So where am I at right now?

When I was about 7, I went to a gymnastics day at my local sports hall. For some reason I put sunscreen on… perhaps it was the day before that I put it on? Perhaps I’m mixing my memories, but this feels right. That day I found out I was allergic to sunscreen. Banana Boat, specifically. I suppose I had worn sunscreen before that, but that day we used Banana Boat and my skin screamed. I came out in big, scary, angry red welts. My skin felt tight, itchy, unmovable. I’ve always remembered the itchiness, but up until now I hadn’t remembered the tight feeling across my face and the inability to make facial expressions. As I tried to smile, the creases my face made felt like I had layers of thick mud on top of my skin. But no, that was just the swelling and reaction to the sunscreen.

Post implant surgery I have been like that again – not red, not itchy. But the tightness and the swelling has brought back memories to that day.

A particularly odd sensation – my ears have felt like they’re being lifted forward off my head. I’m not sure why, perhaps because of the tightening of skin in my face. I remember this from the last surgery too, but there was a lot of other stuff going on that it wasn’t my top worry.

Well the obvious thing to say is that what I’ve been going through this time is nothing compared to what I was going through coming out of surgery over a year ago. It doesn’t even register on the scale compared with that.

But with me being me and thinking everything will be ‘all good’… it’s also a lot more serious than I thought it would be. I’ve needed more recovery time than I was anticipating.

Weirdly, the pain in my face has been greater than it was from THE surgery. I guess it’s less numb now and I’m on less pain killers…

They cut all the gums in my mouth in order to access all the points they needed, so there are stitches and raw wounds in there.
My lips have been cracked and sore from a couple of hours of having tools shoved past them.
My face is bruised from having instruments on it and people working on top of it.
My neck has been sore from the angle they had me at during the surgery.
My jaw has been really painful.
My cheekbones ache from the inside and hurt from the outside. They feel bruised to touch.
When I wiggle my right cheekbone it wiggles my lip… that’s kind of fun.
I am exhausted most of the time.
I’ve had to sleep upright again, which has been mentally taxing. Trying to get comfortable by stacking pillows on top of each other has thrown me back to what it was like a year ago. Things always seem more difficult at night.

Sometimes I wonder how my body is able to take all this beating and still come out the other side, essentially functioning… But here we are, still going.

So. I went in to see the dental implant guys at Dawood and Tanner and they have given me some teeth… kinda. They’re just temporary teeth. Placeholders. They don’t really fit right (they just kind of stick out in the middle of my mouth), I can’t eat with them (super difficult since I can’t take them out…), but they’ll stay in for the next 3 months until I get my proper ones. I did a few videos on my instagram so you can see them – click on the circle on the top left that says ‘implants’ at the following link:
https://www.instagram.com/thecancerchrons/

They’re uncomfortable, painful, don’t look right and make it quite difficult to talk and obviously eat, but they look like teeth, and it’s nice to know that people won’t look at me strangely anymore. Well not quite so strangely, anyway. Still a way to go before we get them right, but I’m one step closer.

Friday surgery retraction statement

You know… I probably jinxed it by telling you all it was happening…

But I got a call earlier in the week saying they ‘couldn’t find a consultant’ for Friday.

I don’t really understand what that means, I thought it was meant to be my surgeon, Mr K who did it. But I guess maybe not? Maybe it’s just a lucky-dip, nab an unlucky intern who can consult.

Jokes.

Though I wonder why they are so cagey about giving me details about things.

So I’ve now cancelled a few things I was planning on doing and the like, which is a bit of a pain but I guess I can’t really complain, I guess these things happen.

I’m grateful to have a date, but I do feel a bit deflated that it’s now been moved… But what can you do. On the plus side my recovery will now be during the week as opposed to over the weekend, so I’ll have to have a few days off work. I guess that’s something!

In other news, I was asked to speak a few weeks ago to the ‘Airway Management Hub’ at UCLH (pic below) about my experience with the dreaded tracheostomy (post surgery breathing tube, for any of you who aren’t familiar with the terminology). I had a great time (at the talk, not with the trachy), and was able to provide some input about the patient perspective. The tracheostomy is a pretty scary thing and I would like to be able to help make the process better for the people going through it, so hopefully more will come from this, I think there are some important conversations to be had.

