Welcome to TrustYourBust.com. My name is Kimberley Wahamaa, I am 47 years old. I created this site for breast cancer patients to share their stories. I believe we need this site to learn from each other. What works, what doesn’t work, what to look out for, what will happen next, whether it is sharing a story about how you bruise when you have a biopsy, or how to prepare for the noise of an MRI…I’m in the infant stages of my journey and I know I have alot to learn. So I welcome you to join me, here is my story…
In October 2006, my mentor, my wonderful boss Patricia Mills, Publisher of Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Living magazines invited me to my first Breast Cancer event, a Luncheon of Hope in Sudbury. There was lots of pink within the room, an amazing fundraiser, and a great keynote speaker. We have heard many keynote speakers at this luncheon for years since that time, but none of them were from Northern Ontario. I often thought to myself, we are the hub of Cancer research, why are we not telling stories from our own community. Every year at this event we are given a tulip bulb to plant… I didn’t plant my tulip bulb until this past fall, when my mom came with me at the luncheon. It was special to be beside my mom and listen to the personal stories and research that is done for breast cancer. Mom planted her bulb out front of our house, I planted mine at camp. Her tulip is now in bloom, it’s red. Mine has grown, but hasn’t bloomed yet, I don’t know what the colour is…I’m hoping for PINK.
In July 2010, Crystal Larose, extraordinaire designer of our magazines asked me to join the BACs group, Sudbury’s, Breast Action Coalition, to be part of my first Dragon Boat race. Crystal arranged to have pink paddles made, we placed last, but wow did we look good out there on the water. It was a special day for me, my family came to see us paddle for pink!
Cancer doesn’t really hit you, until you know someone close who has gone through it, died from it or you find a lump on your breast. In the past year, three of my friends have been through it, experienced the therapy and are true heros and survivors. But my cousin Gerry Tapper died from pancreatic cancer within a three week period. Doesn’t seem fair, you think you have a lifetime ahead to live your bucket list.
On April 1st 2013, I felt a lump on my left breast while washing with a bar of Dove soap in my morning shower. OK Happy April Fools…No Joke, I went into high gear to start a bucket list. Finalize the will, pick a plot, book a photo session while I still have hair, get a trim so it doesn’t look too obvious, get a tattoo with my Mom, organize my accounting, go to our remote camp, travel to Thunder Bay & North Bay for work, lots of events coming up, start cc’ing my staff on emails so they know the status of things, maybe book a trip south with my boyfriend? Maybe I only have three weeks? The list continues to grow every day…
I called Dr. Jacques in Coniston to book an appointment. He sent me for my first mammogram and breast ultrasound on April 26th. I was so afraid to have the mammogram. I waited in the waiting room for about 20 minutes. There were two women before me, I was shocked that I could hear every word the technician asked each of these women. There is a huge confidentiality issue here. But in some way it prepped me because I knew what questions she was going to ask me. I was almost sick to my stomach with nerves to have the mammogram, I had heard so many stories. But the technician put me at ease. After the mammogram was complete, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t that painful at all, just uncomfortable versus painful. There is a huge opportunity to educate people more about this procedure.
I didn’t tell anyone my news at first. It is a very personal awakening. So many emotions, go through your mind, body and soul.
On May 3rd, I called Dr. Jacques office, as I hadn’t heard anything. His office said that I have to go for a biopsy and that the Breast Screening Assessment Clinic would be in touch with me. I called the Breast Screening Clinic, and they said it could take up to two weeks until I get a call and then another two weeks before the biopsy is scheduled.
I told my boyfriend Bobby the news at camp. It was very difficult, emotional, but I felt so relieved, finally able to share the news. He is very loving and supportive and made some humorous remarks to lighten the load, we laughed and cried. I am truly blessed to have him in my life.
I’m the operations manager at Northern Ontario Business. I manage many events across Northern Ontario. I have events to plan in Sudbury, Thunder Bay, North Bay over the next few months…You can imagine my panic, well not really panic, but how do you organize your life with the unknown, the waiting, booking flights and meetings. So I called the Clinic back and gave them the dates that I would be out of town.
