Essay: Your Teeth Matter

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Many years ago, when I was in rehab, in my first year of sobriety, my counselor had some issues going on with her. Her teeth were giving her grief, and she ignored them, to her own peril. In the end, they had to pull them all, and put in implants. A job that cost a lot of money and caused her months of grief.

I seem to be walking that very same path myself.

When you are diagnosed with AIDS, like I was, whatever else was going on in your body took a backseat to your survival, from said AIDS diagnosis. The initial push to survived trumped any other problem, to our own peril, we know today.

The problem with AIDS, and now HIV is problematic. Because the medication you take is solely for the purpose of keeping you alive. And in many cases, the drugs we take are toxic to the rest of our bodies. And in many cases, other areas of care, become infected, or affected. there is no clear cut way, to properly medicate a body that is immuno – compromised.

AIDS does that to your body. You might be able to save the body, but not its constituent parts, separately. So you have to care for what you can, as long as you can, and hope major issues don’t arise. BUT, HIV is capricious. She is stealthy and devious. You never know when something is going to fail, until it fails you. Then you need extra attention or medical attention.

THAT IS, IF YOU CAN AFFORD SAID CARE …

 

We believe that our teeth will always be in our mouths, and that they will be our North Star, and never fail us … Sadly, that is far from the truth.

I should know this because Memere and Pepere, my mom’s parents, and my father’s father all had dentures by the time I came along. Grammy was the only one who died with all of her teeth in tact.

I should have heeded that warning long ago and took it into consideration, but that was not my case. Far more serious issues befell me and the concentration on survival, took precedence over any other arching issue.

Your medical heath came in the order of importance. Survival was at the top of the list. Everything else took a back seat.

Some time ago, my teeth began to fail, as I crossed the FIFTY mark in my life. One at a time. And as they gave me grief, my trusted dentist, who had been located in the HIV clinic, at the Montreal General, did the work for us, at reduced costs, because who could afford full bore dental payments?

Living on a fixed income as we had for so many years, cost us, in more ways than one. Thankfully, hubby has not seen serious teeth issues yet. But he sure is clued in now, because of where I am today.

Thinking that small problems could be “pulled out” and not repeat themselves was a false belief in my own body’s ability to prevent infection and further pain.

Many months ago, hubby insisted that I go find a reputable dentist who could fix my teeth, once in for all. We knew implants were the only real solution. After two sorties into the world of dental implants, and the costs of said work, turned out to be too expensive for our purses, combined.

We cannot afford upwards of $50,000.00 of dental implants.

Basic insurance in Quebec does not cover major dental. So we knew I would be screwed. One outfit, quoted me almost $48,000 and six months work time. The other was higher, around the $50,000.00 mark, with TWO YEARS work time.

I’ve been not doing well since.

Having to accept myself as I am. Knowing there is no viable solution to my teeth problem, at the moment. And having to accept that my friends look at me with pity, that I cannot afford to properly take care of my own welfare, makes me a little crazy, when my friends won’t look me in the eye, or look away from me, when I speak to them is disconcerting.

Over the past two months, I’ve developed serious infections. I had an abscess on the upper left side of my mouth, with a tooth that just disintegrated in my mouth. That got seriously infected and caused serious nerve damage in my mouth and on the left side of my face. My HIV doctor prescribed me Antibiotics for the infection.

That was a week’s treatment for an issue that only got worse. That hole in my mouth is still there, and the infection with it, it only moved around my mouth into the right side of my jaw and the right side of my face.

So, for the last two months, I’ve been on a steady diet of pain killers and antibiotics. I had been eating pain killers like candy, because the pain has been so insane. I’ve had issues with eating food, brushing my teeth, and sleeping at night.

This problem grew exponentially last week. By weeks end, I was a sobbing mess. I do not do excessive pain very well. I can do PAIN. But not PAIN that does not go away, and throbs in my head, like a jack hammer.

One oft day, I was getting ready to Skype with Spencer, and as the call went through and he appeared on my screen, I had a pain attack that went off the charts as I sat in front of him. Clearly, I was headed downhill very quickly. I could not pound away a pain-killer and hope it did the trick in a matter of minutes. WRONG !!!

This went on for two weeks, and culminated last week, when I could not stand the pain any more. I called all the appropriate doctors, my dentist, and made appointments, that fell during the rest of the month, and not appropriately, NOW as I needed them.

I could not get into my HIV doctor because he in on vacation, and when he goes away, nobody takes his patients. That’s just the way the Quebec Medical System works here.

You make an appointment, and hope you don’t progress further downhill in between. I could not get into the dentist either, because she was booked, and they did not think me an emergency, when I made the appointment, last week.

By Wednesday last week, like I said, I was a sobbing mess. I could no longer medicate the pain away. It was just too much on my system. On Saturday, I was up before dawn, waiting for the clinic, in the mall up the street to open.

It became an EMERGENCY VERY QUICKLY !!!

There is a Dental Clinic in Alexis Nihon, right up the street from home. I knew it was there, but never considered walking in there and doing something about my problems, because, I knew, for the last few months, what HAD to be DONE.

There were no two ways about it.