Anyway, happy Friday, friends. Looking forward to sleeping all day tomorrow!

Off we go again…

Hello everyone, I know I’ve been quiet for a bit, it’s been cold, I’ve been busy and my parents have been visiting for a few weeks. I’ve been ticking along as usual, a few things you would probably appreciate an update on.

I had my clinic appointment a couple of weeks ago to get my MRI results and the day before I got a call asking if some of my blood could be collected for research. Yes yes yes yes research! Always yes! So I went along early to get my blood taken. There was a new staff member who was being supervised by another, but she assured me she was very experienced. Not that it bothered me too much but I gave my usual disclaimer that my veins are difficult. They assured me there would be no issue. Cool. We’ll see.

She tried one arm and found the vein but my blood didn’t want to leave me. Aww my blood has separation anxiety. Cute. She asked if she could try again. Of course. Better luck this time. She got the needle in my hand and it started slowly filling the tube but then it stopped flowing and started hurting quite a bit.

‘The vein is going to blow!’ She announced with a wavering voice. I looked at the other nurse and she looked at me with what looked like a slightly worried face. I looked down to see my vein bulging.

Wait, did she say it’s going to… ‘Blow…?’

‘It’s bleeding under the skin… I need get it out…’

Ya… safe to say the blood rushed away from my head then. Or to it? Either way I felt very hot and faint. I’m sure that’s a perfectly normal thing to happen but it’s just not what you need to be told when you’re already in pain and stressed. So she stopped and I lay down.

Then of course I was annoyed because I had failed at helping with research. Lots of apologising from them, from me, good fun. I went and had a little cry in the bathroom, stressed by the situation and frustrated that I couldn’t help. I went back out to wait for my clinic appointment and a little while later the nurse came and apologised again (as did I) and she gave me a haematology pin to say thanks. That was sweet, I like pins.

I made a friend while waiting to see my Oncologist, he had also had a face sarcoma. Twice. We were laughing about all the random body parts we have in our face. It’s a strange club to be in. You know you’re with people who get it when you can call someone ‘greedy’ for having cancer twice and have a laugh about it.

Everything went smoothly with Mr Onc. ‘Nothing in your lungs’
‘Oh that’s good! But I thought you said…’
‘It looked like something but it wasn’t. Or at least if it is, I don’t know what it is yet so I’ll see you in 3 months and we’ll look again’
Ha. Good. Bye.  ‘I like not seeing you very often’ I said as I shook his hand and scurried out.

He also said to me ‘this summer will be two years since diagnosis, won’t it!!’ I didn’t believe him and said ‘No surgery was only a year ago’. He looked at me weirdly and was like ‘yes…… And you had treatment before that……’  LOL yes he’s right.

Well apart from that, I’ve got the first of my teeth surgeries on April 12th. We’ll find out then what will be possible (I think? It sounds likely…) and then hopefully if I’m lucky and everything goes quickly and according to plan, by the end of the year I might be ready to look at some sort of teeth thing! Though that’s probably being a bit hopeful, these things usually take a lot longer, mainly because it takes so long to hand write, print and send letters in order for any process to get moving.

Yes this is good news, and I’m so glad to have some progress! But I’d rather avoid comments of ‘that’s amazing, soon you’ll look all better’ and the like. Or ‘wow teeth in April!’ Because it will still be a while until I actually get them, whatever they may be. I don’t know how I will look, I don’t know how much they can do (if anything), and although I am optimistic for the best, I need to manage expectations, both yours and mine. So we’ll see. Progress is good. Let’s see what happens next in this crazy adventure shall we?

Hilariously, I went along to my ‘pre-assessment clinic’, which I thought would be when I’d find out what they’re going to do in this surgery I’ve got coming up next week. But the nurse and anaesthetist who were running the meeting were asking me questions like: ‘Who is doing your surgery? Are you staying in overnight? What are they planning on doing?’
The anaesthetist even asked how long my surgery was meant to go for! Ummmmm………. You’re asking ME? Well that’s reassuring.