May 10th I met with Dr. Jacques office, the lump measured 1.8 cm. Is this big? Is this small? It would be a core biopsy, I did some googling, but chose not to google anymore and wait until I hear more about the biopsy before coming to conclusions.
The evening of May 10th, I came home and changed into a pink sweat shirt, I was anxious to see my son, he had been out of town travelling to Australia, Florida and Texas. I was hoping that he would have some pink on his shirt that he was wearing. Trusting for a photo opp with him… when I saw him I nearly cried out, he had a Marilyn Munroe shirt on with some pink on it. I held up my camera and took a photo of us, and I pulled him into the sauna, with our clothes on, and sat on the bench to discuss my lump. He hugged me sooo tight, and said think positive mom, everything will be ok. His texts are longer and more meaningful since that day…respectful and loving. He also sent me a text with a luminary that he lit for me at the Relay for Life, To my mom Kimberley Wahamaa xoxoxo The Best Mom Ever. Love you my son xoxo
I told my parents on Mother’s Day at camp. Another emotional day, but very special, they are so loving and supportive. I didn’t really want to tell them on Mother’s Day, but now thinking back how appropriate, celebrating my mom, and the women in my life. I expressed my concern about wait times and my mom called to find out more information, and she was told that there is only 1 biopsy a day done in Sudbury? Wow, so I started to google more on this subject, and found this powerpoint presentation on the web, I have the full presentation, but here is slide # 8…
Finally on May 13th, I had a call from the Clinic to have the biopsy scheduled for May 22nd at 9:30 am. We went to our remote camp for the long weekend, it was a great time to reflect on life, nature, family, friends, and to be blessed with the best job I have ever had in my life. I started to tell my friends and colleagues, it’s weird I’m not a “poor me” kind of person, It is interesting people’s reactions. A lot of people don’t like to discuss the possible C word. I said it is what it is, and when I know, I can deal with it. It’s the not knowing and waiting that is very trying for me. One of my friends who is my personal coach, said to ‘have trust that everything will work out”…
Had I not trusted my bust, April 1st, this may have not happened, and it could have been worse, more delays…so Trust Your Bust!
The morning of May 22nd, my mom took me to the 5th floor for my biopsy. It was a busy place, so many women, of all ages. The wall decor is in soft pinks. You were given a pink card or a blue card with a number. The staff asked if I was there for a mammogram or an ultrasound, no mention of biopsy. I said I’m here for a biopsy. I guess because they only do one biopsy a day, I was the one. The one biopsy in Sudbury for the day – May 22nd.
The technician had a student with her, she asked if I would mind if the student could be in the room doing the biopsy. I said sure, the more students we can help educate the better. The technician was very thorough in discussing the procedure. She said that one of the ultrasound machines was down, that is why I was delayed about an hour. The radiologist came in and explained pretty much what the technician explained and asked if I had any questions…I said NO, all good. So he asked me, do you live in Sudbury? Trying to make small talk I guess, I mentioned I was born here and lived in Toronto for over 20 years, he commented on the traffic in Toronto. Then I piped up and talked about my fishing trip at our remote camp and that I can fillet pike, he couldn’t believe it. Pike is a hard fish to fillet. So this was good, there was some communication. He mentioned to me that the needle will be like a gun, it will go “click” and he made the click sound, and said it will be like a gun but he wouldn’t shoot me.
So he was ready, 1,2,3 click, ouch, I said to him I thought you weren’t going to shoot me, I felt like I just got shot a paint ball in the boob. My son took me paintballing a few years ago and I got shot in the back of the head, behind the helmut, and ouchee, that is what it felt like. So 5 paint ball shots later, my boob was done. I guess 5 samples, and I’m thinking is 5 a lucky number, a routine number, or what? Then I was in recovery for quite a long time, I was obviously a bleeder, 4 towels later. I asked her if my mom could join me, she went out to get my mommy. The bleeding finally stopped she cleaned me up and bandaged me up. I obviously bruised a few days later, here is a pic. 5 shots to the boob, ouchee. I did see my son after the biopsy and thanked him for taking me paintballing years ago, otherwise I wouldn’t have experienced this type of pain. I mean my son is 6 foot 5 now, and weighed 9.9 at birth so there was pain back then too, but a different kind of pain. I also nursed my son for 13 months, he favoured the left breast…what does this all mean?
