Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tooth and Sinus Infection and Metastatic Breast Cancer

I would be ironic, given my love for dentistry, and after all I've been through, if a bad tooth took me down.

For about three days, I've had a sore tooth. I did what I have always done - ignored it. I figured it would go away or I'd have to see a dentist but the pain wasn't that bad and it's a busy time at work. Graduation is tomorrow and after that, although I am working until the 30th, I am free and clear to make an appointment, since no kids and teachers are depending on me for immediacy. It's not that there is nothing to do but that it can wait a few hours, unlike during a school day.

Truthfully, I'd almost rather have more of my liver removed than see a dentist. So, I rinsed my mouth with salt water and flossed extra and just made sure the area was clean and went about my life, hoping the toothache would disappear.

I forgot.

Yes, I'm a normal person. A normal person with metastatic cancer and no immune system.

Yesterday, my alarm went off and I was unable to get out of bed. I was completely wiped. I couldn't eat, drink or move. Too weak. Last time I'd been like that - that weak and sick, I'd had c-diff. On day two I'd gone septic and went to ICU. Last time, I didn't get a fever until about 7:30 on day two either. I had no fever yesterday either but was weak as a ragdoll.

I figured my tooth was infecting me. I took a leftover vancoymin (shouldn't have, don't do this at home, kids) and called the doctor's office, both to cancel my chemo and talk to a nurse.

They said not to take anything and to go to the ER if I got worse. I didn't talk to a nurse I knew. My own personal chemo nurses know that if I'm calling - if I skip a chemo - it's dire. In three years, the only chemo I skipped was when I was hospitalized. I don't call for just anything, in fact, the only other time I called them I was already septic. So, I was not happy with that answer.

I kept taking the vanco every 6 hours and called this morning to confess my sins and ask what to do. I was, admittedly, quite afraid of going back to the hospital again and the vanco seemed like a lifeline. But now, I needed to 'fess up and know, do I keep taking it or not?

It seems to be helping. I am still feeling bad but am up and about. It's clear I have a sinus infection; my left eye is also infected and my tooth still hurts and of course, I have a headache, but I am able to get out of bed, and I took a bath, an impossible-seeming task yesterday. (I hate to go to the hospital sweaty.) I got to talk to a chemo nurse I knew today, who was a lot more sympathetic. The doctor said to keep taking the vanco since I do feel slightly better. The vanco is likely not going to work on the infection; it's not designed for that, and I'm in a precarious place, according to the doctor. I might go down again.

Remember, I am not able to take any other antibiotics, ever again, because of c-diff. I am a cancer patient who can't take antibiotics, which is not a good thing to be.

I will see the doctor Monday, assuming I survive the weekend without hospitalization. Then I have to figure out how to be treated for this infection. My hope is that the vanco takes care of it, even if it isn't used for that typically.

Graduation is Friday, which I guess I'm going to miss. My last graduation as a school employee - how sad. I really wanted to see those kids off.

Wednesday I am supposed to drive to San Francisco (100 miles) to have a PET scan that is the tie-breaker that will tell me if cancer is growing back in my liver. If I can make it, and it is not growing back, then maybe I can stop chemo for a bit and let my immune system recover to help fight off this infection.

I might have to stop chemo anyway.

The 23rd is my stepdaughter's wedding. How can I miss that?

I know there is no convenient time to get sick and maybe die but this is definitely not it.

When my son came into my bedroom yesterday, scared as crap at my health, I felt so sad. I'm ruining his childhood, and he has everything going on but me. He's a straight A student in one of the hardest programs in the country, plus he's a wonderful kid, lots of smart and funny friends, hopes and dreams that are difficult but achievable and he's doing all that with fear and knowledge that any day, he could wake up and won't have a mother.

People tell me I'm strong. He's the strong one.

I have promised to blog as long as I can, to share my story and so today, while I am up and about, I figured I'd tell you what is going on with me. I will try to continue to update with twitter. If I stay steady, if nothing changes, if I get better in the next few days, don't expect tweets that say, "I'm fine!" but if I take a turn for the worse and have to go to the hospital, and I am able (which I should be), I'll let you know. In this case, no news will be good news.

My twitter feed is @butdocihatepink and it is over to the right, embedded in this blog so those not on twitter can see it. I don't really know how to use it so if you say something to me and I don't respond, that's why, I'm not being rude. One of my plans for when I finished work on June 30th was to become expert in tweeting and maybe actually say something interesting and figure out what the heck all those # signs mean.