No one has told me anything about this surgery, I was kind of hoping that they were going to at this meeting. I hope by the time I get there on Friday they’ve worked out the answers to those questions because if not, well… I might end up with an amputated leg, or less one kidney or something. I guess I don’t really need two kidneys if it comes to that.

What I have pieced together from talking to random (non medical) people around the place is that they’re just going to drill in a bit and cover it back over for 6 months. But I guess I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks if that’s the case. I have no idea how disruptive it will be, how long I’ll be in hospital (I think just the one day?), or what the recovery will be like. I hear it will be swollen and sore but obviously nothing like what I’ve already been through so I’m not too bothered.

I’ll keep you all posted! Until we next speak, have a great week!

Well hi!

I’ve got a couple of posts lined up for you but I thought first, since you haven’t heard from me in a while, I should give a quick update.

Though to be fair the reason you haven’t heard from me for a while is because I literally have nothing to update you on.

Well that’s a lie, since we last spoke I bought a flat and moved in on my own for the first time ever! Nothing like cancer to give you a mid (1/3?) life crisis. So yeah when I said I have nothing to update you on I actually mean I did one of the biggest things you will do in your life. So that’s fun!

I was told my first implant surgery would be Jan/Feb. Over Christmas I was cc’d in on a letter from the teeth man to my local GP that said they would be aiming for February. Well… It’s now mid Feb and I haven’t heard anything so I guess that won’t be happening…

I met someone recently who had a similar surgery to me and has just had his first implant surgery. So I got some details from him about the process. Basically it’s done in three phases. The surgeries are quick, but they are done under general anaesthetic. There will be approximately 5 months between the first two surgeries and hopefully not too long between the final two. So I’m hopeful I might have some sort of teeth thing in around 6 months from first surgery. When that will be I couldn’t tell you. I really hope I get teeth by the end of the year…

More limbo, more of the waiting game. I’ve been busy while waiting though, details of which I will share soon.

Today I went in for my 3-monthly chest xray and quick hello to my Onc(ologist). There’s some sort of familiarity with coming back to the Cancer Centre, but also a strange detachment from the place that was practically my second home for so long. Just as I was waiting for my xray I looked up as the lift came down and to my surprise I saw my friend Krista, who has just finished her chemo for osteosarcoma in her leg! We had a quick catch up, she’s in for immunotherapy every week.

So the chest xray is every three months – the most common place for osteosarcoma to spread to is the chest so they monitor it closely. How are my xrays looking? Well they’re not clear… There’s been something showing up in the xrays since mid last year (yeah I’ve known about it for a while), so more CT Scans and MRI to see what’s going on. Could it be cancer metastases? Yeah it could. Is it likely to be? We don’t think it looks like typical mets but the only way to be sure is with scans. So bring on the scans!  Either way I have some damage to my lungs, so that’s fun! I don’t feel compromised, so hopefully nothing too serious.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend planned! I’m off to the theatre tonight!

Hello all!!!!

Hello new friends, old friends and everyone in between!!!

I woke up this morning to a message from my friend Liz saying that I was in the news again! Oh hi, it me! It goes a little something like this:
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6219319/Womans-face-rebuilt-using-shoulder-bone-muscle.html

Apart from giving me slight cancer fraud by initially saying my chemo was only 3 weeks long (those of you have been here a while will well know it was actually 24 hrs/day for 5 days a week, 3 weeks in a row, then 2 weeks off, rinse and repeat 6 times – for a total of 7 months!!!!) It was a really lovely article! Very nicely written. And they were kind enough to amend it quickly. Though might I just add that I’m not ‘returning to work soon’, I’ve been back at work for 6 months!!!

I spoke to the reporter a while ago and have been waiting for it to surface and was hoping one of you lovely people would let me know when it did. And in fact a few people have found it! And it appears a few other newspapers have run the story too based on the Daily Mail article.

I’ve already been contacted by a couple of people who saw the article who have been through or are going through similar things. I can not tell you how happy this makes me. Obviously I am devastated to hear anyone has had to endure such things too, but very happy to hear from them. I will get back to you all in due course! Thank you for reaching out.

