Catching Up, Part 3: Cancer Dash

This is the last of the posts to catch up to current. The posts after this will come in quick succession, since I’ve had them in my head for a couple days now.

Time flew by after meeting with Dr. D (Dr. Deepak Khuntia), mostly because preparing for cancer treatments is like a crazy time management minigame. You could call it Cancer Dash.


Some of the time went into more research (which will be the next post I write), to figure out what I needed to do, ask, buy, request, etc.

Some of the time went into doctor’s appointments. I met with my medical oncologist, Dr. Ekstrand, who’ll be handling the chemo. We talked about various options, and my research came in handy. We also talked about my greatest fear (also in an upcoming post). I left feeling confident in him, and glad my chemo will be in a small, friendly, personal clinic instead of the hospital, even though it means two trips on chemo days (one trip to the hospital for the radiation, and the other for chemo).

Some of the time went into notifying family and close friends before I started this blog (as well as any tweets or Facebook posts). I’m not going to belabor this point, but I’ll say it one more time: it’s worth a few lifestyle changes now to avoid ever having to tell everyone you love that you have cancer. Trust me. That sucks way more than cutting sugar and flour out of your diet, or walking 30 minutes a day.

A lot of the time went into dental appointments. Having radiation to the head and neck causes changes in your teeth and jaw. After radiation, it’s both tricky and risky to extract teeth. Many radiation patients have many (or all) of their teeth pulled before they start treatment. It’s funny the things that bother you the most when you’re faced with cancer treatment. Losing my teeth was one of the things that really bothered me. If my hair falls out, that’s OK–it will save me the rest of the process of growing out my grey (which I started in March, before the diagnosis). But my teeth? It really bummed me out, and I wasn’t feeling optimistic because I hadn’t seen a dentist for a while because of the move to San Francisco.

Once again, my body did me a huge favor. I only had two cavities, potentially needed a root canal retreated, and needed a wisdom tooth pulled. That was it. I already knew about the wisdom tooth. My other lower wisdom tooth had been pulled four years ago in a 3+ hour ordeal that left me with terrible pain for about a month afterward. I’d been putting off the other extraction because that experience had been so awful. A cancer diagnosis changes everything. As soon as I knew that tooth started the clock on when treatment could start, I wanted it out NOW.

Turns out I didn’t need the root canal retreated. And the wisdom tooth extraction this time took 30 minutes! Both of those things were happy surprises, but there was one thing about the experience I’ll never forget. Three different dentists (general, specialist for the root canal, oral surgeon for the extraction) got me onto their schedule and treated within 2 days when they heard I was preparing for radiation. I didn’t even have to ask for special treatment–they just did it. Their kindness and generosity was enormous. If anyone on the peninsula needs a recommendation for fantastic dentists, please ask!

So now we’re all caught up, for the most part. My wisdom tooth was pulled on Friday, and I’m now in the waiting period for it to heal so I can start treatment. Thanks for sticking with these “catching up” posts! We’ll move into more interesting territory now.

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