal fillings. He did one-quarter of my mouth last January and I spent the next 3 months in agony and didn’t want anyone to touch my mouth again EVER.

That was till this happened over this Christmas!

Here is a quick sketch of my mouth, and that crack is through my right Lateral Incisor.

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I had no idea where to go, or who to trust, I am soooo burnt by doctors who are stumped and their pride gets in the way of real help. But Mr. S convinced me to go back to my old dentist and amazingly his wonderful PA welcomed me back with open arms and found me an emergency appointment.

Dentist pics 03I don’t want to bore you with basic Biology/Dentistry, but I knew the basics of teeth as this: Dentine (or Dentin in the US) makes up the bulk of our thinner front teeth, with the pulp & root at the very centre, and a thin layer of Enamel covering the part of the tooth that’s not hidden by the gums.

Enamel has NO collagen in it. Dentine, on the other hand, is mostly collagen…. and I was born with stuffed collagen. It’s too soft. I knew this, but most tooth pictures show the big fat back teeth which have much thicker layers of enamel.

So, anyway, between my natural fear of dentists, my fear of him not being able to save the tooth and what the outcomes of that could be, my fear that they will forget and there’ll be adrenaline in the anaesthetic (which is there is in all standard locals), and my worse fear that it will wear off too quickly without it (as usually happens, and they stitch me up without any), I couldn’t see this was going to go any way but badly.

I started by explaining that since seeing him last I’ve been diagnosed with EDS. I explained that more importantly, it’s a connective tissue disorder, and that my collagen is not as strong as it should be. He responded by pulling out his book of conditions and of course, it’s too rare so it wasn’t there.

But then he did what I have rarely seen a medical specialist do and he put the info he had together and went with it! He used his brain and on the spot worked out what was going on! I was so impressed I wanted to cry!

He said that the “crack” is right on the line of the filling that he did there 3 years ago, and that while yes, it goes below the gum line, it can be redone. He said that it isn’t a crack at all (even though he could wiggle the piece!!), but that the filling had  “debonded” (rejected, come unstuck) from the tooth! The bond of the filling was mostly with Dentine, which should be rock hard, but if it isn’t, then it can’t bond.

It might not be great news, but at least it makes sense now, and also explains why the other filling near the front of my mouth took 2 goes as well (and may need doing again). He said the cheapest option would be to replace the filling, which may not hold long-term of course, but both crowns and caps require filing back the enamel and bonding with the dentine, which would be a disaster in my case. An implant requires surgery and strong bone structure which of course relies on strong collagen in both the bone and the gum. So basically, we need to avoid implants, crowns and caps at all cost. Things which may be great for other people, but basically we have no option but to go with the simple filling.

The bad news is that this is going to be a problem long term, and I know EDSers who’ve lost all their teeth as early as 39. I’m passed that already but still, I have a mouth full of pain and it’s not likely to ever get much better. But at least now it MAKES SENSE which it never has before. There is a level of comfort in that.

Dentist Pic 04The good news is that he said, “well, we just have to make it stick more” and as he cut away the old filling to expose the raw edge of my tooth again, one normally leaves a sharp “flat” edge. But he decided to file away the edge of the enamel so that it has a bevel edge! While still being a very small surface, it’s twice the surface it would otherwise be! How clever, talk about thinking on your feet and making a plan!

The other thing he did is smooth some of the filling material so that it is overlapping some of the rest of the tooth. The idea being that the filling is now using way more of the enamel that it would have, and we have a chance of it lasting much longer this time. So the new tooth is slightly bigger than it was before and we’ll also have to keep an eye on that, but hopefully, it’ll be fine.

For how long? Who knows, and I think I’m going to be a bit paranoid about using that tooth, but I’m paranoid about so many of my teeth now that I’m running out of options 😦

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I have hope for the first time in a long time. And a few more answers!

So I’m going back on Tuesday and he’s going to check out the rest of my teeth and see if there is anything urgent and hopefully fix whatever it was that the stupid guy a year ago did.

I am pretty sure it’s the first time EVER I’m excited about going to the dentist!

 

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Which draws blood?

This is a follow-on from THIS story, where I tried to explain that it is not the obvious that breaks me. This is another really tangible way I can explain what it likes to have my particular Connective Tissue Disorder.