People who have cancer often say it is isolating. I think this is quite an interesting thing to note for people who have been fortunate enough to dodge cancer so far. I have felt so supported and loved through the whole thing, and I can’t thank you all enough for helping me to not feel alone. But there is truth in the fact that going through this can be really isolating, especially if you don’t know other people who really get it. I’ve found such comfort in my amazing online community of all sorts of different cancer people. You can find similarities between any type of cancer, it is quite a leveller of playing fields. And to be fair, even people with the same cancer and treatment can have quite different experiences, so you can find similarities and differences in many places.

But with a super rare form of cancer, in an even more rare location (jaw), it can sometimes leave you thinking ‘am I the only one who knows what I’m going through?’ From ridiculously extreme chemo to having your face rebuilt and having to deal with the aftermath not only of cancer but also of having a new face to come to terms with.

I follow the ‘osteosarcoma’ hashtag on instagram and I have found a couple of lovely osteosarcoma people (or other types of sarcoma too through similar routes) but the demographic for this type of cancer is pretty much children and dogs. And polar bears. Seriously. (Poor polar bears!)

I do have a couple of people who have found me through the blog and we are now in contact. But I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it feels to know that you are not the only one, you are not the first, there are people out there who really get it.

Sometimes I think it would have been helpful before I went into surgery to see someone who’d had a similar thing. So that in those days when I wondered how on earth I would ever have a normal life again, I would know that it is possible.

And to any of you who are going through similar things, or in fact any things, it is possible!!! A lot of people with cancer use a term ‘new normal’ to describe their life after cancer, and although I think it comforts some people, it has always bothered me. To me it seems a negative thing, often used to describe things you were once able to do but no longer can. Things that cancer has taken away from you. But in classic Jen style, I won’t let cancer change my life, my life will only change if I want it to!!! (probably said with a fist in the air or something). I was speaking about this with a friend the other day who had her osteosarcoma in her leg and it has caused her many ongoing struggles, impacting her life a fair bit. She has to admit that shitty horrible cancer has affected her life. And yeah I totally get that! Please don’t think I’m glossing over serious life-changing things that cancer has caused people (or me), that I’m minimising them by saying that my life hasn’t been changed. I’m not trying to isolate people who’s lives have drastically changed. If I let my guard down for a moment, peer through the gaps of this heavily reinforced protective wall that I’ve constructed around myself, yeah there are things I can no longer do. I can’t stay out all night, I can’t manage a full five days in the office, there are days I wake up and can hardly move if I had been active the day before, I’m waiting to see if the neuropathy (painfully numb hands and feet) gets better and if I will ever be able to play music again. And I already know I’ll never be able to sing like I used to, and that was an incredibly big part of who I am. But what is the use of mourning? If I can never sing and perform again, I will work on shifting my focus to writing music or something (I’m still in hope I’ll work out the singing thing). While I will be kind on myself, I won’t let cancer have the power to take things away from me, I will only find new ways to do things and new things to do.

Staunchly independent, control freak, yeah I know! I think my stubbornness can have its pros and cons but it has been useful in taking control through cancer, and also in helping with my recovery after surgery.

Anyway. To all you lovely new people, I hope you find some interest, perhaps even solace in the words I write. Please feel free to put your email in and subscribe if you want to follow along or say hi on Twitter or Insta (@thecancerchrons). I hate shameless self promotion, but the fact that telling my story can help others brings me no end of joy. You are not alone. You are never alone.

They say it’s my birthday…

So I turned 31. That’s a thing.

I remember when I was a teenager thinking 31 was positively ancient. In fact, I have friends in their twenties and they think 31 is old. ‘Oh but you don’t seem like you’re 31’ they’ll say. What does 31 seem like? I must admit I do tend to see (some) people in their early thirties and feel like they’re older than I am…

Though I feel like I have aged considerably due to the events of the past year – mentally, emotionally and physically. I think a lot of people feel like they ‘grew up’ quite a lot when they had to deal with something big. And let me tell you, chemo definitely prematurely ages you! (I just groaned when I sat down).

