Thursday 24th October 2019

My First Year With Teeth*! 33/51 #LifeThisWeek. 87/2019.

My First Year With Teeth*! 33/51 #LifeThisWeek. 87/2019.

So, this is NOT the optional prompt of Coffee, Tea or What…but for the record it is always this:

Small Latte, extra shot…in a glass. Every.Single.Day.

Ahhh. My habit that is calming and gives me time-out each day.

Now, for the real reason of this post.

One year ago, on 21 August 2018 the prosthodontist from Westmead Oral Sciences, Dr Deshpande issued me with my upper prosthesis, i.e. teeth. They have been ‘part’ of my upper reconstructed mouth now for a year.

Wow.

From no teeth to teeth day

For the previous months: mid May till then, I had so many visits to him – a 2 hour drive there and back – for the measuring, the adjusting, the listening to me whinge about the discomfort of the stent (see below) and sitting/lying in a dental chair for up to 4 hours….tiring and I know it tested my patience. That was when I discovered having earbuds in and listening to an audio book whilst he and Ofelia had their hands in or near my mouth was less confronting. Kind and professional as they are, it is still hard. Do you know what I mean?

My oh so important and wonderful professional team.

What I have learned about having “teeth” (upper prosthesis) up top:

  • it is nothing like the feel of natural teeth (and it’s been a while since I had them anyway)
  • the reason is that it is a device made from hard plastic (probably a better name for it) that is literally screwed into the 3 of 5 abutments I have placed in the ‘new jaw’ from my leg
  • it “looks” terrific. There is no doubt about that. I have a SMILE back.
  • it cannot be felt by me so I do have to think about how I eat. For example, putting a piece of food into my mouth I need to guide it towards the lower part of my mouth and tongue where I have all the natural sensations of taste and texture.
  • there is none on the ‘roof’ or re-constructed palate or the teeth themselves.
  • I can, however, acutely feel foods with some sharp edges (a salada cracker) and something that is savoury .e.g. vegemite which the skin will ‘scream’ a little bit about.
  • it turns out to be an ‘ideal’ way to maintain weight…seriously. I have gained a few kilos in a year but as my mouth is uncomfortable  to eat a lot, it’s a minimiser. I am careful to add protein of some kind into my eating every day.

I am incredibly grateful. Every. Single. Day. for how the marvels of modern medical, surgical and restorative dentistry via my amazing professional team, have given me a life without cancer, teeth that can chew and bite, a mouth that can close, lips (one is numb) that can kiss, and a voice which has not been compromised at all, except for a mildish lisp.

These images tell the story in collage form. Like most of my posts about head and neck cancer, the images also tell my story.

 

 

Surgery One. 6.7.17.

 

Surgery Two.15.11.17.

 

Surgery Three. 7.2.18.

 

Surgery Four. 16.5.18.

 

Between Surgery 4 & Upper Prosthesis Affixed.

 

A Year of Smiles….

Thank you for sharing this with me as a reader and commenter here. I am so fortunate to have a warm and kind community who is part of my blogging world. In fact, Kirsten who was a Woman of Courage recently commented on the community here. How lovely.

Today is the last post about my cancer story. It is as a good time as any to stop posting as I am doing well. I have covered all of what is important to me in terms of updates, announcements about how the surgeries and treatments are going….and of course, important for me, the record-keeper, is the recognition of my progress which I do based on dates. As Wednesday 21 August 2019 is the first anniversary of my ‘teeth’ I decided this can be the final post…until there may be a need for an update. Please do know how much it means to me to have such amazing ‘cheerleaders’ along with me. It helps….always helps to know I am thought about.

Denyse.

 

 

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Not A Smooth Recovery Path For Me: Head & Neck Cancer. 2018.133.

Not A Smooth Recovery Path For Me: Head & Neck Cancer. 2018.133.

Update One: Monday 24 December, is that whilst it is always disappointing to have changes like this in recovery, I am actually able to manage the issue of pain, when it arises and am feeling better in general.

Update Two: Monday 14 January, the pain comes and goes but the news from my Head & Neck surgeon is that he was looking for cancer when I saw him on 8 January. This made me quite concerned. Whilst there was not cancer there as he could see, I do now know there could be another surgery this year. Sigh.

It’s Friday 21 December 2018 and not a normal blogging day for me at all.

But, head and neck cancer recovery is not ‘normal’ I guess!

My blog has been a great source of comfort to me as I can write down what is happening to me, and often receive support in return.

