I finally faced one of my fears last week.
I had put off going to the dentist for two years because I believe my last visit had caused the once tiny sore in my inner right cheek to enlarge after being hit by the careless, I think neophyte, dentist I saw. In the past, I wrote about my hesitation to go to the doctor for either a consultation or medication. I’ve always thought either my mother or a traditional doctor could fix whatever bad I feel. But I know a dental appointment is necessary. I actually don’t fear the pain. What I don’t like is the expensive cost (especially that our company’s Health card only shoulders the basics) and the self-shame brought by the confirmation that I don’t have a very good set of teeth now. I sometimes blame myself for not taking care of my biters much when I was a child up to my teenage years when chocolates and junk snacks were the ultimate rewards for my achievements. Now, I have to face whatever dental nightmare I have.
And so I went to a clinic last week. I had the cleaning part, but I just wanted to know what the dentist would say about this pea-sized circle in the inner part of my right cheek. I had my guesses already since I had researched about it. I might already know what it is, but I need an expert’s words. He was not sure, he said. Great. I was tempted to relay to him all that I had read but I knew some medical people are annoyed with smart aleck patients. He said I have to undergo an x-ray, and then, maybe a surgical removal of the thing if the x-ray supports his guess. He also said I might already need dentures because he surmised the lack of bony support in some areas of my mouth could be causing the condition. Another great.
I was still hesitant to do his recommendations. First, I am skeptic about x-rays because of the effects of their radiation. Second, I am more skeptic about surgeries because they’re, well, surgeries. And so, my reading began. What I just wanted to get was something that would tell me that I should not worry about my worries. But of course, I would get both the “anti” and the “pro”, and what I got made me worry more. Great, again. I chose to trust one of the answers I got when I e-mailed a question about the effects of radiation from x-rays to a medical site especially that I also needed to get a chest x-ray the same week for work permit purposes. A doctor responded:
“I have received the question you sent to the American Association of Physicists in Medicine regarding your x-ray procedures. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, radiation from an x-ray source such as for your chest x-ray or the dental x-ray is localized just to the area that they are looking at. In this way, it works sort of like sunshine: you can only get a tan if the sun is shining on that part of the skin; the part that’s not exposed doesn’t get tanned. So there is no relationship between a chest x-ray and dental x-rays. Secondly, the dose from each one is actually so low that, if there is truly any risk at all, it is so small as to be completely dwarfed by any other daily risks or the natural occurrence of cancer. I hope this helps.”
With this disclaimer: “The opinions expressed in this message are the product of the gray and white matter loitering in my cranium. I speak for myself and no one else, unless I say otherwise.“
I went for the dental x-ray. I walked in without any thought or sign of nervousness or idea of how the test would be done. I thought it was just like the one that checks the state of your lungs wherein you’d be asked to take your top off and replace it with that ‘gown’, face a machine, breathe in for some seconds (which also makes me paranoid), breathe out, and wholla, done! But no. It was a moving x-ray machine! It was an x-ray robot! Not only that. I was like locked in the machine after I was asked to bite that rod-like thing, and then was told not to move while the machine does its thing seemingly extracting something from me or imprinting something in me, which made me think that if I did, either I or the machine would explode. I’m not exaggerating. Panic really crept into my brain when the machine started to warm up especially that the woman who prepared me for it left the small room I was in after she did her routinary tasks. What if something wrong happened, who would save me? What if I moved? What if that thing I saw in the movie Saw because of a similar machine happened to me (body shattered into pieces… and so, think hard whether you would let your child watch the movie)? To the machine’s dismay, my reflex moved me the moment the sound of the revolving thing entered my ears and started to deafen my system also causing my jaw to lock for some long seconds while my sane reasoning and utmost desire to be orally healthy tried to keep me from giving in to that black stillness that was starting to show not far from where I was standing at that point. I didn’t even have the chance to tell myself, “Think of happy thoughts. Think of happy thoughts.” I didn’t know FEAR could be that robotic monster with marking lights that would seep through the tiniest particles in one’s mind and eat the person’s sanity up if welcomed fully. With a little prayer, I was later successful to shut my door to it.
But you know what was even more “exciting”? I had to do the test again right after the first one. Agony, fear, panic, paranoia times two. The first one apparently didn’t show a clear result of the inside of my mouth. I mind-shouted at the woman. I don’t know why I was blaming here. But was the error caused by my accidental movement? I don’t remember if the woman responded to that query. The second time though I realized I just had to close my eyes. Soon (although it felt more like the opposite), the test was over, but still not in a smooth way. I had the confident thought the second time that I already knew the machine, and yeah, the fear it brings, but a part of the machine touched my shoulder when it was completing its 360-degree turn. I was scared that I had to do it again increasing my fear of dying from radiation. Thankfully, the radiologist said the film was already acceptably clear. A big sigh, not much of relief though because after the test, every sudden jerk with even only little pain my body created caused me to think, because of my radiation scare, that I was doomed.
This week, I went back to the dentist, who told me, based on the x-ray, that two teeth have to be extracted, that a surgery should be done for the lump (his hypothesis: a fibroma) that will then be sent for biopsy, and dentures should already be placed in the toothless areas of my mouth. Great, for the nth time. I am still young for this– dentures, that is. And can/do you kiss with them on? (Just asking.)
I did the first must-do. No fear and only little pain, and no thanks to the anesthesia since I felt the numbness after the extraction was over. I will never be in good terms with these technologies.