At Fifty One, my teeth need to be replaced.

So This is a General Warning to all of you …

IF YOU DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR TEETH AND TREAT THEM AS IMPORTANTLY AS YOUR MEDICAL HEALTH, YOU WILL PAY, IN THE END.

Having several warnings in my life, did not make any difference. Knowing people, IN SOBRIETY, who walked this same path, did not impress upon me, the importance of self-care.

But, when you know you cannot afford certain care, what the fuck to do ???

When one is stuck between a rock and a hard place, one has to accept certain truths, no matter how egregious they are.

Saturday morning I got an appointment two hours later.

I went to the Dental Care Clinic. They could not have been more accommodating.

They certainly rose to the occasion.

I was seated by my appointment time. They had done the x-rays, and in minutes I had several dentists in the room with me, telling me what I needed to know. One doctor said he could root canal the tooth and save it. That I did not need serious surgical procedures.

But I told him that the tooth had cracked and was broken, and was giving me so much pain that I could not stand it any longer, and that the tooth needed to come out.

The three teeth on my lower right side, from the back coming forwards are close together. The one tooth at the back is safe. The two teeth in front had such cavities, and the nerves in both teeth had been impacted, causing me neural infection on the right side of my face.

The choice was surgery …

A second young woman doctor came in and told me she was gong to freeze my mouth and told the hygienist that she should prep for surgery. About ten minutes later, they went in with both guns blazing.

They pulled and tugged that damned tooth out of my mouth, while I was holding onto the chair for dear life. They cleared the tooth in front of it. And twenty minutes later, the tooth was out of my mouth, and for the first time in weeks, the pain was gone.

Talk about GRATITUDE …

They gave me a second round of antibiotics and pain killers to chase them.

They took great pains to warn me of all the things I could not do, for twenty-four hours after surgery, for if I transgressed the warnings, the pain in return would be greater.

The infection in my mouth was all over the place. One round of antibiotics on their own did not do the trick, and the infection made a tour around my mouth. So after radical dental surgery, another round of antibiotics.

I’m eating on the left side of my mouth. Have been for some time now. Now, I just need to wait out a little longer for the hole to heal over completely, before I introduce food to the right side of my mouth.

The issue of what to do with the rest of my mouth is still in play. I have a follow-up appointment on Friday this week to get a full picture of the severity of my problem, because none of the dentists I HAD SEEN about implants did any kind of explorative foray into my teeth.

First they wanted a commitment AND CASH to begin the process.

I could not commit to either plan, because we could not afford to see it through to the end. And I could not, in good conscience, saddle hubby with a $50,000.00 loan that the bank would not give us even on a good day, and thinking that I would not survive seeing that kind of money paid back in full prior to my own death …

And that my friends is the latest saga in I need new teeth and soon story.

Hubby got the job, in principle, he has been working towards. Hopefully in the next little while he will get his start date. And hopefully soon after that, we may have a solution to my problem.

A Platinum Insurance plan that will cover Major Dental.

If that plan exists,  in the constellation of insurance coverage, hubby is going to BUY IN, and pay the extra costs in having that ability to help me finally.

Needless to say, hubby is clearly aware of my situation, and has had a serious time dealing with his inability to provide properly. Because I live on a fixed income from the U.S. Government and that money only pays for the roof over our heads every month. We do not get any more use out of that monthly stipend. So my hands are tied to what I can contribute to the house purse.

Being fucked sucks …

That is just the reality we live with day in and day out.

Hopefully, a solution is on the horizon. We will find it, one way or another.

Monday: The Infinite Ocean

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It was a very wild weekend here. Knowing that Daylight Savings was going to begin on Sunday, did not dissuade me from living my life as I always had, before.

Going to bed early, just for the sake of going to bed early, seems to be, beyond my capabilities. I just have to crank out a couple more hours out of my twenty-four, THEN go to bed, WHERE I grab a book and I read for ANOTHER hour, before shutting off the light for the night.

Sometimes, we just need to GO TO BED ALREADY !!!

Saturday night, I was burning the AFTER-Midnight oil. Knowing that I HAD to be up at SEVEN in the AM, to be at the Hospital, at Vendome by EIGHT in the AM.

I stayed up to fart around as usual, so it wasn’t until around 2 that I finally went to bed. I set my phone for SEVEN, and sure as shit, SEVEN did come around, sooner than I would have liked. But who am I to listen to conventional wisdom ?

I got dressed, and headed through the tunnel to the Orange line, which is a straight shot to Vendome, three stations up the line. I took the tunnel, the new access for everyone, including the Handicapped patients who visit the new MUHC Hospital.

Let me tell you how much grief was wrought because they built that entire hospital project, but did not have the foresight to build an accessible tunnel FROM the Metro station to the Hospital, in one fell swing …

That would have been too esasy!!!

They did not plan accordingly. And after much wringing of hands and complaints lodged to the city, the city caved and spent extra millions of dollars to tunnel from the station to the hospital, AFTER the FACT.

I get to the hospital around 7:30 and get lost trying to find my way into the hospital, because getting in, is half the fun.

On a Sunday Morning no less.

