A trip to the dentist

Beekman Tower
Chinatown is where my dentist has his office.  It’s a tiny place that I’ve been going to for 19 years.  An oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of that area of town.  I had an appointment there this morning and even with the dreaded chore at hand, I’m still in awe of all the buildings in lower Manhattan.  I never get tired of such visual wonder.   I take the 6 train to the Brooklyn Bridge stop and then a brisk walk into the heart of Chinatown. It’s during this walk that you will find the buildings pictured in this post.   Beekman Tower is a Frank Gehry building that plays with light throughout the day. It’s unusual and I have yet to really capture the beauty of it.

World Trade Cnt

This lovely grouping has the Woolworth building in the foreground with the new World Trade Center building behind it. At least, that’s what I think they are calling the new building. My favorite is the Woolworth Building.  Inside, the lobby it is just beautiful.  One of my client’s used to have an office there and I just adored going to meetings with him.  His offices weren’t anything special but the journey getting there was.

I digress.

My dentist doesn’t believe in Novocain. He drilled my teeth again today without it. I clasp my hands, close my eyes and whispered Hail Mary’s in my head as the searing shrill of the drill drowns out any of the kind words my dentist might be saying. The first time he dared not to use any numbing agents it was a week before my mastectomy.

“No, No Mae, I’m not giving you any drugs that could interfere with your operation.  It’s just too close, you’ll have to do without.”

Those were dreaded words but so much was going on I think I was too numb to fight him and I was already in survival mode.  There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t endure to have the promise of a long life.  My memory of that time is of pulling strength out of thin air.  That’s probably why I need to wear a nightgaurd now to keep my jaw from clenching.

A week before surgery, it was my friend Vita who warned me, “You don’t know what treatments you might have to have in the next six months. It’s best to have your teeth taken care of before you begin anything.”

That’s when I called up my dentist to have my mouth looked at. It had been a while and there were 3 cavities that needed drilling. When I walked in I was a bit shocked. He had just finished treatment for throat cancer.  It aged him and the scars were visible.  We talked about it as I told him about my diagnosis. The cancers are different but we seem to be in the same club just the same. It’s the “Oh Crap Club.”

He too feared what treatments I might face.  He didn’t say it but I could read the fear on his face and by his actions.   He drilled three cavities in one sitting so that I wouldn’t have to come back for a while. It was in that chair that I realized saying the Hail Mary is a calming mantra for me. I now say it in MRI machines and whenever I’m dosing off on an operating table. Still, that day still ranks in the top 5 most horrible days in my life. He doesn’t remember it that way.

“You’re one strong lady and you’re better off without the drugs.”

I beg to differ but usually can’t as my mouth is preoccupied with staying open. We’re both in fine shape these days except for a few fillings here and there..

This morning he drilled a bit and I barely got through a Hail Mary before he was done.  I’m home already ready to “battle paperwork”.  Such battles years ago would have caused me stress.  These days, I don’t even break a sweat.  It’s not worth it.

This entry was posted in Cancer, Essay, Memories, Uncategorized, Vita. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A trip to the dentist

  1. Gary Holmes says:

    Drilling without Novocaine is my worst nightmare. When I was a kid my dentist didn’t believe in the stuff and he also used the old drill, which ran with wires, not the high-speed kind they currently use. Finally one day my sister refused to open her mouth in the chair and my mother decided to switch to someone younger and more with-it. You must have been very brave to do this.

  2. K C Eames says:

    A shudder runs through me. You are one tough lady!

  3. elroyjones says:

    The photos are lovely, Mae. I like this post and the triumph of spirit.

  4. dear mae,

    reading this post (the dentist part) is revisiting my worst nightmare – drilling – ARGH!!! no
    novacaine – AY YI YI, OUFF!!!

    I loved the photos and your beautifully written narrative – they were a good antidote to the shivering
    shudders about going to the dentist.

    I am glad you and your dentist are now doing so well.

    much love and light,


    • maesprose says:

      Much love and light to you too Karen! The dentist and I have been through some tough times together. Still, I’m sorry if we are frightening you. I sometimes think it’s good to know these things are possible.

  5. LB says:

    My mother never has the dentist use novocaine by choice! Finally, the last time, the dentist said “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this without numbing”.
    I am so not my mother in that regard 🙂 I’m so very glad both you and your dentist are doing well these days.
    Love your city shots!

    • maesprose says:

      Laurie – your mother is the tough lady. I’m with you, I’d never say, “You don’t need to use the drugs. Just drill.” It’s always his idea and then I’m challenged which is my downfall.

      Glad you enjoyed the photos!

  6. John says:

    A … Great photos!

    B … Damn! You are one tough lady! No novocaine? I always need extra!

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