Posts Tagged ‘cross bands’

Book? What book?

July 28, 2011

Yes, I realize it’s been some time since I blogged. Believe me, if I had amazing progress to report, I would have, you know, reported it.

Instead it’s been an unsettling, unproductive, nay depressing 4 weeks. Not to put too fine a point on it.

However! In the good news column: I finally got on the phone earlier this week and set up interviews for the chapter on 30 year olds. You just know the 30something ladies are going to have fascinating stories about desire and how the process of having a family figures into things. I feel eager to reengage with the book — and that’s a huge relief after my month of inertia.

Plus, I have a meeting with my book partner this Sunday, where I have pledged to have a revamped book proposal ready to show her. With Mo’s sign-off, I’ll send it to an agent (yes!) in New York who expressed interest in reading a full proposal.

This agent thing is quite an exciting little side story, actually.

I found this (well-known!) agent’s bio in a post about ThrillerFest, a summertime New York event which had an agent fest component. I showed it to Mo and she agreed the woman was a great fit with our book and suggested we consider flying up just to meet her. Because of the cost involved, I emailed the agent to ask if she was going to be appearing at any events closer to Florida or ones that were more up our alley than a gathering of thriller writers. (Not that our book won’t be thrilling, of course.) In that email to the agent, I included 3 or 4 sentences sketching the premise of our book.

Well, the agent emailed back quickly to say we shouldn’t make the trip solely to meet her, but that she’s interested in taking a look at our proposal online!

Awesome, yes? Very exciting.

Unfortunately my proposal needed massive revising and all this occurred just three days before my trip to Texas for Mom’s birthday, girls’ group gathering and a special memorial event I’d been planning for a while. Also, it happened about two hours before I got the phone call letting me know my friend Clarence was in the hospital with a stroke.

And that’s pretty much when things went off the track.

Dealing with my friend’s unexpected death was truly bad enough, but layered on top was Dental Nightmare No. 718: the dreaded cross-angled rubber band configuration the dentist delayed on my previous visit. At least I was prepared with a few days worth of pain reliever prescribed by my migraine doctor. (Guess what he ordered? Oxycodone. Yikes!)

Nevertheless, the pain was still so bad from the sharp hooks (which serve to “catch” the rubber bands), that I was pretty much unable to function for five days. By function I mean I couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, couldn’t swallow — because all those movements require you to move your tongue, and each time I did that, it felt like a wasp was stinging my tongue. Truly awful. I finally returned to the dentist for an emergency visit, told the sweet young assistant on duty that something was terribly amiss, no one could possibly intend for me to be in this much pain and to please HELP ME.

She carefully studied my situation, restored the offending hooks to their neutral position and instead pulled out a different hook from the opposite side of the tooth, and then angled it downward in such a way that it didn’t pierce my tongue with each movement. I quit taking the oxycodone the next day (which had not alleviated the pain anyway) and began to feel like life was worth living again.

And those cross-bands on the back teeth weren’t the only bad news; I was assigned bands on my front teeth as well, encompassing two teeth on the top and two on the bottom on each side of my mouth. The rubber bands I wore at night on these teeth were so unyielding that I was almost unable to open my mouth while wearing them. Daytime bands were lax enough to allow speech. For this I assume I was to be grateful.

For anyone who’s counting (I was!), this all meant that a total of 12 of my teeth were constantly being adjusted by rubber bands for an interminable 4 weeks. I was not a happy camper.

Fortunately, that particular era of torture ended yesterday; I am now back to two fairly standard rubber bands in a new configuration. Even so, I feel marked by the previous miserable month, perhaps because I was simultaneously experiencing grief over my friend’s death. I feel like a soldier who’s too wrung out to offer any further resistance. My last impulse to fight has drained away. I can’t win against these braces and nothing I do seems to make it easier. I just want it over with.

From here, six months feels like a long time, ya’ll.


16 shots to the head

June 30, 2011

Every three months I get Botox treatments from my neurologist (a wicked smart man I greatly admire), in an effort to reduce the migraine headaches I’ve enjoyed since about age 40. The good news is that he’s down to using one vial instead of two for each session; the bad news is that means I still got 16 shots in my head today.

Actually, I’ve become fairly inured to the process, and as unpleasant as I find shots to be on any part of my anatomy, the stings and pricks of the needles on my neck and hairline don’t bother me much if I take a Xanax a bit prior to the procedure. That one little pill keeps my anxiety in check and relaxes me enough to not tense up with each warning of “a little stick.”