The only people AT the hospital at 7:30 in the morning are those working INSIDE, and Security. The halls are all devoid of life. I want to get outside for smoke before hand, because you CANNOT smoke on Hospital property.

I quietly Exit the building, wherein I get locked out of said hospital, and after trying three separate entrances with locked doors, and only a security button and a speaker to talk to, I find my way back into said hospital, trudging through MUD and SNOW on the far side of the building, having to find my way BACK to where I really needed to be for my appointment.

I get to the department, and the lights are off. The desk is devoid of life, thankfully, I see a young man exiting the same location and ask him where I can find a sign of life, and he says to me… “OH, they will come and get you … just have a seat and wait…”

Ten Minutes later a nurse comes to fetch me and the CT Scan takes all of five minutes.

I just spent the better part of an hour navigating the damned building for the climax of a FIVE minute CT Scan of my back…

Thank you for making your appointment this morning, have a nice day.

I took the Metro back to Atwater to drop off some scripts that needed to be refilled, that I would pick up later. I walk back home and gather my granny cart, and walk BACK to the mall to do my grocery shopping for the next few days …

BECAUSE ??? You might ask ??? There is SNOW in the forecast for the next three days.

I don’t want to be stuck without ample supplies and have to go out in a snow storm to grocery shop trying to pull a wretched granny cart through the snow.

Been there, Done that already.

I get home from my shopping trip and crawl back into bed. I sleep for the entire day and into the night. I had turned my phone off and was comatose for hours. I got up for dinner and some tv. By 11 p.m. I had such a head ache that my head was spinning and I was nauseous.

I took some Naproxen and crawled back into bed. I felt so sick. Not sure where that came from but, that was a thing.

I slept through until my haircut appointment this afternoon.

I have a HIGH and TIGHT haircut, that we tweaked just a bit. My friends, this evening seemed to like it. Because several people commented, which was unusual.

We read from the Big Book, and the topic of Resentments.

You’d never know how many of us drunks, YOUNG and OLD, have serious DADDY ISSUES. Everybody shared on the topic. And as usual, our trusty time-keeper kept us all to a three-minute time limit on sharing.

Which at the end of tonight’s meeting, spoke to him about.

Another of our kids went back out. She was hanging on the periphery of the room when I spoke to her before the meeting. I gave her some sage advice, and asked her to sit among everyone, and not on the back wall, as some do, to stay out of the fray, for all intents and purposes.

She did not make it through the entire meeting. I think the topic was a bit rough for her, so she bolted before the meeting even ended.

A friend of mine, lost his mother recently. We are kin to the same problem. Parents with memories and resentment lists like ELEPHANTS.

They NEVER Forget …

As sober people, what is done is done. Carrying around resentments is like carrying rocks around our necks, in sacks only we can fill, OR empty, whenever we choose.

My friend realized, long ago, what game she had been playing. And he chose to take the high road, and access the infinite ocean of power we have within our reach, when we get sober. Taking that high road, was not always the easy road. But he walked it.

He made peace with his parents and escorted his mother to her death, valiantly. Because he embraced love and compassion, and the infinite ocean of love around him, and he carried that love back to his family, doing good, small things, OFTEN.

I don’t have that luxury of doing Good, Small Things, Often.

One, because my brother hates me as hard as my parents hate me. And Two, I cannot even get him to acknowledge my humanity as a human being, let alone, answer any of my texts to him, beyond his …

I GOT YOUR TEXTS AND I DID NOT READ THEM. STOP TEXTING ME ALREADY BECAUSE I AM NOT INTERESTED IN KNOWING YOU.

So fuck me for trying.

My friend talked to me for a bit after the meeting and when I got home, I caved to pressure of compassion and emotion, and I texted my brother AGAIN.

I give him three days before he tells me to fuck off again…

I have not spoken to my mother, not that she wants to even talk to me, but I wished to express my condolences to her, but if I cannot raise my brother, as he is her gatekeeper now, and he isn’t speaking to me, I will never get to my mother.

So she will go to her grave even more angry and bitter than my father was.

Sometimes sobriety and the truth sucks, because there is not a snowball’s chance in hell, that I will get anyone to recognize that I am ALSO a human being, with feelings of my own.

I might have made the bed I am sleeping in right now, by choices that I made twenty odd years ago, but they were direct results of my family telling me to fuck off and DIE ALREADY when I was very sick and closer to death than I am today.

It isn’t ALL my fault for the state of family affairs today.

I would love to believe I have access to my friends INFINITE OCEAN of possibilities, but that just AIN’T the case with my family. For my family, you can NEVER go HOME.

Tomorrow I have a Two O’clock appointment with the smile specialists. I HATE, with all my soul, the dentist. But I need serious help, and it’s gonna cost serious money, that we know we don’t have, to complete the job successfully.

I am praying for small mercies and maybe a little miracle of financial ability of the part of an institution to be able to finance what I need IN HOUSE, and not using an outside firm where I am going to pay interest for years, before I can even think of paying off a job that is probably going to cost THOUSANDS of DOLLARS, start to finish.

UGH !!!

It’s time to go to bed already.

More to come. Stay tuned …