An Orange, or pair of scissors … which one draws blood?

I love scissors. I don’t know what it is, but cutting paper, fabric, anything really, brings out the creative best in me. A bad pair of scissors is a nightmare for anyone if they don’t cut well, dig into the skin etc, but with a good pair, one that fits my thumb and forefinger perfectly, I can spend hours cutting and I’m fine.

But I have never been able to peel an orange. There is so much about a connective tissue disorder that is very hard to measure, but orange peel is a great example of something that is measurable for me. When a healthy person digs their fingernail under the skin of an orange, even the most resistant peel will always give way before the fingernail gives way from the flesh of their finger right?

But for me, it is the other way round. Even the softest peel sticks stronger to the flesh of the orange than my fingernail sticks to my finger. It is always, and by always I truly mean always, the peel that wins and my fingernail that loses. It is extremely sore, especially as the acidic juice gets into the bloody wound…

So all my life I have either avoided oranges altogether (which I have become allergic to anyway, but that’s a story for another day), or used a knife and spoon to peel them.

You know how you physically cringe when you think of stubbing your toe badly or slamming your fingers in the car door? That’s how I feel at the mere thought of peeling an orange!

Invisible illnesses and conditions are very hard to measure; Pain impossible, along with his ugly cousin Fatigue.

 

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Which is the Odd One Out?

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Which is the lethal weapon? Which one has a head that undoes me?

Guess again. I can hold a hammer in my hand, and grip the thick, solid handle. I have always used a hammer well and in hindsight, I somehow must have learnt that using a hammer properly (using the weight of it to its best advantage and letting it do the work for me), was always good for me. It is one of the many ways in which I have instinctively known to care for my body in the decades before I knew exactly what was wrong.

The spray on the left is also safe for me. Again, it is a “whole hand” grip and a broad movement. I am sure I wouldn’t be able to use either of these things all day, but I don’t have problems using them in the small ways that I do these days.

On the other hand, the aerosol is my nightmare! I can perhaps do a 10 second spray if I have to, but that’s it. I hardly use aerosols anyway and I’ve never used hair spray or cooking spray, but on the odd occasion I need to use spray paint, and I tried again a few days ago. And nope, I will NEVER be trying that again! A single, small joint with high pressure, I lasted a few seconds and that was it, and my finger still hurts.

Why am I telling you this? People see me using a hammer to smash up a bit of tile or plate for mosaic and say “she can’t be that bad”. But they don’t see what I can’t do. The spray can, the tile cutters, the sanders that used to make my creative work so easy…

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Frightened of Losing Your Diagnosis?

img_8897-1Before diagnosis, the decades in the wilderness where I did not even have the words or constructs to understand my pain and exhaustion, never mind anything to understand them, it was terribly, terribly lonely and very, very frightening. I stumbled around in the dark and had absolutely no idea where was I either going to or coming from. I am sure I did the old proverbial “walk around in circles” thing on many occasions without even knowing it.

Then came diagnosis. As I look back on the two years since then, the journey has been just as crazy. But it has been very different too. Diagnosis may be the end of one journey, but it is also the beginning of a new one. A way less lonely journey. Before diagnosis, there was just me. I had no tribe, and I belonged nowhere. Post-diagnosis, I have become a vital member of not only a tribe but an army. I am a Zebra, I belong to The Mighty, I am a team member of many groups, and I feel as though I contribute and make a difference in some small way. I have all the benefits of belonging to a tribe, and I no longer walk alone in this part of my life.

But that diagnosis keeps threatening to change. As each new specialist throws in their opinion (whether asked for or not), as criteria for diagnosis evolves and tightens, and as new discoveries are made, especially in genetics and science labs, the fear of being kicked out of my tribe is great. What would happen if I was told I no longer belong? What if was sent out into the wilderness again?

There are massive potential problems and complications for medical insurance and doctor options when losing the diagnosis, but in many ways, the scariest part is the fact that I would be back to where I was before. Out there in the desert again, a lonely leper.

But the reality is that the door to diagnosis wasn’t just about the specific diagnosis. It felt like it at the time, but in truth, it just led me to find a larger and more complicated tribe than simply the EDS Zebras. I belong to the Chronic Illness world which includes the undiagnosed! It turned out that I belonged to a whole tribe that I didn’t even know about, that I didn’t know that even existed, never mind how to find them!