Recently I experienced R.E.S.T. therapy, in a salt water pod for 1 hour. It was the best tranquil experience I’ve had in a long time, very similar to what I felt when I was scuba diving. Before my 5 shots, I thought about this time in the water pod, to help relax me, meditate in my own way. I would highly recommend REST to help put you in a calm space to eliminate fear, anxiety and pain, you float for an hour! An hour in my planning world is a long time.
After the biopsy, I went with my mom and we drove to Warren to pick out our plot, #140, by the birch and pine trees. It feels good to know where we will be resting. So another item done on my bucket list.
Today is June 5th, and I went for a float in the Pod again at R.E.S.T….to help me prepare for tomorrow.
I will find out my results of the biopsy tomorrow Thursday June 6th following my co-presenting with you Patricia, of our 16th Annual Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards, hundreds of people will be in attendance. I have to leave following the awards to get my results on the 5th floor. For the first time at these awards we are presenting a breast pottery piece, proceeds will go to the Northern Cancer Foundation, the piece by Gypsy Pottery, entitled “My strength is in my spirit, not the shell in which I live!”, so why this year, why this day? Is there some symbolism here for me?
I was getting some stuff at the dollar store the other day for our IW Awards and I came across this Dolly, wearing pink, I picked her up and brought her to camp last weekend and now she is with me every day. I haven’t had a Barbie doll for years, well at 47 why not buy a dolly, every girl, no matter what her age should have a Dolly. Crazy, but she is a TY beanie doll, and she has boobs, and a pierced belly button and pink undies, cool jeans and runners. She gives me pink hope… I’ve named her PINKY:)
I believe that you need to Trust Your Bust! If you find a lump, act upon it. I booked my R.E.S.T. session today before our awards, to give me solitude and strength and trust to get through the next 24 hours. This story will continue after June 6th… I’m ready for it. The good, the bad, the ugly, if it is all good then I know I’ve accomplished some things on my bucket list. The bad, well let’s get the treatment started I have events to plan and places to go, loved ones and saunas at camp. The ugly, well, keep thinking PINK, and FEEL GOOD. Life is short, there is no rehearsal. DREAM.DARE.DO!
June 6, following the IW Awards presentation, I went to my appointment. I thought it was going to be in a room with the doctor, and he/she would tell you over the counter type of thing that you had breast cancer. No I had to complete a questionnaire, dress into a gown and she examined me, and then I sat up and she looked at my file on the computer and said that I had Breast Cancer. Stage 1. Lump 1.8 cm. Left breast. I took out my pink journal out of my purse and started to take notes. She said there was something on the right breast and that I would have to get an MRI asap. I had a call to book the MRI and she asked me when was my last period…I said right now, oh well, then you can’t have an MRI of the breast when you are on your period. So I had to wait another week.
When I left the hospital, I was given a pink bag, with a pillow and some literature. I will comment on this at another time.
June 7 we had a staff retreat, and in the afternoon we had a painting session with Abstract Artist Paddy O’Sullivan. I painted a beautiful pink 12 X 12 canvas. The staff had an awesome time. Paddy is a great inspiration, and is willing to provide women/men with breast cancer, group sessions at a reduced rate, to release their emotions through painting. Highly recommend. http://www.paddyosullivan.com/
I went back to camp on June 8th, I dropped all of my bags and went to the garden to see my tulip. It was PINK!! Wow…I was taken back. This must be a sign from God. I then decided to create a pink healing garden around the tulip. It is very soothing and tranquil to walk passed on my way to sauna, seeing my Garden of Hope.
Speaking of Gardens…I had the idea to create a Healing Garden in our Coniston Centennial Park as part of our Community Gardens. Kevin Rivard, made this happen. Thank you Kevin and to Home Hardware 2nd Avenue for donating the pink paint and the other colours at a major discount. Perennials of all colours were planted in the garden to represent all cancers and illnesses. A planting and painting ceremony took place on July 4th! Thank you to everyone who participated.
