Thursday, March 1, 2007

What's Worse Than a Root Canal?

How did a root canal become synonymous with the most excruciating, dreaded experience imaginable?

Several years ago, when my dentist was replacing a crown, he suddenly announced, "We have to do a root canal." I didn't have time to fret, and, to my surprise, it wasn't half bad. Not an afternoon at the Kabuki Spa, but not unpleasant.

I'd always imagined that a spinal tap (aka lumbar puncture) could make a root canal seem like a pedicure. In junior high school, I read a novel that described the procedure and the preteen patient's reaction in gruesome, horrific detail. I remember closing my eyes and saying a silent prayer that I could live my entire life without the experience.

It was not to be. Two weeks ago, I learned that a spinal tap was the only way that we could determine if the lymphoma has spread to my central nervous system. I'd been worried about the intermittent tingling sensation in the right side of my face and the droopy corner of my mouth. My doctor was concerned about the proximity of my eye tumor to the brain.

Two friends assured me there was really nothing to it. "Like a bee sting," wrote my friend Tara. "It didn't hurt," commented my friend Lillli. (And she did it WITHOUT anasthesia.)

Just the same, I wasn't taking any chances and asked for conscious sedation. The physican's assistant told me that she recalled only two cases when this was used: with a down syndrome's boy and a very young girl. I felt like a big wimp, swallowed hard and decided to go drug-free.

Before Dr. Wong injected the Lidacane (local anasthesia), she joked, "Here comes the bee sting." Tara was right - one tiny ouch. The rest of the procedure was painless. As the fluid drained from my spinal cord, I unclenched my fists and started to think of pleasant things: The heartwarming blog comments, emails and phone calls. The note from Suzie, my best friend from college, about getting her daughter Kira together with "Cin Bin" (my daughter's toddlerhood nickname). The stew that was waiting for me in my refrigerator. The possibility of shopping at Nordstrom's on the way home. Before I knew it, the procedure was over. Dr. Wong congratulated me on being a "good patient," and I half expected her to pull out a lollypop.

My friend Janet stayed and chatted while I laid flat on my back for two hours in the recovery room. Emeril and Rachel Ray chopped and sauteed on the TV in the background. The two hours flew by. My husband and I ate the delicious stew when I returned home. Cin Bin came home and told me about her job interview. All in all, it was a pretty pleasant afternoon and evening. Not an afternoon at Kabuki Spa, but pretty darned close.

My question for you: What really IS worse than a root canal? It's certainly not a spinal tap. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.


Paula Johnson said...

I have been checking your blog all afternoon for the SPINAL TAP REPORT. So glad it was mostly a big fat yawn.

Susan Carrier said...

And to answer my own question:
A bone marrow biopsy is about a thousand times worse than a spinal tap!

David Wiseman said...

hmmm, what is worse than a root canal, perhaps a nice chat with a friend that devolves into a heated political debate, that lasts several hours because we were both too stubborn to let up, and shocked at eachother's views? just a thought, maybe not though.

Susan Carrier said...

And they say that cancer patients are "brave and courageous." I'm way too much of a wimp to go through the exhausting ordeal David just described!

Karen said...

So glad it went well. :0) It's always such a relief when you're prepared for the worst, and then "the worst" is not so bad after all.

Amy Whitehead said...

I recently tore the tendon in my right wrist. The specialist had never seen one "SO SWOLLEN". He gave me a steriod shot directly in the tendon. I have not had a root canal, but the steriod shot in my wrist was worse than giving birth naturally!

Rebecca said...

Hey Susan: Glad to read things went better than expected (Paula tipped me off to your health woes... as well as your blog). I am thinking of you in Boston!

Not sure if this counts as excruciating, but how about an epidural procedure where they poke the tube into a part of the spine that isn't numb? In true Voodoo retribution, I'm still jamming needles in the back of my little anesthesiologist doll... Best to you, your husband and Cynthia! Keep blogging...

Susan Carrier said...

To Amy and Rebecaa, I have just one word - OOOUUUCH!!!