When Fibromyalgia was added to my official diagnosis, I wasn’t stumped and lost like I was after the EDS diagnosis. Instead, I simply popped over to the other “department” of The Mighty, asked around my “Rare Diseases” community, popped the questions on MY Facebook page instead of having to search for new people, and had more answers than I could cope with within the hour. If I was to lose my EDS diagnosis tomorrow, I would not be all alone in the wilderness again, I would simply slightly adjust my position among my comrades.

There are over 200 Connective Tissue Disorders (CTD) and every doctor, no matter their other opinions, agrees that I, and my children, all have a CTD. They also agree it is genetic as we all have the same symptoms. Most of those CTDs fall into one of a small handful of categories, and we are very clearly (thankfully) ruled out of most of them because they do have specific tests. The closest fit and the only category left are the Ehlers Danlos Syndromes, so while we still don’t fit very neatly into one of them yet, the doctors tell me it doesn’t really matter which one because we can’t fix it anyway.

When I think about it with my heart I get fearful and anxious. I can’t help wanting to be more of a certainty. I am frightened of being a “token” member instead of a “real” one. The memories of the wilderness are all too near, and they haunt me in my weakest moments. Pleeeease don’t send me back out there to Leper Land! Pleeeease let me stay here in the safety of my tribe! I am a zebra, I always have been and I always will be.

But when I think with my head I know that for the most part, they are right. And no matter and change in diagnosis, I will always belong to the tribe.

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Meet Chrisjan, Guest post…

Today we have a guest post from Helene, who has so generously sent me her own story with EDS, and I decided that as she clearly written it from her heart and share’d so honestly, I will leave it in her own words and let her speak. For me, it is a huge reminder that life happens to all of us and that chronic illness gives no one a “get-out-of-jail-free” card from the rest of life’s challenges. In other words, you don’t get a chronic illness instead of other things, you get it as well.
Here she is will her gorgeous son Chrisjan:

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 5.10.49 PM“Good Afternoon, I am Helene and my son is Chrisjan and he is 13 and has been diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or hEDS.

I have two children, my daughter is 15 and a wonderful child. Straight A’s in school since grade one. Chrisjan has been a bit difficult. Both my children were prem babies, my daughter at 33 weeks and son at 36 weeks, due to an incompetent cervix and cervical cancer. In 2009 their father passed away from White Matter Disease (early onset Alzheimers).
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We moved to Durban so I could work and have my children taken care of. In early 2011 Chrisjan showed signs of ADHD and we had him assessed and it was confirmed. He is on medication for ADHD and depression as well as Sleep Disorder. In 2015 just after I remarried I had to stop working as Chrisjan struggled a lot with eating and muscle wastage. Due to not having medical aid, we turned to the government hospitals for help where they did all the tests you could think of, from MRI to EEG, ECG to numerous blood tests, and we found out November 2016 he has EDS.
He has been stopped from playing all sport in 2015 already and he loves his sport so much. In October 2016 my husband had a seizure and was paralysed on his left side. He lost his work due to it, at least he can walk now but He has a heart condition which is still under investigation and has been diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder. I have been looking for work but it has not been easy.
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Chrisjan also has a small heart (equivalent to a 7-year-old) and struggles some days in simple tasks. He has twice hurt himself where he needed stitches, once in his index finger (for this he had to undergo anaesthetic) and once he cut his left palm.
Amidst all that, my son is a happy and content child. We have now started investigating into why he is unable to eat properly and is severely underweight. He only weighs 30 kg. He walks around with a bit of difficulty, his left knee is aching a lot as they said the cushion is worn through.  His right ring finger is in a bent position, and he cannot straighten it which causes problems when he writes. His right shoulder blade in severely malformed and it is shorter than the left. I am at the point where I do not allow him to walk without a T-shirt as I cannot bear looking at him and counting all his protruding bones.
He is brave as he seldom asks for painkillers, only when he has a migraine. Puberty has not hit him yet which is what I am afraid of in the near future.
And that is our story on a short end. “
Thanks Helene so much for your story!

img_3636If you would like me to share your story with any chronic illness please email me on: JPeaSmith@KingsRoadChronicles.com

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Running on Empty!

