Friday, June 24, 2011

Different ways to look at luck

When I went for my cleaning today, my dentist said, "You are one lucky woman."

He was referring once again to the fact that I have any teeth left at all after being immunosuppressed for so long. Instead, I have had to lose only four teeth.

Dr. Debian had started my dental drama when he told me months ago that four teeth were so decayed that they would need to be extracted. I was not very happy to hear this.

A short recap: I had two teeth extracted by a local dentist and then the remaining two removed by a dental surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston after it was determined that I would need a platelet transfusion before the procedure because my platelet count had dropped too low to ensure proper clotting. Both times, the dentists pulled the teeth just with Novocaine, although I did get a lot of help from a hefty dose (2 mg.) of Ativan.

It was after that second extraction that the dentist said he noticed a lesion that he wanted to biopsy for possible tongue cancer. The results came back inconclusive, and I was sent to a head and neck oncologist at Dana-Farber who ordered a throat scan and said she would need to remove the spot in a two-hour procedure under general anesthesia.

I was relieved when the throat scan came back negative for cancer, but I was not feeling especially lucky about the whole thing.

The May 31 surgery went well, and at my follow-up visit a week later, the surgeon, Dr. Laura Goguen, said that she had found severe dysplasia (pre-cancerous cells) over an area causing her to remove more of my tongue than she had expected. On "normal" people these type of cells could probably just be ignored, but on someone with a history like mine, they are more likely to turn cancerous.

By the way, the area is not really that large, but she took a noticeable scoop out from the side of my tongue.

She told me I was very lucky. "That was a good catch by the dentist."

My tongue hurt a lot, and it is still causing me enough pain that I haven't gotten off of the percocet. (Dr. Debian said today that because the area is so sensitive, it is likely to hurt for a while.)

Sometimes I look at the many people who have not been through the wringer, and I do not feel especially lucky at all.

But of course I know the many ways I am lucky, starting with the fact that I am alive to write this and that I am doing well and feeling good. And then there are all my many other blessings.

I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Yes I am lucky to still have so many teeth, and yes I am lucky that they found the spot before it turned into cancer. And I am also lucky that at my cleaning today, nothing turned up to give me more trouble.

On my way out, the billing clerk said I owed nothing for the visit because my insurance covers cleanings but not fillings or anything else.

As I turned to leave, I said with a smile, "I guess I'm lucky that I have fewer teeth to get cavities in."


Nelle said...

I know people who have never been sick a day in their life. I look at them and saw they are lucky. On the other hand, I have battled for my health for thirty plus years. Some days I feel there is a black cloud over my head but other days I feel like the luckiest person alive. I try hard to see the positive but some days I don't. I allow myself those days once in a while because while I may have bionic parts, I am merely human. I'm hoping you won't have anything more to deal with for a long time.

Cheryl said...

Ronni, simply 'I understand!'
You take with you my best wishes for a run of 'good' luck' ☻

Anonymous said...


the last lines are priceless! Frankly, i do not think of you as lucky at all, and wish people wouuld stop saying that to you --

i know that those med professionals mean well, and do see the sheer miracle of You, but still...
i don't think you've been very lucky in recent years.... and that is an understatement...

i do consider myself beyond lucky, being blessed, to have you and your family in my life...and that again, lsorry for the sentimentality, is an understatement...i'm getting those happy tears in my eyes, so i had better stop!


PJ said...

I feel like you do, extremely lucky to be alive. So I can't see weel and I have severe edema.

We're here, and we know how tough it was to get here.