Things are beginning to take a serious turn.
I now have necrosis of the jaw as a result of bisphosphonates that were administered to me in 2003 when my cancer moved to my bones. In theory, it worked as a bone hardener to make it tougher for the cancer to burrow into my bones. After receiving monthly transfusions for two years, the FDA abruptly pulled it off the market because of “jaw death.”
Now, 10 years later, I’ve got it: “jaw death.” In the back quarter of my lower jaw, the gums have receded and dead bone is exposed. I cannot chew on that side and can barely touch it. I now find myself with an even more serious condition in the jaw called osteomyelitis. This is an infection of the jaw underneath the dead bone, a result of the dead bone taking away the blood supply from the area.
I went to six oral surgeons before I found someone who was willing to help me. They all seemed to know what it was, however they had never treated it before and did not want to start with me. It’s a rarity. Only 2 percent of cancer patients treated with bisphosphonates contract this problem. And as the queen of side effects, I would be one of them.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, I had a lumpectomy, underwent radiation and was given tamoxifen to take daily. Because my tumor was so small, I was told that if I used this regimen, there was only a 4 percent chance my cancer would ever return. Two years later it was in my bone. So much for 4 percent.
I am on a daily dose of antibiotics, which at this point is not clearing up the infection. The next step would be a jaw resection. My two back molars would be removed, and a significant part of my lower jaw would be removed and replaced with a steel plate. Try wrapping your head around this concept! I am horrified.
So, I went back to the Internet and read about oxygen therapy and how it can heal wounds. I went on the University of California’s website, where I learned they have a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. They list about 25 problems for which this therapy can be effective about 80 percent of the time (God help me if I’m in the 20 percent). One of the issues listed is osteomyelitis. Once again I have to find my own answers, which is disappointing to say the least. I met with the doctors who run the center, and they agreed to treat me. I will start next week.
The chamber looks like something NASA built. It’s a very futuristic apparatus that you walk in to. There are benches on each side so they can put more than one person in at a time. You are fitted with a headpiece that looks like something an astronaut or scuba diver would wear. This device releases pure oxygen into your system which helps activate your stem cells to rush to the area in question and begin to heal it. Treatment will require me to go two hours a day, five days a week, for 40 days.
I have to take a shot at this. God willing, I will not need to have my jaw removed.
Welcome to my world!
Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Noreen can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.