I had my MRI was June 19. Laying still for 30 minutes is tough. The technicians were awesome. I had the intervenous to have the dye injected. I was cool with 30 minutes of no moving because I had the amazing R.E.S.T. session in the pod. Bring it on. What I didn’t know is that I had to lay on my tummy for the 30 minutes, I thought I would be on my back. So your boobs are hanging in these columns, and you have your head in a massage type donut. So they wheel me into the MRI machine. I didn’t expect the noise of clanging, wow I thought to myself, how do you make this racket into a positive…so I was grasping at the clanging noises, and thought, hmmm, that one sounds like the Volvo engine of the Sailboat, so I imagined myself on Georgian Bay under motor…then the other sound was like a 9.9 Yamaha at our remote camp with a bit of chop, and the third was this high tone pitch screaming BOBBYBOBBYBOBBYBOBBY…so I thought of my boyfriend Bobby, he was there in more ways than one…Then they put in the dye, I felt a warm sensation and thought I had to pee. The30 minutes was over in no time because I was able to redirect the noise into a positive experience. Some people I’ve spoken to said they count, or think of a favourite song when getting an MRI, mind was boating and water which I love.
I didn’t find out the results of the MRI until June 25..the right breast was OK! Yeah:) Awesome news. Later that evening I came home and had a voice mail that my surgery was scheduled for July 8th, in the morning, and that my preop, will be tomorrow, June 27th. So I am thinking positive, last night I had a Reiki session, very beneficial, and highly recommend it.
Thank you to everyone for your love, support, cards and gifts and phone calls. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such amazing family, friends and co-workers. Keep thinking PINK it is giving me energy and trust for what is next…
Stay tuned for more of the journey of my Pink World…my lumpectomy is scheduled for July 8th. Good thing I found my lump on April 1st, it has been a long process so far…Or is it because I am under 50?
July 8 – 7:45 am. Surgery Day. Bobby drove me to the hospital, to my surprise, Alexis was there to greet me with a wheel chair, OMG, what a lovely surprise! She came up from Toronto to be with me. Thank you so much sweetie. You have been there for me for over 25 years! And continue to surprise me. Love YOU!
There were a few people in the waiting room, but it went rather quickly. I had to get some dye injected into my left breast to see how the lymph nodes were doing. About a half hour later was brought in to take photos, and then went to the waiting room before surgery where I was hooked up to Bair Paws! Wow amazing technology, your gown is geared to have warm air blown into it. What an awesome feeling.
My surgery was about 2 hours, Dr. Paradis was amazing. I was a little groggy in the recovery room, my throat hurt the most from the tube. But it was amazing to feel the warm air from Bair Paws. I hope the hospital will install more of these units for patients, it warmed my body and my heart. I had the lump and 2 nodes removed, the nodes were not cancerous. I was home by 3:30 and stayed up until 11, slept well, I’m glad I sleep on my back! No pain medication so far. Will be able to remove the bandages on Wednesday. Natures aid helped with some of the itching where the tape was, had to remove some of the tape from my chest, it felt too tight.
All bandaged up, but feeling great! Well maybe a Triple G GREAT:) Have to wear a bra for 24 hours for the next few days! All good. Thank you to the wonderful staff and Doctors at the hospital. It was a quick and efficient day. Glad to be home though in my own bed. I have some stretching exercises to do. Will be meeting with the Doctor again in a week or so about next steps. Thank you to my family and friends for your love and support. Together THINKING PINK is working so far!
Painted my toes pink again! Yeah, felt very naked with no polish. Went out shopping and bought myself some black patent Coach sandals. At least my feet are stylin once again!
June 10, Bobby went back to work today, thank you so much for your love and support. This morning he helped me take off the big bandages. Wow I’m a little bruised on the left side for sure, under the arm pit and under the breast. We went to Costco yesterday to get some sea salt. The inside of my mouth is scratched and sore from the tube. Did some warm /salt water rinses. Feels better already. Had a shower today, wow what a great feeling! Life is good!