That is lovely.

Today I just need to share this story.

Since my last blog post here, I have continued to be back and forth to the great team I have at Westmead: my prosthodontist and nurse. Each visit since October – when I last saw my Head and Neck cancer surgeon and nurse – has been about:

  • checking the health of the skin which was added to my upper lip (under it) last May
  • checking I am keeping the metal abutments clean where they are attached to the upper teeth prosthesis
  • and fitting me for a partial lower denture to add to my remaining 8 teeth

Showing my mouth’s flexibility – reduced now.

I have had some pain. It is like a sharp nerve pain and each time I mentioned it I was told it is part of ‘re-modelling’ and I have taken that to mean, this will go on as my new mouth and lip settle into their space. I am pretty good at managing pain but earlier this week I needed to share what had been noted by me after seeing my G.P.

  • the pain, which initially we/I thought was from some abrasion of the new tender inner side of the lip against the prosthesis was not likely to have been only from there…because
  • when I tried to use my small micro brush to clean in between the gaps left at the top of the screwed in prosthesis there was  no gap 
  • where the gap had been was skin, resting and immoveable, onto the top of the acrylic prosthesis

After my G.P. saw it, I sent these photos to my Professor and the Prosthodontist. The prosthodontist rang to say, stop using the microbrushes and use the water pik only to clean. The professor emailed to say “come and see me early January for a closer look”.

Yay to having responsive professionals. Very grateful.

Not so happy for the pain it is causing, the lip tightening even more and the disappointment that things are not going as I had hoped. Probably as my team had hoped too!

On the positive side, I have overcome setbacks before AND I trust my professional team BUT this is not a situation I imagined.

Skin does its thing it seems. My post here is about how the stent being taken out too soon prevented the full healing and I needed a 4th surgery and then over 3 months with a new stent.

I seem to think….more surgery may be on the cards.

Sigh.

I am taking pain medication as advised by my G.P. I am doing all I can to treat myself more gently. I am looking forward to seeing the family on Christmas Day here but my eating may be even more compromised by then. Who knows?

Many I know in the Head and Neck cancer support groups are in quite different stages of healing, acceptance of many aspects of their recovery and managing things well. I am buoyed by them, and already support for me and my update has helped. I also know as an Ambassador for Beyond Five, that those of us with Head and Neck cancers are affected by treatments long after the five years.

I am just over 19 months since diagnosis. I am also less patient than some! I am, always very grateful for my cancer treatments and follow-ups in an Australian setting here:

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

The late Prof Chris O’Brien. In the hospital named after him.

Westmead Oral Restorative Sciences

Thank you for your support, friends from blogging land and readers!

Denyse.

 

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Cancer Is Always ‘There’. 2018.84

Cancer Is Always ‘There’. 2018.84

It is rare these days for me to compose a post and publish it immediately. I have planned posts, scheduled posts and draft posts. Today is different.

I need to write out my truth and my feelings based on recent, significant events for me: a Cancer Patient.

What Do I Mean “Cancer is always ‘there’?”

  • Once diagnosed with cancer I held onto the belief, rightly or wrongly, that my surgery would eliminate the cancer in my upper gums and behind one side of my top lip.
  • It did. In terms of reports back from the many lab results, biopsies at the time of the major surgery in July 2017, and the reassurances from my professional team.
  • However, I do, like many others who have been diagnosed with cancer, “know” that it could come back in another way or form….and also that the reason for my four surgeries has been because I had/have cancer.
  • The many (22 now) visits to Westmead Oral Sciences to have treatments and checks for the progress of my mouth healing, stent wearing and health of my gums is because of cancer.
  • This came home to me yesterday, ONE week after re-gaining what I thought I wanted most: my smile, when it appears that the top lip (cancer site) is tightening again and I need to do some exercises to help it gain more suppleness.
  • There I was, thinking (albeit naively) that the cancer thing was almost gone.
  • Nope, no and not at all really. Check ups, doctor’s visits, mouth checks …..it is not gone nor over by a long way.

Explaining My Mixed Emotions and Responses/Reactions via My Photos.

 

Thank you for reading.
I wonder if any readers who have cancer/had cancer might identify with this.
I am a relative newbie (only 15+ months since diagnosis) yet it feels like I have had cancer forever.
I guess I do.

Cancer is always ‘there’.

Denyse.

Linking with Sue and Leanne here for MidLife Share The Love linky.

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