Just when you think you are doing good, that you might have a little time, when you plan things a few months out, that all is well, cancer laughs and smites you down into reality. "You?" it says. "You are not in charge, I am. I can take you any time I want, through any means."

Even a little toothache.



  1. I don't get hash tags either but will try to follow you on Twitter. Much love to you xxx

  2. Ann, I had an abscessed root in a tooth that had had a root canal. This meant that I did not know about the infection until the pain was incredibly horrific and my face and neck swelled up twice their size. I had to have the tooth yanked - but yanking really wasn't necessary because the infection was "pushing" the tooth out. Why do I tell you this? Because this is a potentially life-threatening situation for anyone -- and more so for you. Please see if you can get in to see an oral surgeon ASAP - they can help you feel better, immediately. I got Penicillin VK for my infection - vanco is not supposed to help with any infection outside of the GI tract. I am worried about you. please go see someone sooner rather than later??

    Congratulations on your son's graduation.

  3. I got you on Twitter lady. You are so incredibly amazing with the way you express yourself, I have tears and then laugh. You are a gift.

  4. Oh Ann..... I am so sorry to read this especially given that my blog post today is me trying to liken chemobrain to a toothache...... One of my wise crackin' posts.

    I hope the infection clears and the PET scans are all good. I'll be watching the twitter feed. End your tweets with #bcsm (most of the bloggers on twitter use that "hashtag" so we always know where to look)....

    I don't know what else to say except that I'm sending hugs your way and lots of good thoughts.

    Much love,

  5. Ann.. I'm with Bonnie, this is serious business. Two days ago I had to have my tooth removed (no root canal, no cavities) because of abscess and like Bonnie I had swelling under jaw but it went all the way up to my ear. I too thought I will just ride it out and it will go away...Wrong! ...It just got worse...My tooth had split. Go to the dentist!

  6. First, my son isn't graduating for two years. I work in a high school and go to graduation each year and love to go. In two years, I had better be there to see my son graduate!

    I will call the doctor tomorrow to update him. I'm feeling okay now. Been up all day.

    I can't just go to a dentist anymore. I need to be cleared by the oncologist and then the dentist has to check with the oncologist. I'm on zometa which can cause jaw deterioration as a side effect. Not supposed to get a tooth removed on it. I hope that it is just a broken filling or something simple. I am not sure I would be that lucky though.

    Don't worry, I will go to doctor or ER if anything changes. Right now I'm okay.

  7. I didn't realize how very complicated it is for you when you have something else going on in your body...sorry Ann...its just not that simple is it. Please take care, I just immediately got anxious for you...hope it resolves soon.

  8. You are too ornery not to be there for your son's graduation ;-). And, I am sure that you will be feeling great for the school graduation and your stepdaughters wedding ... you are a strong woman.

    Take care of yourself.

  9. Argh! This sucks a$$ and I wish I had some secret drugs to slip you to help out. Sending lots of good vibes your way.

  10. Keeping everything crossed for you, Ann. No news is good news. xx Ann in England.

  11. Dentist for you! I hope you feel better!

  12. Rooting for you, Ann. Hang in there.

  13. Hi Ann,

    I've been a follower for some time, but always felt weird about posting even when I'm sending good mojo your way. This time around I wanted to a) tell you I'm with you on the dentist. I always believe that spontaneous dental healing will happen overnight. So far I've been wrong about that. Dental life is its own very special hell. and b)a little story about a friend who died a few years ago. During her illness, she had a son in high school who sounds a lot like yours. his mother kept pushing him out the door so he could be a kid, not a cancer patients son, but he kept pushing his way back in so he could be a loving son. however scared he was (or his mother was for that matter) 5 years later he still talks about how grateful he was for being in his mother's life during those years. he hated her cancer, but loved the hours they had. and after she died - he made sure we all knew that he wasn't traumatized, and as scary as the drama of illness and wondering if this was cascading into something he and his dad couldn't control, it was clean - they did the best the could, they honored her wishes, and they loved each other, before,during and after her dying.
    And he misses her like anything, but he's okay, thriving, remembering mom, and falling in love and getting his engineering degrees. I read your blend of cynical optimism and I really believe that you and your boy will be who you need to be for each other however scared you might be.

    good luck with the tooth. ugh. dentists. blah.. . ..

  14. Thinking of you and hoping the infection clears.

  15. This morning I'm doing about the same as yesterday. Shaky but up and about. I'm going to go to work for a couple of hours - even though I'm missing graduation, I need to pull keys for summer school teachers. I will only stay as long as my body lets me.