Birthdays have always been an important thing to me. Both mine and also other people’s. Why? Not sure. I just think everyone should get their day. And I just like bringing everyone together (to celebrate me, obvi). But this year I kind of wasn’t feeling it. My 30th was a bit of a non event last year. My parents were visiting and did their best to make the most of it, but I was at my worst point in the whole of my chemo. My lovely mum cooked me a roast which I threw up, I collapsed in the hallway trying to get to the living room, I went to bed super early, exhausted from the day (we did watch ‘The Commitments’ though which I love! And my housemate took the day off to hang with me – Love you Owen!), and since I had neutropenic sepsis (no white blood cells thanks to chemo) I ended up in the local hospital Emergency department the following day and had one of the worst and most painful weeks of my life in hospital. So. Much. Pain. Then shortly after that my boyfriend broke up with me out of the blue in a not very nice, pseudo gas-lighty way.

What was usually my favourite month of the year was by far the worst. (Though I must say I had a lovely Christmas with Ma and Da).

So I wasn’t super excited about it this year, like maybe my bubble had been burst. I wondered if at 30, the shine had just worn off. But that didn’t stop me having a bit of a party. And hey, December would need to work pretty damn hard to be worse than March/April were this year.

In the end I had a fantastic birthday and celebration. I went to my local pub with a few people I love. Those people really showed me how amazing my life is and how lucky I am to have them. And the amazing Shiri got there early and had decorated the area in the pub with balloons and banners and made me an amazing coffee cake. And the owners of my pub got me a lovely card and my first Colin the Caterpillar cake ever! And the pub cat patterned my arm with scratches when I tried to get cuddles… And we danced and we talked and we drank and we laughed. Perfect night, really!

And now it’s getting towards the end of the year… Wow. What a lot has happened in the last year. And in the last few years for that matter.

My hair has been long, short, and entirely gone. My eyebrows have been thick, thin and non-existent. I’ve been in relationships, I’ve been single. I’ve lived in different countries. I’ve travelled. I’ve had countless friends, some which have come and left and some (the important ones) which have stayed. What’s that quote? People come into your life for a reason, a season or a… Um.. Lifetime?

I’m still not out of the woods with this cancer thing. Of all the people under 40 in the UK who were diagnosed with osteosarcoma on the day I was, only about half of us will survive the next five years. That says nothing about me or my case whatsoever, but it does make you think. What if I didn’t make it five years? If I died before I were 35, would I look back and think I were rehearsing for a main act that was yet to come?

Not for a minute. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted a year, a month, or  even a day (ok maybe a few hungover days have been spent bingeing on Netflix but hey, we all need rest days!)

I’m proud of the things I’ve done and the people I have brought along with me. In my adult life I’ve lived in 3 brand new places where I didn’t know anyone. I’ve had lots of different careers, trying things on for size and trading them in for new things. Two degrees, corporate jobs, government jobs, working in the airline industry. I’ve been a musician, a writer, an artist, a journalist, I’ve won horse riding competitions, I came 3rd in the NSW Novice fencing championship – a lesser known fact about me (btw that’s sword fighting. I know I’m from Australia but I wasn’t in a competition for building fences), I can salsa, I used to do rock climbing, and at school I was a swimmer. I’ve loved, I’ve lost. I’ve known when to walk away from things that don’t serve me, and I also haven’t. I’ve been good at things and bad at things (I’m learning how to play to my strengths). I’ve made new friends, I’ve lost old friends. I’ve helped people and I’ve hurt people. I’ve been selfless and I’ve been selfish. I’ve exercised religiously and I’ve gone long periods without doing any. I’ve drunk too much and professed my love for anyone near me (never any harm in professing love). And I don’t regret anything.

See this is why I love birthdays, I can just talk about me and you all have to listen! Jokes, that’s not what I’m getting at.

