Malignant: Juggling

I Should Get Paid For This

Having cancer, it turns out, is a full-time job. And I haven’t even begun the real meat and potatoes treatment yet. Or, more accurately, the radiation and chemotherapy.

See, before my docs can zap me with sundry rays and flood me with powerful drugs, they have to make sure this old body is up to the onslaught. As the dermatologist, Dr. McTeague, described me about a year and a half ago, I’m an old battleship with a lot of barnacles on my hull.

I can still float but it remains to be seen if I can withstand both a torpedo hit and a poison gas attack.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 3.14.01 PM

Anyway, now I have to undergo an accelerated series of deep cleaning treatments for my teeth, a process that normally takes a few weeks but in my case will be finished by a week from today since getting me zapped and doped needs to begin, as the medicos like to say, stat.

Periodontist Dr. Wittrig will do the sandblasting and chiseling herself because her hygienist is booked out too far in advance. The job on my choppers will require a lot of extra muscle power on her part because she can’t use her ultrasound jackhammer on me — the high-frequency sound waves might damage my implanted defibrillator or cause it to activate when it shouldn’t. So she’s going to have to knick her knuckles on my fangs, cleaning deep below the gum line to make sure there’s minimal chance of me coming down with a bone infection. That would be fairly disastrous after my mandible and maxilla are softened up by radiation.

Before she begins, though, I have to take an antibiotic before every session. I took one an hour before today’s appointment with her; it was prescribed by my primary care guy. So after leaving her office this morning I had to call my pharmacy to find out what the antibiotic he’d prescribed was as well as its dosage. Then I have to get that info over to Dr. Wittrig so she can call in her prescriptions of it.

Meanwhile, I have to call my radiation guy, Dr. Wu, to update him on where we are in all these preparatory ministrations. He’s getting antsy about now. Dr. Allerton, my chemotherapy guy, is as well. They want to get going before my olive pit grows into a full-blown olive. Wu wants to start the process of making my facial mask for radiation, a hockey mask type of thing on which he and his crew can paint crosshairs so as to aim their beams. It would also serve to hold my coconut steady while I’m being bombarded with millirems.


Radiation Facial Mask

[Image: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research]

Once finished with that update, I have to call Dr. Haddad’s office to find out if his crew has contacted the gastroenterologist so that the two of them can implant their hardware in me at the same time, the idea being I only get general anesthetic once.

Which would be a nice idea but Dr. Wittrig has to get back to Dr. Baker, my primary dentist, to okay me for tooth extraction. Wittrig says one of my molars, which has “mobility,” has to go. While we’re at it, she opines, we may as well yank my lower wisdom teeth. I’d guess that job’d call for general anesthetic too.

Another problem: I’ll have to get my mask fitted before the yanking is done because I’ll look like a chipmunk for about a week and my mask can’t reflect that.


Honestly, the chemoradiation just might be a pleasant break from all this rigmarole. [Of course, it won’t be but let me dream a little, alright?]

The truth is I do indeed want to get this treatment going.  I’m getting a little antsy myself.


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