June 6, 2017 - Two-fer

It was a two-fer week. Two-fer in the aspect of I got two procedures out of one cancer survivorship. It wasn’t nearly as awesome as a two-fer one donut day. Or two-fer one airline tickets to Jamaica. Or two-fer one just about anything. While it is delightful to be a cancer survivor (I’ve touched on this before), it comes with its challenges in the long run of things that you must stay on top of be it your heart, your lungs, your eye balls, your skin, your mouth, your boobs, your whatever. It seems like every time I read something (for work. I work in Oncology) there is something else we as cancer survivors have to be on the lookout for. And the longer we liver, the more we learn, and the more we have to watch for. The list seems to be as long as the mullet of the 80s, but not near as entertaining.

On Monday, I was sitting in the dental chair having the umpteenth tooth repaired. I don’t recall the last time (Well I do. It was November 2016. One time in 5 years.) when I went for a routine cleaning and didn’t leave needing to come back a week later for an additional procedure. Radiation = reduced saliva = increased incidence of dental caries /enamel breakdown/abnormal tooth development/etc. For me, I had all of my teeth sealed as a teenager. That helped some, but 10 years later almost every tooth was found to have a cavity between the teeth. And now almost twenty years later, those repairs have reached their life span and now need repairs. You should see my dental xrays. Let’s just say if I am found in a back ally, there will be absolutely zero difficulty in identifying me. Keep that in mind if you are thinking of targeting me. But ain’t I purty, in my best southern slang.

Well, in 36 hours or so, I head back into the OR. This time, not for the boobs (I’ve done my time there - another aspect of cancer survivorship), but rather for my airway. I was born with a cleft lip and with that we aren’t quite sure like the chicken and the egg what came when. I now have a deviated septum, an enlarged turbinate (whatever that is and does it where a turban on it's head), and an unstable structure related to both. Basically for most/all of my life I have been breathing through half of my face. So be it, I’ve done it, let it be. But now, given the pulmonary fibrosis (stay with me), and therein lies the cancer survivorship, we would like to stabilize the upper airway (through the surgery) and also indirectly give me more reserve for my lower airway (fibrosis) should it progress and even if it doesn’t. Also a two-fer come to think of it.  And maybe of Friday, I will wake up able to breath with my whole head! Ok, well not Friday, but after about a week of recovery and once the swelling goes down. And you know what, after that, I will be super excited. For now, I’m reservedly cautious. Cautious in that I hate going to the OR. Cautious in that I hate anesthesia. Cautious in that I hate going to the OR. Cautious in that….well, let’s just get on the other side. All in all it’s frustrating to be having surgery because I went to the ENT simply to see if it would be ok to start a long-term course of antibiotics for my lungs. We thought it would be smart to check my sinuses (as we have never looked at them before) to have a baseline measure before starting the antibiotics. Well the scan showed the deformities…yaddy, yaddy, yaddy…someone said the word surgery…I mentally checked out.

I’ve mentioned this OR procedure in passing words here prior to today only once (Here- Thirteen Minutes), but not in detail. And outside of blogging, really not at all (my apologies to friends who may be hearing of this for the first time now). I’ve not really wanted to put words to it. There is something to that. Be it putting it off, not wanting to think through it or talk through it, or simply just wanting it not to happen - I can’t be sure. But I do know this go round I was having a harder time thinking it through likely because I am still in the grieving process and everything is harder now than it was before. Everything carries heavier emotions than it did before. This included. So I simply put this “off” both mentally and verbally. But I don’t want to discredit the fact that those of you in cancer survivorship may need this. Not the details of my procedure (that is for those who know me personally) but the frustration of what lies behind this. The ins and outs of even 25 years later still having things pop up. Still having appointments, and screenings, and surprises.  It feels never ending. Obviously survivorship is spectacular, but it’s expensive, and frustrating, and mentally taxing, and a to-do list, and a whole lot of things that the health care professional doesn’t even think about when you are sitting across from them in their office. I know, I sit on both sides of that chair. I don’t have any words of wisdom for you. It simply is frustrating. And it is ongoing and will be ongoing. We will continue to find more things we should be on the lookout for as patients continue to survive longer. We simply have to stay in the game, find providers that are willing to get involved with us, and create individualize care plans of screening. It’s a tedious process from a healthcare perspective, and it is a tedious process from an emotional, financial, and mental process too. Climb in the chair anyway. It’s our duty anyway because who knows, tomorrow may be a two-fer one donut day. 

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