June brought only 3 migraines this year; a look at my records shows I had 6 in June last year, 7 in July. Many of last year’s migraines were multi-day affairs, returning for extended runs despite my desire to create “one pill only” experiences. This spring, almost all my headaches have been banned with one pill, so that’s another improvement.

Because of my progress, I start each month optimistic and happy, convinced I can get down to 1 migraine … or 2. Or none! But weaning my brain away from the ingrained patterns that lead to migraines is tricky business. Though I once experienced 4 weeks migraine-free, I haven’t been able to repeat that feat.

Maybe in July. Maybe this will be the month. Actually, it’s easy to see why June was not the month when I could post zero migraines. I was racing to finish my chapter on the 70 year olds in three weeks so I could go on vacation to Texas guilt-free. And I did, but it was a rushed process and I felt the stress. Then there were tense days in the hospital when my beloved friend Clarence Clemons suffered a stroke. And the sad trip back from Texas for his memorial service when the stroke proved fatal, despite our optimistic hopes after the first 3 days. An almost-immediate return to Texas followed, to complete a vacation somewhat altered (but still very special) to honor my mom and my niece on their shared birthday.

Since I frequently will get migraines from the altitude of airline trips or the jumbled schedules they cause, it’s no surprise that one of my June headaches was directly attributable to those factors.

But you know what? Three is NOT BAD, people! Not considering my history and not considering the stressors that cropped up in the past 30 days. So I’m declaring the month an improvement migraine-wise.

And though my habit is to start each month delighted with the clean slate and hoping to keep it that way, I’m having trouble with that tonight. That’s because tomorrow I have a dental appointment and I have this terror that they will try to install cross angle rubber bands again. The attempt was made last month, but my tongue shredded on the rubber band hooks in just hours, and the effort was abandoned. I’m praying my dentist has suffered amnesia since our last meeting, and no longer feels the need to recommend such a drastic procedure for my tortured mouth.

Please join me in this harmless prayer. My mouth thanks you.

Less talk; same amount of dental misery

February 17, 2011


I had this moment of revelation during my Christmas vacation in Texas. I was riding in the car with my sister, expounding on some minute detail of the misery I was enduring due to my braces, grateful beyond words for the chance to truly just whine to my hearts’ content, secure in the knowledge that my own flesh and blood would never get sick of my laments, would not stop loving me or even roll their eyes, because, you know — FAMILY.

But at length I glanced over and something in my extremely tactful sister’s face suddenly broke through my self-absorption. It wasn’t that she showed any disapproval or weariness or even lack of sympathy. But I somehow knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was taking unfair advantage of her love. Its effect on me was immediate: “Enough,” I told myself.

I am not a New Year’s resolution maker. But that very day, I vowed privately to talk less about my braces in 2011 than I did in 2010.

It has been remarkably easy to do. My secret has been to not bring it up myself; to wait for others to ask.

Guess what? Almost no one asks. Beloved friends and family apparently are able to live their lives and sleep soundly at night without daily updates of my dental travails.

Shocking as you may find this, it has its upside, which is that I am More Pleasant To Be Around. I mention this so that if you live nearby, and have been avoiding me during this unsavory episode of my life, you may now be assured the coast is clear. Feel free to call me for lunch, get togethers, etc. The danger is past.

I am able to proclaim this new and improved attitude with confidence because even time in my orthodontist’s chair today has not dampened my spirits. When I can bounce back this quickly, I know I’ve turned a corner. This morning, my former heavy-duty wires gave way to a new set of heavy duties, and I was shown how to use rubber bands for the first time. Yes. Apparently the metal bands have shifted my teeth enough that now it is time to begin moving my jaw. Which the rubber bands can purportedly do. (Don’t ask me how this happens; frankly, it seems impossible.)

So far there’s not much pain, though I was warned that headaches for a few days are common while the jaw adjusts to the new pressure. I don’t get regular headaches, I get migraines, so this isn’t good news. But I remain obstinately cheery. Perhaps because overall, my migraines are still VASTLY lower in number during the last 3 months than at any other time in the past 15 years. And I believe that part of my relief (not all) is due to the easing of pressure on my lower jaw, which the braces have facilitated.

That improvement is one big reason why it’s easier this year to refrain from mentioning my dental misery. Because truthfully, after more than 6 months in braces, I’m still aghast at how pervasive the discomfort in my mouth is, how chronic my problems with talking and eating. But when asked how I’m adjusting, “I hate them,” is enough. I leave it at that and don’t embellish.

(Nevertheless, grateful shout-out to Mom for pressing for details last week, even after I explained to her that I was trying to avoid the subject. “But I’m asking,” she said. Sweeeet! Ten minutes of guilt-free peevishness immediately followed.)