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Facebook Live. I’m lovin’ it. I started a couple of days ago with the testing which was awkward and weird but I am finding my space there slowly, and really enjoying it. I asked for questions for the next few weeks of “shows” and as I been asked a lot of questions before, through my blog and Facebook stories, as well as my Mighty Stories, I suddenly have quite a long list to keep me going for a while.

I want to do this well, so I spent a few days mulling over the list of questions and today we realised that most of the questions fall under one of four categories which are not surprisingly, quite relevant to anyone, even those without a chronic illness at all. People who could benefit from these Q&A sessions will be those who are struggling (or who know someone struggling) with a difficult season in their lives. This will include those dealing with bad health, grief, loss, or any other life change such as divorce or moving far away.

Once every two weeks, I will be doing a Facebook Live under the heading of “RUNNING ON EMPTY”. Topics for discussion will cover general topics like managing medications, getting help from those around you, negotiating specialists, and understanding your life changes. But May just happens to be EDS Awareness Month so the sessions in May will include (but be limited to) things like “What is EDS?”, “A Day in My Life”, “An EDS First Aid Kit” and so on.

Here is the schedule for the next few months ( I will update it regularly with new links and updated information as we go!) :

  • Monday, May 1st – I will be focusing on EDS because May is EDS Awareness Month and what a better way to start than that!  | New York: 2pm | London: 7pm | Johannesburg: 8pm |Sydney 4am |

 

  • Thursday, May 18th – “A Day in My Life”| New York: 5am | London: 10am | Johannesburg: 11am |Sydney 7pm |

 

  • Monday, May 29th – | New York: 3pm | London: 8pm | Johannesburg: 9pm |Sydney 4am |

 

  • Thursday, June 15th – | New York: 5am | London: 10am | Johannesburg: 11am |Sydney 7pm |

 

  • Monday, June 26th – | New York: 3pm | London: 8pm | Johannesburg: 9pm |Sydney 4am |

 

  • Thursday, July 13th – | New York: 5am | London: 10am | Johannesburg: 11am |Sydney 7pm |

 

  • Monday, July 24th – | New York: 3pm | London: 8pm | Johannesburg: 9pm |Sydney 4am |

 

  • Thursday, August 10th – | New York: 5am | London: 10am | Johannesburg: 11am |Sydney 7pm |

 

  • Monday, August 21st – | New York: 3pm | London: 8pm | Johannesburg: 9pm |Sydney 4am |

 

So pop those in your diaries or go HERE to watch this short introductory Facebook Live. At the very end, it will give you the opportunity to turn on notifications for my future Facebook Lives. You can also simply “Like” and Follow my Facebook Page and the following places to get updates and changes. Please remember to share any of my Posts across my social media platforms.

@JPeaSmith
 
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

How to Be Nice?

After all this time, I still don’t know how to be firm enough and nice enough at the same time, when people give me advice about my condition that is factually incorrect. Someone once said to me that I should just nod and listen but then just let it brush off me.

But they don’t get that if I did that, there are a number of problems. The first is that it happens to me ALL.THE.TIME. I spend very limited hours a week with people and so to encounter one of these almost every single time is not only tedious and boring but it is a terrible waste of my precious energy.

Secondly, and this is even more important is that people are kind and loving and they want to help me. So they follow up. They want to know if it worked.. what I thought.. and often they simply want affirmation that their idea is so wonderful. Their motives are sooo good, that they invest in the outcome.

So what do I do then … lie? Nope! Pretend? Nope? But when I tell them the truth they don’t listen. When I tell them that I’ve already tried it or the theory behind it does not apply to what I have or that I am already trialing other things and can’t interfere with the process, they brush me aside.

If I had a broken leg, drinking a cocktail made from broken legs will NOT fix it.

What a stupid analogy they say. But my collagen (each and every collagen cell in my body) is broken (has a piece missing) so drinking collagen will not change that! And I don’t have the heart to tell them that their suggestion is no less silly than that.

My body is not fighting itself, it isn’t riddled with disease, it isn’t toxic or imbalanced or too acidic or alkaline. It’s just missing a little bit. Lots of little bits. Lots and lots and lots of very little bits.

And neither teas nor powders nor pills nor potions can replace them. But how do I tell people that?

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“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman