My name is Gregory, and at 14 years of age I took on stage IV Squamous Cell Carcinoma originating in my nasal pharynx, and I won. I was treated with extensive radiation to my head and neck, experimentally combined with chemo: an experimental treatment that saved my life! THANK YOU Dr. Quivey, Dr. Alan Mitchell Kramer and everyone at UCSF. It was a tough fight, but I was too young to give up. I wanted to live and it showed every day as I kept pushing through the side effects of the treatment. That was 16 years ago (so happy to have put it behind me).
However, as a result of the life saving treatment, I now face severe dental health issues that have left me with 9 partial, and barely usable teeth, along with constant infections that swell up my face and cause throbbing pain. Eating is a chore, and I no longer look forward to it. I too often go without eating at all, for I have little desire to endure the pain. To better explain it, eating with this condition can be compared to walking with rocks in your shoes.
When my mouth is at ease enough to eat, I worry about breaking the teeth that are left. When the infections are bad, I will take a Vicodin, apply Orajel, and do my best to sleep it off.
I have come to enjoy pasta, mashed potatoes, really soft squash, some sushi, soup, yogurt, rice, beans, and shakes. Pasta is about to be taken off of that list and my once favorite sandwich grilled cheese can only be eaten with dipping soup. I accept it, but oh how I long for Doritos, big juicy avocado burgers, french fries, roast beef, shrimp that crunches with juices every bite (I am drooling right now), celery with peanut butter, apples, crackers (I can do crackers now, but I put one in my mouth and then take a swig of water to let it get soft enough to chew, you see where I'm coming from?)... and man... when I was a kid I used to LOVE Corn nuts, something I wouldn't even dare dream about eating anymore.
Over the years, I have seen dentists/oral surgeons, and had some work done. But in the last 6 years my condition has taken a turn for the worse. I've gone from being able to smile and eat semi-normally, to grinning mouth closed and watching my weight drop to as low as 106 lbs. Aside from the dramatic weight loss, the worst part is, people judge me all of the time. Many assume I smoke meth do to my appearance. Really, I don't blame them, because judgment is mostly based on experience, and I can admit that I judge people all the time as well... I suppose it's natural. In my opinion, judgment is there to protect me when my instinct says there is something to be aware and cautious of. That being said, in my case, others judgment of me is wrong.
I have been DJ'ing for 13 years, and I must admit I am AMAZING at it. I've always been around musical instruments and music. It is my passion, and that passion can be seen when I perform. My work load is directly and negatively affected by my appearance. Let's be honest, who wants the wedding DJ to have no teeth? lol. I understand, and accept that: Not the end of the world, I factor it in. Every picture I take is close mouthed. My girlfriend tells me how much she loves how I am comfortable enough to smile around her. She is GREAT and has helped encourage me to make this public step forward to a get my health back
Okay, enough of the pity party though... Here's what is current with solving this issue.
I have gotten multiple medical opinions and have found a couple of oral surgeons who are willing to perform a risky procedure. With the level of radiation my face and mouth have had, I am prone to a condition called "Osteoradionecrosis" (you might need to google it). Basically, it is when bone has died as a result of insufficient blood supply, and it will not heal. So there is a HUGE risk, worst case scenario I lose my whole jaw... Nonetheless I am willing to take the risk. The only way out is through! After speaking to the head of oral surgery at UCSF, and getting a "yes" to the operation from him, he broke down the cost and it is steep. $45k is what I am looking at. It's $4,500 for the extractions, and the remaining $39,500 is for anesthesia & Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, operating room use, general care, etc. Simply put, I don't have $45,000. I don't have any savings at all. I need your help raising the money to get the procedure I so greatly need.
The procedure consists of:
1. 20 Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Dives (begins March 18th)
2. Extracting all of the teeth
3. Grinding down the bone
4. Sewing up the skin
5. Getting dentures (done courtesy of Dr. Anthony Lieu)
6. 10 more Hyperbaric Oxygen Dives7. Healing and adjustments
The surgeon at UCSF I plan on being worked on by is:
M. Anthony Pogrel, DDS, MD
I know raising that much money is a lot to ask, but I also know I have a lot of people who stand in my corner. I believe in POWER BY NUMBERS. I believe in the POWER OF LOVE. And most of all, I believe in my dedication and commitment to myself. I have made it this far... when I could have given up the day I was diagnosed. I was born to LiVE. And that's what I am committed to.
Also, I want it to be known, this is NOT my only effort to solve this issue. I am also looking for support from other outlets. For example, my girlfriend wrote Dr. Phil (lol, hey if it helps in any way I am interested). Most importantly I am working as much as I can and trying to save, but it's been a very difficult task to save anything and make ends meet. Overall, my quality of life is what is important. I deserve to smile, I want to smile proudly and without fear of judgment. I deserve to feel confident. And I deserve to EAT ALL of the yummy treats this beautiful life has to offer!
THANK YOU ALL FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ MY STORY. EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS...
LiVE LOVE EVERYDAY. <3