I had a dream last night that I was arguing with my dad that I insisted on going golfing. I woke up this morning thinking, no not yet!! I have six exercises to do every day, it feels good to stretch. My doctor called yesterday, and I see her again on August 1st, so a few more days to recoup, then I’ll find out what next steps are for chemo and radiation etc. I also called my dentist to make an appointment for the end of July. The dentist office said that my cleaning isn’t due until October, but I told her my situation and I will have an examination which should be covered under my benefit plan. Check out the article “The C Word and Your T Word” by Mariah Leduc-Sloboda, it is very important to consult with your dentist before chemo.
It was great to go back to work today (July 11) and see all of my co-workers, they had a nice card and gift certificate for me. I love my work,and the people I work with, and I know their continued support is helping me through these uncharted waters. Full steam ahead…
Our family stone was placed July 26. There was space between my name and my date, and they had a fancy border line when I went to their office, so I asked her if we could put a breast cancer ribbon. She didn’t have that clip art and had never been asked that before, so she looked into it, and voila, a ribbon is set in stone. I know first the plot, now the stone, but why not be prepared and be happy with what you choose versus having to choose under very sad situations. We chose the two loons, and the caption “Life in the Bush”. Many who know my dad, and now me, know that this is definitely our family slogan. I had emailed this to my son, who will be 20 in August, and he texted back, “mom that is just f’n depressing lol”..
July 21-22, 2013
Wow its been quite the weekend. I had a sauna, and a swim in the lake, used a noodle, so I didn’t have to move my arms.
Bob’s son Carter arrived at camp with his truck, quite the marketing! He is 18 and took it upon himself to place this on his Toyota Tundra. I’m shocked, overwhelmed and very touched. I’m usually the marketing chick, so this was so cool, I’m now going to put this on my vehicle shortly. Thank you Carter for helping me in my mission to have people trust their bust, whether it is you or your boyfriend who finds a lump, act upon it…it may save your life. My son Devon is also going to do same for his vehicle! Can’t wait to see the photo. I also have a friend in Barrie who will be doing same for her vehicle! I’ll post pics soon. Thank you for your love and support xoxo
I removed my bandages over the weekend, here are the scars on my left breast and my left arm pit. The bruising is quite unbearable, but the rest at least, healed without infection. The arm pit scar is the weirdest, I can’t feel the deodorant when i put it on, I’m sure the numb effect will go away some day.
I was able to shave abit but have to be careful close to the incision. Bras are another story. I’ve had to take out the underwire, it is too uncomfortable. Trying to keep up my positive spirits, going to the gym, walking with the girls from work on our lunch hours, focussing on work and getting things done at home.
Thank you everyone for your love and support, I am truly blessed.
Looking forward to my followup appointment on August 1st, so I can get on with the next steps of my journey. The Calendar of Hope is coming along, have a few more spots available. We will finalize at the end of the month. Stay tuned the calendar will be available at the end of September.
I gave this lunch box to my dear friend Louise Bergeron who was diagnosed in 2011. She recently gave it back to me with the engraving “Trust Your Bust!” I absolutely love it. She used it to put the cards in from her support group, I am doing the same.
Today I registered a team for CIBC Run for the Cure on October 6th. My 48th birthday is October 5th. http://www.runforthecure.com I welcome you to participate or donate towards our team. It is $40 to register as part of the team. Search for Sudbury and team is trustyourbust.com Thank you for your contribution and participation. Think Pink. Think Blue. xoxo
Before undergoing treatments, it is suggested that you book an appointment with your dentist. I met with my dentist Dr. Gareau at the Sudbury Dental Group and he and their amazing dental hygienists (Chantal and Katie) did an examination, a panoramic x-ray and squeezed me in for a cleaning. I have a whole new meaning for fisher girl! Looks like my teeth and bones are in good shape. I have one baby tooth still that doesn’t have an adult tooth to replace it. Will be monitoring that tooth during chemo. With the x-ray we can now monitor before and after conditions. http://www.sudburydentalgroup.ca
After my followup appointments on August 1st, I found out I have Stage -2a, pt2, pNo, invasive ductal carcinoma, 3 nodes were taken out. Estrogen positive. I consulted with my surgeon Dr. Paradis and the Radiation Oncologist Dr. Want. So chemo, radiation (25 sessions), and pills will be the cocktail. Next appointment is with the Chemo Oncologist Dr. Jacobi on August 26th, unless there is a cancellation. My followup appointment with Dr. Paradis will be April 1, 2014, at 3:00 pm. one year to the day that I found the lump. Trust Your Bust!