What’s that quote that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? No I don’t want to die in the next five years (please) but if my time were up, I don’t think you would say I hadn’t achieved much. But you know what? I haven’t ‘achieved much’ in the BIG sense of the word. I haven’t married the dream guy and had kids (thank goodness, not for me) – I’ve got friends who think they will have failed at life if they’re not married by my age. I’m not on track to be the CEO of a company. I’m not a published author (yet!). I’m not in a famous band. We’re always searching for something else. What’s with that? I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. And that’s fine. (Actually I kinda do these days, anyone want to pay me to be a writer? Kthanks).

Life is a big messy ball of uncontrollable energy (both potential and kinetic). Why are we striving for some unobtainable idea of perfection? Some pre-conceived, pre-determined mould that frankly, just doesn’t really fit? And if we got that job, car, wife, house, will that mean we’ve made it? Will we then be happy?

How many of you could look back on your life and think that you’ve really done the best you can? And if not… Do you maybe need to redefine your ideas of success? Because I think you’ll find you’re doing pretty well. Someone else might dream of your life. Or if you’re really not ok with it, it’s never too late to make a change. What’s that other other quote? (Someone should pay me to paraphrase quotes, like a slightly misguided inspirational quote generator with terrible referencing skills… ‘and she said she had two degrees’ I hear you exclaim): The time will pass whether you do the thing or not so just go do the thing! Sure we have to do things we don’t want to in life (that champagne won’t pay for itself) but are you being the best you that you can be? Can’t that be your measure of success?

It’s taken a long time to learn to be ok with myself. I’m getting there. I won’t use the word ‘love’, I’m not that self obsessed (she says in a post talking mostly about herself) but hey, let’s cut ourselves some slack. Life isn’t perfect and that’s beautiful. Makes us interesting. Our imperfections are something that set us apart from everyone else. And from robots too, for that matter! This is our humanity! Being different! NOT fitting into a mould!

Why do we look at getting older like it’s a bad thing? Did you know that studies in happiness have shown people to be at their happiest when they are in retirement. That’s like 65+ (or probably 80 by the time I get there!). So we’ve all got that to look forward to! Or to those of you who are already there, bloody good work, you’ve earned it.

I have friends who are unlikely to make it to 40, or even 35, or even… 30. How do you think they feel when people whine about getting a year older when they know their years are limited?

So can I really lament the passing of time and my youth when really it is an absolute gift that I am lucky to have?

I spent my whole twenties saying I was 21. Holding on to that age for some unknown reason, but I would MUCH rather be 31. I think every year gets better. I’ve never mourned past times or dwelled in the past. Always onwards. The best is always yet to come.

So at 31 I’m going to happily tell everyone that I’m twenty eleven… No, wait, THIRTY ONE! And be proud of what all those years have been, and what wonderful things being this age signifies. Every new year is a bonus, and a whole new world of opportunities to discover and memories to be made!

I’m starting this new year of my life with a few missing teeth and hopeful that I’ll end it with a whole new set in some capacity. I’m still building up strength and working out who I am and what I’m capable of. It’s like in movies when there’s an apocalypse and everyone hides underground and they come out after the storm to survey the damaged land that once was their life, and they face the overwhelming task of putting things back together and rebuilding and starting afresh (no I’m not likening one person getting cancer to the horrors of hurricanes, etc. just one of my silly analogies). But I’m looking forward to the future. But please don’t think I’m all merry and everything is perfect, I’m probably the most lost and confused than I’ve ever been and my anxiety is through the roof. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy with who I am and where I am. Or at least that I’m working on it. Tough times will always be there but they’re just one part of life. I read a quote today (will it never end?!) saying that in 2018 I was living both my best life and my worst life simultaneously. I’ll take that.

So well done you for making it to your age. Think you look old? Think you seem old? Well in 10 years you will look back and sigh at how young and beautiful you were. Think your life is slipping away while you prepare for the main act? Well kick out the support band and start playing lead guitar in your own life. Or bass guitar, that’s fine too, I always liked being a bass player better. Keyboards is fun too… Or be the lead singer! You do you, in whatever imperfect and wonderful way that may be. And happy birthday for whenever your turn is! Celebrate it because one year older is one more wonderful year you’ve had on this earth, one more trip around the sun and one more year of being you. And that is something worth celebrating.

Teeth talk time

I thought it really was about time I did a teeth update.

