Another Bad Day

Several months ago, I had another tooth extracted by an oral surgeon.   The thirty-seven days of radiation therapy destroyed much of my salivary glands, which produces saliva.  And saliva is the way that the body fights bacteria in the mouth, which leads to tooth decay.  Because of this, I’ve lost 12 teeth since my cancer treatments ended in November 2009.

My dentist said that because the tooth is in the area of my jaw where I had a lot of radiation exposure during my cancer treatments and that also left my jaw bone deficient in the type of blood cells in the bone that aid in the healing process.

The danger of having the tooth removed is that infection can spread to the jaw bone itself and the only thing that they could do is to remove the part of the jaw that is affected.  And that would leave me with a funnier face than the one I have now.  My dentist also said that she was referring me to an oral surgeon to do the extraction.

After having the tooth pulled,  I had to return to the surgeon’s office every couple of weeks, to see if the area of the extracted tooth was healing okay.  After four months of visits, the surgeon said everything looked fine, but he wanted me to return to see him in six months (April 2019).  I breathed a sigh of relief as I left his office that day.  Cancer leaves you with an ongoing sense of anxiety; every pain or illness makes you wonder if cancer has returned!

A couple of weeks after seeing the surgeon, I went to my regular dentist to have my teeth checked and cleaned.  During the checkup, my dentist advised me that she wanted me to see the surgeon again – but she didn’t explain why.  She said she was going to get him to squeeze me into his busy schedule – so I assumed that there was something wrong.  But silly me, I didn’t ask.

Two days later, I arrived at the oral surgeon’s office.  But when he entered the examing room, he appeared to be surprised to see me and asked me why I had returned?

I shrugged my shoulders and replied that I’m assuming it has something to do with the tooth extraction.

My surgeon stood motionless for a few moments, and we locked eyes.  In his eyes, I saw a momentary spark of puzzlement; in my eyes, he probably saw the fear.  We ended the deadlock by shrugging and smiling at each other.

The good doctor then proceeded to probe the inside of my mouth.

I felt guilty at the notion that my visit didn’t appear to be warranted but kept the concern to myself.  I knew that my regular dentist wouldn’t have referred me to a surgeon unless she was worried, so I sat silently while the surgeon did his probe.

After a few minutes, the surgeon indicated that nothing had changed and everything looked okay to him.

I became embarrassed and apologized for taking up his time but said that I was only there because of my dentist.

He replied that it wasn’t a problem and that he would send my dentist a letter to confirm his diagnosis.

“Whew!  Another bullet dodged!” I mumbled to myself as I left his office.  And within minutes, I was back home to a happy Holly Golightly.

Last Friday, I got a call from the oral surgeon’s office.  The receptionist said that the surgeon wanted to have another look at the extraction area.  She made the appointment for Monday.

“It sounds serious!” I thought.  And then I spent the weekend worrying and wondering.

Yesterday, I went to the oral surgeon’s office.  But this time when the surgeon entered the examination room, he was the one who was apologizing to me.  He also had a look of concern in his eyes which made me shiver.

The surgeon told me that my dentist had contacted him to explain what she had discovered during the checkup – which was the presence of ‘pus’ – which she had removed from the infected area.  He said that when I visited him two days later, he didn’t detect anything because none of the pus was present.

He then checked my mouth and said that he could now see the pus – which meant that the extraction area was not healing itself – even though the extraction was five months ago!

The surgeon also explained why he and my dentist were concerned.  If the infection spreads to the jaw bone – there isn’t enough healthy blood cells in the area to heal the bone.  And we don’t want to risk that.

However, he said that there is a procedure known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy that will put oxygen back into my body but it requires one hour of treatment in a hyperbaric chamber each day for twenty days.  Then I return to him for a procedure to clean and empty the affected area, followed by another ten days of hyperbaric therapy.

“Okay, where do I have the therapy done?” I asked.

“I’m going to refer you to a private clinic because they’ll be able to take you right away.  Otherwise, the wait is several months if I chose to have it done at the hospital.”

However, there is a risk.  The hyperbaric oxygen therapy will significantly increase the number of healthy cells in my body to fight the infection.  But it will increase the number of cancer cells – if there are any present.

I’m not worried about my throat – my oncologists said I was cancer-free when I visited him last February.  However, the three nodes in my lung were still present at the time, although they hadn’t grown in size in the year and a half that I’d had returning for ct scans and checkups.