In other news, book progress has been slow this week, though I had a marvelous interview with a teen on Saturday. She was articulate, mature and loving; I was enchanted. The encounter reminded me that I’m beyond fortunate to be working on a book that engages my passion and imagination so completely.

Next time: More on the book, less on the braces. (Broke my own rule, didn’t I? Because you didn’t ask.)

Sex, sex, sex

October 24, 2010

Sorry for the sensationaistic headline, but, well, it’s true.

My whole life these days revolves around sex — and not because I’m having any personal experience, but that’s a different post.

The survey results about women’s sexual desire are in and we’ve gleaned some basic statistics. (For instance, we surveyed 27 teenagers, 11 women in their 90s, 771 married women and 95 widows.) But because the survey questions were open-ended and difficult to quantify, as of yet I don’t have the juicy stuff, i.e. how many women mentioned kissing as something that stimulates their desire or what percentage of women say rushing to intercourse is the one thing they wish their partner would NOT do.

I talked to my statistics guru about this today and and he explained the need to turn our qualitative answers into easy-to-read categories. It seems I need expanded spreadsheets for each of our 6 questions.

Soooo. I have more work to do.

But that’s fine! I’m totally energized for the task.

Mostly that’s because I had a highly motivating work session a week ago with Maureen Whelihan, my book partner. (If you knew her, you’d see why; she’s super upbeat.) She loved the intro I’d written, which was lovely to hear, but more importantly, we talked about voice in the book. Our conversation and her comments gave me confidence and in general freed me up creatively.

As a result, I’ve spent the week crafting a chapter tentatively titled “A Day With the Doctor,” where I set the stage for what Dr. Mo’s patients experience on a typical visit. (Hint: She asks her patients if they’re having sex, and if so, is it good?) Plus, this is the chapter where I have inserted all the surprising details about how minimal the training is for gynecologists when it comes to sexuality. A study of medical school curriculum in North America on sexual health showed that 61 percent of schools offer less than 10 hours (!!) of study in this subject.

What? Aren’t they supposed to be experts? No wonder physicians and specifically gynecologists are hesitant to bring up sexuality with their patients! Their education didn’t help them overcome whatever prejudices, hang-ups or fears about sexuality they carried into adulthood. Until the majority of doctors are able to have knowledgeable, non-judgmental conversations about sexual function with their patients, women will continue their frustrating quest for reliable, accessible information in this arena.

OK. Climbing down from my soap box now. Let’s see if I can pull myself back on topic.

Oh yes. Overall the book is progressing very well. Dr. Mo and I agreed to talk on the phone for update meetings every 2 weeks and we set our next work session 4 weeks out. This is very motivating for me and breaks tasks down into manageable bites. I definitely feel more organized and productive.

In related news, I’m approaching the 3-month marker for having the braces on, and I still despise them. I never forget they are there, never find anything to like about them and never fail to be annoyed by them. I am, however, resigned. I had two more bottom teeth banded last week and will be given the dreaded spacers soon to make room for more bands on my upper molars. I’m afraid to ask the dentist how many teeth will be banded before this nightmare ends. I reserve the right to take to my bed for a month if the number tops 10.

But maybe a women writing a book about female sexual desire shouldn’t use expressions such as “take to my bed for a month.”

Note to self: Be sensitive.

Sidebar: Brace yourself

August 1, 2010

Granted, this blog was created to chronicle my mid-life transition from deadline driven journalist to wildly successful author. But we all know work life and personal life are intricately linked, so I’ve been yearning to write a blog about the thing that has been consuming most of my time for the past two weeks. And it’s not the book — it’s my mouthful of braces.

Friends have assured me that I can write whatever I like in my own blog, so play along for a tale of how a 50something woman came to be in the position of accommodating way more dental appliances than she dreamed possible, while simultaneously renewing her admiration of the resiliency of children (after all, they do this all the time, right?)

A couple of years ago, my wonderful and trusted dentist began mentioning that Invisalign braces might be a good idea for my mildly crooked teeth. They are popular these days for adults because they involve clear trays you swap out every couple weeks, thus straightening your teeth invisibly. They take molds of your current teeth and do a computer generated plan of where you want the teeth to be, and then a set of trays is individually created for you. Each tray moves the teeth a bit closer to where they need to be.

A few months ago, knowing my dental insurance will end in a year, I finally asked my dentist about how much it would cost and how long it’d take. The figures: $4,500 and 9-10 months.

