Tags: cancer | denture | prednisone | dentist | healthcare | insurance

The Prices of Surviving Cancer

By    |   Tuesday, 22 April 2014 03:15 PM

It's not every day you decide to get false teeth — but that’s what it has come to, thanks to the double whammy of chemotherapy and prednisone.
Of course, there are a lot of things you can mean when you say ”false teeth”: implants, bridges, dentures. Unfortunately, being on prednisone rules out implants for me, as the risk of infection is too great. So I have been waiting for the day when I could finally get a bridge.
That day came last Thursday, six weeks after I’d had the 11th tooth removed from my mouth. My dentist took an impression, and I thought that we would be ready to get started.
But when he came back in, his message was, “Bad news.”
Having had a run-in with tongue cancer, I did not like the sound of those words.
But he was talking about the coverage, or lack of coverage, on the dental insurance policy I had purchased in January from AARP. It pays for cleanings and cavities up to a total of $1,500 a year — but will only cover major work like bridges after a year. And even that reimbursement could be minimal after paying for regular visits.
My dentist told me to go home and decide whether I wanted to get the bridge and pay approximately $3,000 now, or wait six months in order to receive some insurance coverage. He also told me that I have three cavities. That surprised me — I take very good care of my teeth.
"We've already been through that," he said.
Oh yes, the prednisone again.
"They're only cavities,” he told me. “That's why I became a dentist and not a doctor. I don't have to tell anyone they have six months to live."
Life after cancer is filled with these kinds of problems. I know another transplant survivor, also on prednisone, whose muscles have become so weak that she falls frequently and must use a cane.
Another survivor taking prednisone has a bad case of graft-versus-host-disease, a complication that can occur after stem cell or bone marrow transplant, in which the transplanted donor cells actually attack the recipient’s body.
These are the prices we pay for surviving cancer.
I feel like I shouldn't really complain, however, because I can find the money for the bridge. There are other people who have to choose between medicine and rent, or between medicine and food.
After leaving the dentist’s office, I decided quickly: Of course I'm going to do it. Right now, I have to chew with my front teeth, like a rabbit. In addition to it being unseemly, chewing this way could eventually damage my front teeth.
And losing them is something I don't even want to think about.

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It's not every day you decide to get false teeth — but that’s what it has come to, thanks to the double whammy of chemotherapy and prednisone.
cancer, denture, prednisone, dentist, healthcare, insurance
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 03:15 PM
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