Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chemotherapy? Your Dentist Has Answers

Evidently when you take chemotherapy your body is at risk for developing infection, and apparently this means you can't have your teeth cleaned either.  Dwain noticed the little dental reminder magnate on our refrigerator that my next dental appointment was scheduled for late February.  He said, I don't think you can have your teeth cleaned while you're having chemo.  James' dad had to get his teeth seen to before his chemo started, so you might want to call Lynn (that's our good friend, who is also our dentist, he and his wonderful wife Margie.
My dental appointment was hurriedly set up for this morning at 7:30.  I know that is really early, but I don't mind.  Hey, they got me in on short notice, right?  I'm an early-bird anyway, so what's the difference?  Lynn and Margie know what I have gone through recently and what I'm about to endure in the near future.  And let me tell you what, both of them are a fount of information.   Lynn may be a dentist, but he has an incredible knowledge of cancer and chemotherapy and what they can do to your body medically.  He was concerned with my teeth, which after x-rays, he pronounced me healthy as could be.  He said, chemotherapy will dry out your mouth, which is a bad thing.  It can lead to tooth decay and gingivitisDrink lots of water.  Dry mouth is a significant condition.  Do not ignore this at all.  He handed me a sample of something called biotene dry mouth mouthwash and biotene  dry mouth toothpaste.   Use this and any other toothpaste that contains fluoride.  Rinse with Listerine, that will help to prevent gingivitis and other gum disease.  In fact, you can brush with it as well.  Brushing with baking soda as well as toothpaste to eliminate acid.  You don't want acid to build up on your teeth or in your mouth.  
He ran his fingers over my gums, top and bottom, pressing hard; something I can't remember him ever doing before.  I have no idea what he was checking for, but he seemed satisfied.  Then he pulled down his face mask, leaned back against the counter behind him and asked, Do you have any questions?  Any questions about your chemotherapy or anything associated with it?  I will try to answer them or find answers for you.  I told him no, that I wasn't far enough along in the process to have thought of questions to ask yet.  But I know that when I do, (or I should say WE, because Dwain's as involved in this process as I am.  In fact he was at the dentist appointment with me and heard every single thing Lynn had to say) Lynn or Margie will be the first people we will call, day or night.  Margie offered to come sit will me when I have my first chemotherapy session, and I have no doubt she means it.  She sat through chemo sessions with another friend of hers who was going through the same thing several years ago.   
Yesterday evening, although I hate to admit it, I had a meltdown; not a temper-tantrum, exactly, but a meltdown.  I wanted to throw things at the wall and scream at the top of my lungs (I resisted).  At whom, exactly, I could not say.  At the unfairness of it all.  The "why me-ness" of it all.   I know.  I know.  It was a selfish moment; a rewardless moment.  But sometimes you just need to cry and rage.  And I have to give Dwain huge, huge credit.  Although he started out trying to fix everything for me (as men so often do), he finally decided to just listen.  I honestly thought that by the first of the year, by January 1, 2011, I would be basically done with all that I've had to endure since "the discovery" in early November.   But evidently the little pill that I thought was going to be all that I had to take for five years, is going to be at the end of my treatment, not the only treatment.  Chemo comes first.  And I'm angry about it.  And I am scared to have to go through it.  Poison will be my cure.  Can you imagine?  Poison will kill cancer cells, hair cells, white blood cells, red blood cells and put my immune system at great risk for 18 weeks -- among other things, like my teeth.  What about my job?  How fatigued will I be?  How sick will I feel?   Oh yes.  Chemo treatments make you feel so nauseous that the doctor has to give you anti-nausea medicine.
So many questions, and I won't know the answers until I've lived through it.  That's why I'm writing this blog.  Maybe someone reading this will find help for themselves or someone they love, and pass it along.  I found a blog, Susie Johnson's Breast Cancer Triumph, that helped me.  This girl is only 35 years old and lives in Australia (or I think that's where she lives).  Her breast cancer was discovered in August.  Start from the beginning of her August discovery date and read to the present.  It's very insightful.  They do things differently in other countries, which makes me grateful to live where I do.  I honestly think we have a better health care system -- warts and all. 

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