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Love and Decay: A Request

Content warning for serious dental issues, including surgery and details of deterioration
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My partner, who we’ll call K, is slowly losing his jaw to advanced periodontal disease. His bones and teeth are slowly decaying, along with his gums, and it’s gotten to the point where if he doesn’t have about 85-90% of his teeth extracted and the disease treated, he will lose his jaw.

K first developed periodontal disease a few years ago, but because his insurance didn’t cover the extremely expensive treatment (quoted to him at the time as $17,000) necessary, let alone the regular and multiple appointments that would be required for them all, he wasn’t able to do much at the time. Slowly, over time, his gum line has receded, eaten away by bacteria that don’t go away regardless of his excellent dental hygiene. He had to change his eating habits because even bread was too painful to chew and bite into with his loosening teeth and inflamed gums. At one point in the last year, I feared we would have to have him on a strictly liquid diet just so he could eat.

Permanent infection became his everyday norm, causing health issues in other ways. He became more prone to illness and chronic pain issues, and we had a terrifying scare with a massive carbuncle near his brain that I’m certain was exacerbated by his immune system’s vulnerability due to constantly fighting the disease in his mouth. It was the most frightened I’d ever been for him– until I saw a section of his gum literally falling off in chunks in his poor mouth next to a new and huge flare of infection, a fungal white color at the base of his loosening teeth.

But I don’t want to tell you just about the devastating details about his medical needs– I want to tell you how wonderful he is, too, so you’ll understand how important this beautiful human is to me.

K and I have been together for nine years, which will become a full decade in January. We met before I became physically disabled, and we got to know each other in a Muay Thai group of friends who learned from one another the basics of the fighting style. K had been studying it for longer than I had, and he was always able to beat me, especially given his height against my shortness, but also because he’s a skilled and powerful fighter who carefully strategizes and plans his moves according to his observation of his sparring partner. He’s also a complete goofball, so he’ll use humor to distract and playfully antagonize you into giving up any advantage you may have– or maybe that was just with me. lol

K is a very kind, sweet person with a fantastic sense of humor. He loves to make people laugh and is always cracking jokes, which I absolutely adore about him. He’s the only one who can make me laugh when I’m sobbing, and that’s a pretty great skill, I think. He’s not always the best with his words, but he tries to do better and works hard to show that he cares about me.

He helps me when I’m upset at not being able to understand neurotypical behavior, explaining his interpretations of certain things in ways that clarify what’s been frustrating me. He helps me on days when fatigue or pain has taken over so completely that I can do nothing but lie on the couch and cry from the intensity and frustration of it, taking over certain responsibilities that I need to do.

His hugs are the best and deserve their own space here. He told me recently he likes to do the hugging because it makes him feel like a bear hugging someone, which is just– AHHHH, SO CUTE!

He struggles with asking for help, though, and being vulnerable about his emotions is very difficult for him still, even though he’s been working on that with me and on his own. I can see that he’s trying hard because he opens up a bit more than he used to and has dedicated himself to work that helps him learn how to be more vulnerable.

A photo of a minimalist illustration of a person wearing a VogMask and falling dreamily into a wave of yellow flowers as their hair flies back behind them and they close their eyes calmly.

He works every day at a job that pays the bills but that isn’t his dream job. His boss is demanding, and the job is often high-stress, so it takes a toll on K. I know he does this not just because he needs a job but because he knows we’re both reliant upon his income to stay alive. He doesn’t like to talk much about his job, but I know he takes it very seriously, and he strives to be as good as he can at it to the point where his boss, while demanding, also says many good things about him on a regular basis. So to say I appreciate him and all the work he does for us both is the understatement of every year.

After I became physically disabled following a pretty bad autistic burnout in 2014 followed quickly by the development of chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, and degenerative disc disease, leaving me suddenly unemployed and uncertain about the future, he didn’t once question supporting me. He never once has tried to make me feel bad for what happened to my body or the way its limits restrict my ability to financially contribute to our little family. He has always supported me through days when the pain was so bad that I thought I was dying, through years of not knowing what was happening to my body, through recovery from a hysterectomy and other procedures, through days of emotional turmoil from doctors and trauma and medicine and pain and ableism and so much more. He’s always there for me. He has stepped up to make sure that I have my medicine when I need it, feeds me if I’m unable to do so myself, and cares for me in ways I can’t begin to describe. He loves me.

And that’s why I’m writing today– to ask you for help. I love him dearly, and it kills me that I’m not able to work a traditional job so that I can support us both or at the very least bring in money to lessen the financial burden of one adult being the sole provider for two of us.

K was finally able to get some help this year. We scraped together the funds for a few trips to NYU School of Dentistry to address the emergency state of his mouth, at the time hoping at best for some antibiotics to treat the infection. We were heartbroken to learn, though, that antibiotics wouldn’t help; the situation was dire enough that if he doesn’t receive urgently needed treatment within a year, he could lose his jaw to the disease. In order to keep his jaw, and ultimately his life, he needs to have about 85-90% of his teeth removed completely, with the verdict still out on the top teeth– it could raise to all of his teeth depending on what his upcoming periodontal specialist appointment finds. After that, he will need clip-on dentures. All of this– not including appointments before and after– costs about $4,000 for the 85-90% removal scenario, completely out of pocket, with about $1,200 needed upfront for parts.

While we’ve been fortunate enough to meet with NYU and get a consultation for a potential payment plan directly with NYU instead of a predatory dental care loan with outrageous interest rates and time limits, we haven’t been approved for sure just yet since we’re waiting for the final word on the cost of parts from his next appointment. So in the meantime, we’re working to try to raise as much of the funds as we can beforehand to ensure that he can get the needed surgeries and dentures, and I’m hoping you can help us.

A photo of a minimalist illustration of a nude, fat person smiling serenely into a wave of pink flowers flying in their direction as their curly hair flies back behind them.

I’ve decided to create a series of mini originals for a special sale to help raise some of the funds. I’ll be offering these unique pieces for a much lower price than I usually charge for original pieces. This drastic cost cut is to be sure that we can quickly raise the funds needed so that K can get his surgery as soon as possible with as minimal stress as possible. All the minis will be exclusive as originals, and they will never be made available as prints in the shop, so you will be the only one to own that particular piece– lucky you! 😃 [big smiley]

I also have a Venmo account set up to accept any donations if you’re able and willing to support us that way. If you want to search for me on the app, my user name is JessiEoin. I greatly appreciate any amount of support anyone can give. 💕 [two hearts]

If you’re not able to afford a piece or to share a donation with us (I totally get that!), it would mean so much to me if you could even share the sale posts or this blog post and link to my shop or my Venmo— it really helps spread the word! 💖 [shiny heart] Or even if you’re able to make a different purchase in the shop that won’t cost as much as the prints (like my Plant Babies sticker set), every little bit helps. I’ll be posting primarily on Instagram and Twitter, but please feel free to share it beyond those confines, too! Thank you so much! 💖 [shiny heart]

And thank you, too, for reading all the way to here if you have. It means a lot to me that you would care enough to do so. 💕 [two hearts] I hope you have a great rest of the day!