Days of praise!

I have much to praise God for this week!

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t consider a visit to the dentist a big deal. There was a time, after a traumatic experience in a dentist’s chair when I was eleven or twelve, that going to the dentist was frightening but that’s in the distant past and hasn’t been an issue for a long time. No, the reason for Tuesday’s apprehension was different. For the past several months, I’ve been experiencing severe jaw pain when I eat. It appears to have been brought on by a combination of last spring and summer’s surgery and radiation treatments and accumulated stress. I’d been warned that radiation, in particular, would likely cause stiffening of the muscles in my jaw. When I started seeing a physiotherapist in early October, I could only open my mouth 26 mm (average is 50) and the pain when I ate was, at times, almost unbearable. Over the next few weeks of regular exercise, I regained quite a bit of flexibility and can now open my mouth about 35 mm. The pain has lessened but it hasn’t gone away. I was very concerned about whether or not I’d be able to keep my mouth open wide enough and long enough to have my teeth cleaned and checked and how much that would hurt. Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t postpone the appointment.

Until I had my parotid gland removed and my other saliva glands were compromised by radiation, I had no idea what an important role saliva plays in tooth protection. Now that my saliva production has been permanently reduced, I’m especially vulnerable to tooth decay and for at least the first year following radiation, in addition to brushing my teeth after every meal and giving myself daily fluoride treatments, I’ve been advised to see my dentist every four months. Tuesday’s was the first of these check-ups and I feared what the results might be.

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Under the gentle care of my hygienist and dentist, the appointment went amazingly well. No pain and no cavities! As I said, I have much to be thankful for this week but that’s just the beginning!

The following morning, long before daylight, we set out on the two and a half hour drive to the city for my second Lutetium treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute. There were a few snowflakes in the air but the roads were clear and the drive uneventful; definitely another thing to be thankful for at this time of year in Alberta! I was admitted for an overnight stay and the treatment went ahead resulting in nothing more than a slightly queasy stomach that didn’t last very long.

After a reasonably decent sleep considering the fact that I was in a narrow hospital bed, I was up early on Thursday morning for my follow-up scan, the one that would tell us what’s been happening to my neuroendocrine tumours since September’s treatment. One of the things that I appreciate most about this process is that, unlike most medical procedures, I’m given the results immediately afterward. No anxious waiting for 2 or 3 weeks to hear back from the doctors.

And the news? That’s the biggest thing I have to be thankful for! There has been absolutely no change! The cancer has not grown or spread! It continues to be stable. I may have pain when I’m eating but in the overall scheme of things, that seems pretty insignificant. I have much to praise God for and I sincerely thank those of you who have been praying for me!

My next treatment will be on Feb. 11.

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