So, do I have the thirty days of hyperbaric therapy and hope that there aren’t any cancer cells hidden in my body  OR do I take a chance and not do anything?  The surgeon said the decision was mine, but he was strongly recommending I do the therapy.

I received a call from the hyperbaric oxygen therapy clinic, and they gave me an appointment to start the treatments tonight, at 5:30 PM.

I didn’t sleep much last night.  I’m scared and tired of fighting.

But I’m not a quitter.

I called my friend Norm to discuss my options with him.  He has been battling cancer longer than me, and he is braver than most.  He reminded me that I too am a warrior.

I started to cry when he said he would pray for me.  

I guess there’s still that ‘little Danny’ inside of me because everyone knows big boys don’t cry!

Update:  Today, was my fourth daily treatment of an hour in the chamber.  There is a glass door so it’s not so claustrophobic.   You need to wear cotton, no jewelry, electric devices – to prevent sparks.  I watch Netflix on a tv monitor that they place in front of the door once the treatment begins and there’s a speaker on the wall inside the chamber.

Dedicated to Mouna, my awesome dentist

Hugs,

Danny

Today’s tune (from Danny’s library of purchased music):  

 

About

An almost famous Film, Television & Stage Actor living in Vancouver, BC (as in almost pregnant). His other passions include: patient advocate (he had Stage 3 Throat Cancer) ; daily power walks at the Promenade in White Rock; and of course, spoiling his dog Holly Golightly. If you like the stuff he writes about - please leave a hug (or a comment).

8 thoughts on “Another Bad Day

  1. Danny, dear friend,
    You are one of the bravest men I have ever met! You have been through so much in the past several years, and yet still have hope, and the spirit to carry on. The treatment sounds like medieval torture, no wonder you are scared. I would be terrified! The fact that you are not afraid to admit your fear, only shows how strong you are.
    You are in my prayers too.
    Hugs,
    Connie

    1. Connie,
      Your kind comments brought tears to my eyes. I wish that I could express in words how much it means to me, to have you as a friend. Today, several walkers and I went to see the hidden sculptures that you showed me on Mother’s Day. And I think they were impressed by the sculpture and the fact that I didn’t get lost in the woods! Looking forward to our future walks. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
      Hugs,
      Danny

  2. Danny
    You have been following the advice from many Doctors for many years now. It would seem to be the logical (is anything logical?) thing to continue and fix the problem you know about and deal with a future issue- if and when. I hope you can make those hyperbaric appointments ( if that is your choice) at a time when they will not interfere with your walking schedule, so that you can continue to participate in your healthy activities and so that we can continue to benefit from being in your company.
    See you soon–Doug & Nancy

    1. Doug and Nancy,
      You have been such great friends and Doug, your smile lights up the world!
      Walking, seeing new places, and chatting with my friends have given me a new lease on life. And despite the ups and downs that I have had over the years – my walking club friends have been my medicine.
      Hugs and Luv.
      Danny

  3. I’m so sorry to hear this 🙁
    I am praying for you and all good things. Please keep us posted.
    Sending love and hugs,
    Suzette
    xx

  4. Dear beautiful Danny,

    Today on my way here I was feeling down about my own fibro pain that comes with the colder weather. I went to that place of “how am I going to put up with this again” & began to sink with the thought of being in pain every day. But then I forced myself to stop my whoa is me moment to focus in prayer for those I knew needed much more than myself. Angelo is in his final rounds of chemo for stage 4 lung cancer. Chris is only 33 and in the same battle. My ex boyfriend has stage 4 lung cancer and it has spread to his kidney. My friend Darlene beat the cancer twice and is now on an oxygen machine but still suffers and has house bound. My friend Dale is in a chair having been hit by a drunk driver and has finally been moved to an assisted living facility and re-hab. It brought me back to the reality of my struggles being so small in comparison. Not that they are insignificant, but rather not as significant as those I am praying for. And then I read this……………and I am going to put my head down now Danny and pray that you continue your brave fight and win another battle. Because you are a beautiful soul and this world needs more beautiful souls. And when you do leave here for Heaven you will, no doubt, be well received. But not yet, NOT YET………….

    LOVE YOU!!!

    1. Life is so special with friends like you, Sue. I believe that cancer is more difficult on the caregiver(s) and loved ones of the patient. You feel helpless and it’s difficult to know what to say to someone with cancer, and you wish that you could take away some of their sufferings. And that’s why life is so precious – people caring for each other in the worst of situations. We will dance again Mrs. Vitale – but this time our kiss will light up the theatre!
      Love,
      Danny aka Tony Nunzio Sr.

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