I regretfully resigned myself to the dentist. I had scheduled the appointment six months before, after my last cleaning, but two months since the growth appeared on the roof of my mouth.
I knew this day would come, had worried about its coming for years. I used to be a snuff dipper, and there was not a day that went by that someone wouldn’t warn me of the cancer risks involved. So when the growth appeared, I did what every other man facing the battle of his life would do…I ignored it, and I told nobody; and I began the process of taking account of my life… The one thing I had discovered was that at age 40 it had gone by to fast. I should do something about it.
“The next appointment was two months away.” I told myself, I will share the news then. In the meantime, I will explore it.
It felt like a blister. So, one morning, being a man, I thought I would pop it. Reaching for the nearest sharp object; a pair of nail clippers with file, I proceeded to jab at it. It was refused to go away, just like I feared it would, thereby cementing my diagnosis.
Finally, the day before my appointment arrived, and I found myself restless. I felt good about being able to get this off of my chest. Because at least then the process would begin. I would enter some kind of chemo, my hair would fall out, I would be sick a lot, I would lose weight because my food would now come in a can with a chocolate, or strawberry flavor. Relatives would come to see me; some who I wouldn’t have seen in decades, as I lay in bed drinking iced water from an oversized styrofoam cup. They would leave the room when I had to use the bathroom in the strange-looking jug that hangs by the bed rail, which some of the children who visit want to touch, but their mothers firmly tell them not to, and in a few months it would be over.
The next morning I took my son to day camp, while I went to the dentist to keep my appointment. Once there, the hygienist began her work. She was very funny. No doubt doing her best to keep her patient at ease, while being professionally thorough in her work. As she began her task with a snap of her latex gloves, I told her my story… the whole horrible thing, I told her that I was a reformed dipper, I brushed every day, flossed once…in a while, and that I now had this growth, and held my breath as my words sank in. She took my statement in stride and said,
“Open up, and let’s have a peak.”
I watched her eyes search the innards of my mouth, moving back and forth above the facemask that she wore.
“Yup, I see the lump you described. I need to call the dentist over.” She ended abruptly.
My heart skipped a few beats; after all, she wouldn’t call the dentist over unless it was serious, right?
The dentist pulled up along my chair, and began his inspection. The mask hiding his facial expression, which I struggled to search, trying to find any expression to indicate good or bad news, only to find nothing. He paused after the exam before speaking.
“What you have, is called a fistula.” He said sternly.
The news burned like a lance through my heart. I bravely held my emotions in check.
“Why has this happened?” I screamed in my head. How am I going to tell my family? I worried to myself.
Before I could ask the first question, he looked me in the eyes, and said.
“I know what you are thinking. And I can tell you how you got this. It is from using too many dirty words. Mr. Potty-Mouth.”
My confused expression encouraged him to continue.
“A fistula is a small sack of pus that forms from an infection. We will just clean it out, treat it with antibiotics and you should be all set.”
He paused, then lowered his voice for what HE thought was the bad news.
“Although.” He paused for effect. “The best way to treat this issue is by doing a root canal.”
It was probably the first time he ever had anyone leap out of the chair to click his heels together for a root canal.