  16. Rebecca, that is a fantastic story, thank you. I know all will be well when I'm dead and gone. My kids will do wonderfully. Just makes me sad to not be there to see them but I know that I raised kids to triumph over problems. My oldest is past the point of really needing me and in two years, my youngest will be in college and starting a new life. If I can make it two years ....

    1. you're welcome. two years. the best goal. two years of loving and mothering and living. I'm pulling for you (and so many others are too!)

  17. Ann,

    I'm with Rebecca. Remember,YOU are not ruining your son'e childhood, cancer is. I felt the same guilt about my cancer experience, but it is not your fault or my fault or anybody else's fault. It is cancer's fault. Just be sure to talk to him. My mistake was not talking to my son. I'ts taken us four years to get things ironed out.

    I'm praying for you. Keep fighting.

    Dianne Duffy

  18. Gulp. As a Mom of who went through breast cancer treatments while trying not to traumatize our two kids any more than couldn't be helped, I shed a little tear at your musings. I've had similar thoughts. I'm a couple of years on the clear side of treatment (so far) and I now know, too, that should cancer decide I don't deserve any more good times, my kids will be okay and stronger and more compassionate for having gone through this with me.

    I wish you, too, were on the clear side of treatment, Ann. I hope you're able to squash this infection like a bug and then I hope your PET scan is all good news!!

  19. Dearest Ann,

    Just wanted to say please know your son will be okay. My father died of cancer when I was in my early twenties, I had two younger brothers at home (one in middle school, and one in high school). Also, a sister in her later twenties.

    It was anguish for all us. He, like you, was a dear, funny, passionate, loving person. A wonderful parent.

    What I think we gained from the loss, was the ability to empathize with people in pain. All of us. A quality that is too often missing in our society.

    As your children move forward in their lives, I guarentee they will reach out to help. Because of your profound decency, honesty and generosity of spirit (which resonates on your blog), they will be kind.

    Forced to endure the sadness of your illness, there will be some benefits in terms of character development.

    A fair trade?? Heck no! As my father loved to say "Fuck Death"!!!

  20. You are all wonderful for sharing your experiences with your own parent's death as young people. It makes me feel better to know life goes on and people can emerge the better for it.

    Obviously, I'm doing okay today. The vanco must be working, or it wasn't the infection that got me. I have a doctors appointment Monday to clear me for the dentist and while I'm still weak and shaky, I'm quite functionible. (Is that a word?)

  21. Hello again, Ann!

    I have been feeling terrible all night about my prior post.

    In no way did I intend to place you in the past tense, but it may have come across that way.

    You're rotten stage four. But where there's life, there's Hope.

    Skip the empathy, I'd rather your kids grew-up as selfish bastards with their mom around for a long, long time.

  22. Oh my gosh, Anon, I didn't even notice. Don't worry about it and do NOT worry over silly things like that! I can assure you that even had I noticed it, I would have known what you meant. It was a nice post and I thank you!

  23. First off, Thanks for sharing your story I wish you a speedy recovery. Things happened in life that are unexpected, but they make us stronger and wiser, and perhaps are preparing us for something in the future. My regular dentist is so gentle it is not a big deal to find a dentist that is not heavy handed. I was deathly ill I mean not driving or working anymore test after test, specialist to specialist, seemed insane , flu like symptoms everday , I was thin already now I weight 100 pounds I'm 5'4. I had a lack of appetitie , dry heaves, nausea, chills, ithcy ears, breathing difficulties. inflammation in my lower back, sinus infection which I had never had in my life. Went to my dentist several times after I read that all root canals leak infection and a toxic virulent strain to boot. My regular dentist found nothing, we hired a holistic dentist and he had this 3-D state of the art machine. He found a root canal infection had both root canals extracted. I needed tissue graphs and bone graphs to deal with the damage the infected root canal had caused. Then I had Thermography which was so amazing I believe if you can have one it is early detection for cancer and it is amazing. Anyhow, after the Thermoggraphy the guy saw an vasco - dilated in my breast either it was hormone related he said simply solved progesterone cream. Or it was infection . He told me to have my OBGYN to order an ultrasound, he said if they hassle you then he wrote an order for an ultrasound the out of pocket cost is only 100.00! My husband and I are stunned that a root canal infection and mercury fillings can cause devastating effects to your health to the point of being completely homebound. Thank God that everyday we get closer to healing this


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