I was very impressed with the Northeast Cancer Centre, when I arrived on August 1st, I was admitted to registration, I was given a blue bag (that is reusable and it fits over your shoulder). It was filled with a binder and very useful information. They took a photo of me, printed it and asked me to sign the head shot that it was me:) I was then sent over to sign up at the ESAS Kiosk, (Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale). I was given a password and had to indicate on a touch screen my levels of pain, how I was feeling, tired? depressed? appetite, etc, on a scale of 1 to 10. When I start the treatments I will be sent to complete an ESAS each time. Dr. Want was very impressive, and so was his nurse. They were very knowledgeable and had a great bedside manner. When it is time for radiation, they suggested that I purchase pure aloe vera gel from Walmart, and non-scented Dove soap.
Today I went to my local health food store, and they recommended Wheat Grass Power, 1 tablespoon in my juices, a B17 vitamin once a day, a HMF probiotic formula (50 billion active cells), once or twice a day, and a Flor-Essence herbal tea blend cleanser 2 ounces in the morning and 2 ounces at night on an empty stomach. I also found a great website for natural juices, and they recommend 1 carrot, 1 beet, 1 celery, 1 radish and 1/2 a potato. I’ll be getting a juicer next week, so I’m looking forward to trying some natural cocktails.
Thank you to Northern Life for publishing this article: Trust Your Bust
Thank you to Sammie for your interpretive dance solo. Breast Cancer: Who do you think you are?
August 26 – I met with Dr. Jacobi. We reviewed my options. They will be sending my tumour to California for further testing to determine a risk of recurrence. This process usually takes 3-4 weeks. Depending on the results of this test, I may only need the 5 weeks of radiation. If it comes back and I do need chemotherapy, it will include the following cocktail: DOCEtaxel and cyclophosphamide X 4 cycles (every three weeks), then radiation, and then tamoxifen for 5-10 years. The good news, I asked the nurse to schedule any treatments to begin after October 7th. So I can work our largest event noba.ca, celebrate my 48th birthday on October 5, and “wash away breast cancer event”, and walk the CIBC Run for the Cure. Dates are important to me, I have so much to plan and to do. I am relieved to know my options and when the treatments begin. Trust Your Bust! Think Pink. Think Blue. Thank you to our health care professionals, whom we entrust our lives!
I’ve received a call from my oncologist and my next appointment is September 19th to find out if I will receive chemo and radiation or just radiation. If I do need chemo, it will begin October 24th, so I have more time to enjoy each day to the fullest.
I had some crazy hot flashes for two weeks after my surgery, Almost every half hour. But they have stopped. My last period was July 8th,so I’m not sure if this is because of the shock of the lumpectomy or maybe perimenopausal, which became menopausal? Our bodies endure so much. So far my energy level has been great with the B17 and wheat grass powder. Also taking calcium magnesium to strengthen the bones. I finally did get my period September 12, so it must have been the shock to my system.
I’ll be participating in a breast cancer panel discussion soon with the school of medicine. Check out that post for more information.
My step daughter Mariah and I went to the Pink Tour bus last week to sign “Trust Your Bust.com” on the bus! Lots of great information was presented. Like us on facebook Trust Your Bust.
Thursday September 19 I will be meeting with my chemo oncologist to review the testing from California. Finally I will have some answers about what treatments will be administered and when they will begin.
September 20 – I had my appointment yesterday, no results are available as of yet. I will know next week.
October 5 – Launch of Trust Your Bust Calendar of Hope, will take place at 2:00 pm at the New Sudbury Centre, near the food kiosk at the Angels in Pink – Wash Away Breast Cancer booth.
October 5 – I celebrated my 48th birthday with my family. A wonderful day of love and support.
October 6 – I put in a team for http://www.trustyourbust.com in the CIBC Run for the Cure. Thank you to my 15 team mates. We had a great day despite the rain.
October 10 – Chemo Session # 1.
October 31 – Chemo Session # 2.
November 22 – Chemo Session # 3.
December 12 – Ring the Bell – Done Chemo.