Pretty steep, but my insurance would kick in for about 20% and I began to seriously consider the idea. A friend suggested I get a second opinion, so I visited a local specialist who had nothing to gain, meaning he doesn’t install Invisalign and he doesn’t install the alternative — metal braces. He was very smart, very informative and pretty depressing, despite his charming manner and ebullient spirits. Without taking X-rays, he knew more about my mouth than I did. (“It’s my job,” he said, when I asked him how he knew so much.) He talked about the chewing surfaces of my teeth, the “roller coaster effect” on my lower left teeth, the incorrect angles of my front teeth (both upper and lower) and the extreme narrowness of my palate. At one point, in the nicest way possible, he said “You underestimate the mess you’ve got going on in your mouth.”


I’ve always paid attention to my teeth, I suppose because I’ve needed lots of crowns over the years, as well as bite guards for grinding. I’ve never particularly worried about them; just thought they were holding up fine and were pretty average. No gum problems, thank goodness, but I’m pretty conscientious about care. I knew my teeth were way too tight ’cause I have such trouble flossing. And I knew my mouth was small, because in 6th grade I had 4 permanent teeth pulled. My dentist at the time did not recommend ortho work, saying he thought they’d close in just fine naturally. My older sister was undergoing expensive ortho work, so my folks were delighted to hear the news on daughter #2.

So the teeth filled the gaps, but not in quite the orderly fashion they should have. My specialist guy (who hinted that breaking the jaw and opening my palate up an inch is the only thing that’d REALLY help my mouth), said he thought metal braces would be much more effective for what I needed done in my mouth. He based that on the fact that my teeth need to be adjusted up and down, and on several planes, not just straightened. He estimated two years about maybe $6,000, but he didn’t do the work himself, so could’t be exact.

He gave me the name of the dentist who put metal braces on both his kids, which I figured was a good recommendation. This guy could also do Invisalign, so I wanted to ask him which he recommended for me. (Because my regular dentist only does Invisalign, I didn’t think she could be completely unbiased about my needs.)

So off I go, now thoroughly annoyed with the research process I thought was going to be simple. At the new guy’s office, they took (FREE) X-rays and a head scan, explained the process using pictures of my mouth, totaled the cost, figured in insurance and sent me out the door, free to make up my mind — which I really appreciated. The orthodontist told me that day it was easy to see what needed to be done in my mouth — and that while Invisalign would be better than doing nothing, metal braces were the way to go. He drew arrows in the photos to indicate the angles my teeth should be going vs. where they are now, and explained how the pressure pushing my jaw backward might actually be contributing to my migraines. My profile might actually change a small amount too, since my front teeth need to angle outward a bit, instead of going straight down.

Good grief! Who knew all this stuff? Certainly not me, having made my last visit to an orthodontist in grade school.

Faced with all this info, I did what any self-respecting, aging Boomer would do: I called my Mom. It was one of those rare but essential “What do you think I should do?” conversations.

When Mom realized that the $6,700 price tag was a big part of my worry, she sealed her nomination for Best Mother on Planet by offering to help me with the cost, graciously pointing out that I’d probably needed them at age 11. (Yes, she’s the BEST and I know it.)

I called the dentist the next Monday and said I’d decided to opt for metal braces — and have regretted it every moment since. I hated the metal spacers that were installed because there wasn’t enough room for plastic spacers. I hated the plastic spacers because a sharp edge on one shredded my tongue and made it hurt to even talk, much less eat. I hated that while most people have spacers for 3 days, I needed them for two weeks. And I hate the braces most of all (they went on 5 days ago) because it feels impossible for my mouth to make room for — what? — 50% MORE junk in there besides the teeth everyone said I didn’t have room for in the first place? Yikes.

I feel betrayed. Such a rosy picture they painted for me at the orthodontist. Very little talk of the particulars of the downside. Naturally. But why did I think they would do otherwise? No one would sign up if they knew.

Actually, things have improved every day and I’m astonished to find I can occasionally think of something besides the bulldozer now residing in my mouth. At first I couldn’t get my lips to even close around the hardware; my first drink from a bottle of water resulted in dribbling. Relearning to chew and drink is both humiliating and annoying, so if you don’t quickly learn to laugh about it, you’re doomed. Fortunately, after a few days under a very black cloud, behaving like a thwarted diva, I have begun to find the humor in my situation. I remind myself that I chose this, and though I may have days where I want to spit out the braces, my long-term goal is a worthwhile one.

Ironically, I adore the staff at the dentist’s office. I trust them and depend on them and think they have amazing expertise. It’s certainly not their fault I am a big baby and want to kick and scream and have a temper tantrum because my mouth hurts and I’m completely frustrated at my helplessness.

But hey! Just think. If I ever lose it and bite one of them in a fit of infantile anger, the impression of my teeth will be oh-so-symmetrical!