I know that I am somehow over reacting to this medical situation I am in right now. I have a 50+-year-old friend who underwent several operations already, and she seems perfectly fine. She was also one of my moral support in this. So I tell myself now that I really should worry less or not at all. Think of her. Think of Pi (even if he’s fictional). Think of the family in The Impossible (which I really want to write about but still haven’t). They all survived much more physical pain and scary predicaments; mine must be a needle prick compared to theirs even if I say it’s a prick from a huge needle because still, how dare me.
I will be back to the dentist for surgery next week. I am not afraid of the impending pain but of the thought of undergoing surgery. I’ll be doing it anyways because I do not want that thought to continue making me down and because I look forward to writing about how it’s successfully over.
i rarely get sick. i’m happy and proud of my almost zero-sickness record this year. i can’t say i have a 100% healthy lifestyle. sure, i take no alcohol, i don’t smoke, and i don’t eat pork much. but i also don’t exercise, i don’t sleep early, and i don’t watch my diet. i credit my “healthy” state (with that i mean not having any cold, cough, or fever often) to eating breakfast. no specific foods. just anything with rice and egg, and i am good. oh, and banana, too. i do become hypochondriac though sometimes. having some palpitations makes me worry that i am doomed and sights getting blurrier and blurrier for me leads me into thinking that i’m getting blind. but so far, i am grateful that i am not struck with the usual ailments and don’t have to visit the doctor often. in the first place, i don’t want to visit one. secondly, i don’t like doctors.
i can count using the fingers of my one hand the times in my entire life that i had to go to a doctor. they were mostly for employment purposes. being raised by adults who were born and raised in the province, i am used to all those natural ways of healing. before “herbal” and “organic” got mainstream through those supplements and medicines, my mother and grandmother long introduced them to me. even if i wasn’t sick, they made me take this drink they created from boiling assorted leaves or roots like that of guava, star apple, pandan, and mango. For a while too, a piece of garlic served as our pre-bedtime “pill.” When my brother and i got fever or the like, they performed an act called “lutay.” it was like a massage where pieces of banana leaves with oil (baby oil or coconut oil or other kinds of oil they also concocted out of certain things) in them was put on different parts of the body to find the “sickest” spot. either that act performed on us by my mother, or she would take us to a local doctor or faith healer, who would also perform a different set of rituals to determine whether it was just a common illness or it was caused by a bad spirit. although not all the time i agreed with these means due to the bitter taste of the drinks or after-smell of the formula, i must say they were effective because we were cured. when we transferred to the city though, i started doubting their effectiveness because other people doubted it or laughed at the thought of it. way back, other people viewed someone who used such ways of healing as one doing some witchcraft or someone, yes, from the province. since when i was younger, i used to value more what other people say or think, i started to reject the leaves and the roots and everything related to my roots (pun intended). i did not totally embrace though the kind of medicine the city offers. up until now, i rarely drink tablets and capsules of pain relievers (i just can’t swallow them well), and like i mentioned, i don’t really see a doctor. what did i do then? i just prayed. with the faith that i would eventually feel better, i fought those ailments. thankfully, they did pass.
at present, i am back with the natural means. i self-treat myself whenever i don’t feel well. i boil some water with roots of ginger and it serves as my vitamin drink. i eat fruits and do my best to eat veggies as often as possible. i still don’t take supplements even if they’re made from organic and herbal formula. i still think that since they are manufactured in laboratories, they have these hidden bad side effects. i hope i am wrong. because the ironic thing is my grandmother (juana), who is 95 or 96 years old, and my mother, are open now to those kinds of medicines. they have their daily dose of vitamin pills which, they say, really make them feel healthy. they still take other herbal drinks though, so i think i have nothing to worry.
but i still doubt doctors. this sentiment is only purely based on my experience. during the few times i sought their service, they didn’t actually help in curing me. they just asked me a few questions about how i feel, what i eat, what my work is, and then scribbled some drugs i had to take (which i did not always do), advised me to not eat or drink this or that, and charged me with an unbelievable amount for that less-than-ten-minutes chit-chat. they’re not even friendly (at least, that was what i felt). or cute. no dr. mcdreamy or dr. grey who feels strong concern for her patients. that’s why i think dr. house is the only realistic portrayal of their kind. with the crankiness i mean. at least, he was really helping someone get well. unlike those i encountered in real life that made me go home to my province every time i feel that my illness is a little serious and resort to a local doctor, or what they tag as a quack doctor. but i think those medical shows that romanticize the medicine field should be blamed, too, for either the high expectations for it or the disappointment with it in the real world.
i’m not saying every doctor is the same. may it be a quack doctor or a schooled doctor, they all act based on their individual skills and knowledge. and they can either heal or worsen conditions. i just hope every one of them has and show real concern to people who seek their help, and not just go with their usual ask-prescribe-pay ritual. because sometimes, it’s the concern that would help more. it’s that concern that would make the person get well.
i am fortunate that i was not getting any cold or fever. i really think i’ve had a strong immune system. until two days ago. because of ice-cream. it started the tonsillitis, then it led to a runny nose, now cough, and a mild fever. and because of that, i’ve been absent from work for two days now. worse, because of that, i will have to go see a doctor. for a medical certification that i got sick. otherwise, i won’t be able to resume work. for that reason, i am thankful. seriously though, with that visit, i hope to meet one that will “sweep me off my feet” and change my cynical view. for now, i will continue with my self-medication and pray that this itchy, scratchy feel on my throat will soon be gone.
(image credits: www.robotplunger.com; 2.bp.blogspot.com)