Coping with Chemo – I invite you to visit my post on my experience with Chemo.
Radiation started January 13, 30 sessions, last date February 24th, 2014.
Radiant with Radiation – And my experience with Radiation.
I am now clear, I had my mammogram on April 1, 2014, 1 year to the day that I found the lump while washing with a bar of soap in the shower. For preventative treatment, I will be taking 1 pill a day Tamoxifen for the next 10 years.
Together we can share our experiences and learn to trust our body, our mind and our spirit during these times. Thank you to everyone for your love, support and such beautiful gifts. xoxo
Kimberley Wahamaa: Panoramic X-Ray at the Northeast Cancer Centre Dental Clinic. I’ll be a patient here for the next 4-5 years. They recommended the following tooth paste, morning X-Pur Tooth Revitalizing Paste and in the evening Fluoridex Daily Defense. $10 each. It has helped with my saliva and my teeth sensitivity.
The “C” Word and Your “T” Word by Mariah Leduc-Sloboda
How to maintain your dental health throughout your cancer treatment.Many people often forget about the importance of dental health once diagnosed with cancer. Like your own health, it is very important keep a sound dentition and to maintain that throughout your cancer process as well as your life. Whatever occurs in your mouth may further affect your overall health.
What to Look Out For
Cancer being a destructive disease can bring along many oral complications; especially once chemotherapy or radiation therapy has begun. Oral complications of cancer treatment arise in various forms and degrees of severity, depending on the individual and the cancer treatment. The following are oral side effect common to both chemotherapy and radiation therapy and complications specific to each treatment.
Oral Complications Common to Both Chemotherapy and Radiation
· Oral mucositis:
-Inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes (soft tissue in mouth)
· Xerostomia/salivary gland dysfunction
-Dryness of the mouth due to thickened, reduced or absent salivary flow
· Functional disabilities:
-Impaired ability to eat, taste, swallow and speak
· Taste alterations
· Nutritional compromise
· Abnormal dental development:
-Occurs in children before the age of 9 receiving chemotherapy
Other Complications of Chemotherapy
-Persistent, deep aching and burning pain that mimics a toothache
-Also a side effect of certain classes of drugs such as vinca alkaloids
Other Complications of Radiation Therapy
· Radiation caries(cavities):
-Lifelong risk of rampant (excessive) dental decay
-May begin within 3 months of completing radiation treatment
· Trismus/tissue fibrosis:
-Loss of elasticity of your jaw muscles that restricts ability to open mouth
-Blood vessel compromise and death of bone exposed to high-dose radiation therapy
Are You at Risk
The risk of oral complications varies with cancer treatments as well as patients. Virtually anyone receiving treatment will have some sort of oral complication. The risk of getting complications ranges from low, moderate and high.
-If you are receiving chemotherapy that mildly decreases the immune system (myelosuppressive chemo)
-If you are receiving single-agent or outpatient therapy
-If you’re undergoing head & neck radiation
-If you are receiving stomatotic chemotherapy resulting in prolonged suppressed immune system
Be aware of the risks and make sure to talk to your dentist about the type of cancer treatment you will be receiving.
Oral Care: Prevention and Treatment
Visiting your dentist before your treatment starts is important to the success of maintaining a healthy mouth. Pretreatment appointments help reduce the risk and severity of oral complications and it also allows the dental team to identify and treat any existing infection or problems.
Visiting your dentist will also help you gain some knowledge on how to prevent or treat oral complications and how to keep a good oral regime.
Gentle tooth and gingival brushing with extra-soft toothbrush. Be sure to discontinue use of strong toothpastes and replace with baking soda/water paste. Also discontinue any alcohol-based rinses, full-strength peroxide and irritating foods
Frequent and consistent oral hydration with water, ice and/or saliva substitutes helps reduced any plaque buildup. Increase plaque control with brushing teeth or visiting dentist office to prevent infection or further increase it
Xerostomia/Salivary gland dysfunction
Eliminate the use of products with alcohol or irritating agents. Any caffeine and tobacco product use must be discontinued. Use a humidifier at night while sleeping to keep from your mouth drying out. Also you can consult your oncologist for salivary gland stimulants if the other options don’t work.