So I’ve been going in to trial some teeth to see how they will look. A couple of weeks ago I went in ready to try some teeth on for size, I sat in the chair, and I put the teeth in. Now they don’t stay in on their own, I can’t talk or anything with them, but if I keep my teeth together then they stay in place. They gave me a hand-held mirror, which I sat on my lap as I put the teeth in, eventually putting it up in front of my face once they were in place and… well… I think watching this clip will give you an idea of how it went. This is an actual, exact re-enactment of how it went (must watch this before reading on)…


Yep. OK so they weren’t quite that bad, I slightly jest. But they were big. I felt quite strange. Actually it was quite demoralising, not going to lie. You pin all your hopes and dreams on looking a bit more normal with teeth and you see them and all you can think is ‘they’re not my teeth… Who’s teeth are they?’

Dwayne’s apparently.

I was clearly unhappy and the dentist and her assistant were telling me they looked good but I just didn’t feel right. She said ‘it’s probably just been so long that you’re used to seeing yourself without teeth and now having them there again seems weird. You’ve probably forgot what they looked like.’ Not a damn chance. ‘You’ve never had your teeth out and your face rebuilt’ snapped petulant teenage Jen who was lurking somewhere inside me. I felt bad saying it, but it’s true. It maybe seemed like the right thing for her to say but no, I don’t forget exactly what the teeth I have had for 30 years looked like just because I’ve been 9 months without them.

It was hard to tell how much of my dissatisfaction was just in general with the fact I’m going to look different now anyway no matter what, or whether they really were too big. But it felt like something worth fighting for. Although they told me big teeth are beautiful and they look fine, I was adamant that I needed smaller teeth. Well… I say adamant, if they were to tell me that smaller teeth wouldn’t work, I would learn to live with whatever I had to. But they agreed to try again and we booked in for me to go back the following week to try a size smaller. I didn’t feel great when I left the dentist surgery that day.

I worried of course that I wouldn’t like the smaller teeth either and I would have wasted their time and made a nuisance of myself. I almost feel like they’re a private practice and I’m a charity case (i.e. NHS), like they’re doing me a favour for treating me and I should just be grateful and do as I’m told. They don’t make me feel like that in any way, but I can’t help but have that thought in the back of my mind. I am so grateful to them for treating me, I know how lucky I am.

Anyway, cut to a week later. The weather had taken a turn for the worst, the day was cold, dark and rainy. The previous week had been sunny. Was London feeling my worries too? Mirroring my apprehension?

I sat in the chair again, held the mirror, put the teeth in, tentatively pulled the mirror up in front of me and smiled. Like… Smiled. Not just moved my lips back to reveal my teeth, I really smiled. They were my teeth. I felt relief wash over me. The dentist and assistant agreed, these were the ones. In fact the dentist said she was glad that we went for smaller teeth and that she has to remember that they’re my teeth. It’s a good point. Maybe the big teeth do look better on paper but it’s important for them to look good on me. That I feel comfortable.

She took a couple of photos and showed them to me. They were difficult to look at because it showed me how little of my face the teeth would actually fix, and how snarly I’m going to look, but hey. I’m going to have to come to terms with that eventually.

I should just interject here, someone said to me the other day ‘please don’t think I’m being an idiot, but didn’t they take moulds before surgery so that they would have something to base your teeth on?’ Not being an idiot, though I can see why you might think so for asking, you would think it would be the obvious thing to have done, but no. The dentists wanted moulds, but I guess it wasn’t something my surgeons had thought was an important thing to do before knocking my teeth out. I think in future it would be a bit better if somehow that process could be ironed out for any others going through a similar thing. It only takes a few minutes and would make such difference for the process later.

Now they’re starting to think about implants. They’re not confident they’ll be able to give me many, maybe a couple. But fingers crossed they’ll be able to get at least one in, because that will mean they’ll have something to anchor some dentures to. Otherwise they said they can look at implanting a piece of metal in my new top jaw and holding some dentures in using magnets. They’re aiming for surgery in Jan/Feb.

So here we are – angled and smiling, so it doesn’t look too bad…

I give you my trial teeth!