It is important to have good plaque control and removal by brushing your teeth or visiting your dentist so the plaque does not exacerbate the bleeding
Make sure to keep mouth hydrated well and to keep a good oral hygiene regime. Consult your dentist about daily applications of fluoride for at home. Also avoid sugared or acidic food or beverages.
Daily exercises can help relieve the stiffness in your muscles. To exercise your mouth, open and close your mouth 20 times. This should be repeated atleast 3 times a day.
Be sure to check with your dentist that all teeth that have a poor lifelong prognosis are removed 14 to 21 days before the start of your radiation therapy
Over the Counter Remedies
Here is a list of a few products that can help you through your cancer treatments. Many of them are available at your local drug store and are all cost friendly.
-When purchasing a toothbrush, make sure to find one that is extra-soft or super-soft bristles
-Children toothbrushes may be useful for people with limited opening
-You can purchase a toothbrush at any local drug store or grocery store (Pharmasave, Rexall, Shopper’s, Independent Grocer)
–Price ranges from $2.29-4.10
-Depending on your teeth and preference you can purchase waxed or unwaxed floss
-You can purchase floss at any local drug store or grocery store (Pharmasave, Rexall, Shopper’s, Independent Grocer)
–Price ranges from $1.39-3.40
-Make sure when purchasing toothpaste it does not contain any strong flavoring agent or anything that may be irritating to your mouth. Cinnamon is usually the most irritating.
-If you can’t find any toothpaste without any flavoring in it, baking soda and water paste is a great alternative.
-You can find toothpaste and baking soda at your local drug store or grocery store (Pharmasave, Rexall, Shopper’s, Independent Grocer)
-Sensodyne ,Arm & Hammer and Biotene make a great toothpaste that contain low irritants, but again make sure to purchase a flavor free toothpaste
–Price for those toothpastes ranges from $2.27-5.75
4. Foam or sponge-stick and Gauze
-Foam or sponge-sticks and gauze are only used when regular toothbrushing can’t be done due to pain from ulcerated tissues
-These sticks can be impregnated with a cleaning agent
-With the gauze you can dip it in a saline solution or baking soda solution
-You can find these sticks and gauze at your local drug store(Pharmasave, Rexall, Shopper’s) or at your dentist’s office
5. Baking soda & saline rinse
-This is an easy rinse to make at home that has a big positive impact on your mouth
-You combine ½ tsp of baking soda, ¼ tsp of salt and 16 oz of water
-Make sure to use the rinse every 2-4 hours if you have dry mouth or mucositis and to rinse with water once after each use
6. Topical anesthetics
-Topical anesthetics are used to control pain associated with mucosal ulcerations
-This includes alcohol-free Benadryl (gel) mixed in equal parts with a coating agent such as Maalox(liquid)
-OTC topical anesthetics may not provide full relief from pain so consult your oncologist
-Maalox ranges from $5.10-10.00
-Benadryl ranges from $3.97-8.69
7. Saliva replacements
–Saliva replacements are used to help replenish the moisture lost in your mouth and relieve xerostomia (dry mouth)
-This includes rinses and gels such as Biotene
-A diet with high-moisture foods, oily food and sugar and acid-free foods is recommended
-Gum or candy containing xylitol are great at stimulating saliva glands (Trident)
-You can also talk to your dentist or oncologist about prescription drugs such as pilocarpine
-You can find Biotene at your local drug store (Pharmasave, Rexall, Shopper’s) or at your dentist’s office
-Biotene ranges from $10.95-13.99
8. Chlorhexidine gluconate .012%
– Chlorhexidine is used as a bactericidal mouth rinse because it reduces plaque biofilm and oral microbes
-Make sure to rinse for 30 seconds with 1 capful
-As great as chlorhexidine sounds, it can cause staining on your teeth so it may not be the first choice on your list
-Talk to your dentist before you use chlorhexidine
-This product can be found at your local drug store (Pharmasave, Rexall, Shopper’s) or your dentist’s office
-Chlorhexidine cost between $4.01-18.00
Mariah Leduc-Sloboda, Dean’s List – final year Dental Hygienist Student, (Graduate of Dental Assistant Program) , Cambrian College, Sudbury