Mom,  Ovarian Cancer

Where All Our Money Went

Freeze Frame” is one of the worst songs ever recorded. It’s obnoxious and generates an earworm that chases you around all day. And so when our instructor played it at Jazzercise earlier this week and my tooth started hurting, I blamed the music.

But the next day I was dreamily gyrating along with Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and thinking that “to the left to the left, everything you own in the box to the left” would constitute the perfect instructions to Porter to clean his chaotic room, when an exquisite pain shot up my eyetooth and reverberated inside my nostril. I couldn’t blame this on the J. Geils band and I left Jazzercise and headed straight to the dentist.

To underscore the severity of the situation, let me emphasize that I’d rather plop my feet in the stirrups and spread my legs for a gynecologist brandishing a cold speculum than open my mouth for a drill-wielding dentist. I miss Jazzercise only in extreme circumstances. A voluntary trip to the dentist before we’d done triceps exercises to prevent underarm waggle denoted suffering of the highest level.

As I sat in the waiting room, I took out my calendar and looked at all the medical visits the Glamores have made thus far in 2007. It was an impressive list.

All three boys had dental appointments, which were unremarkable, except for the fact that we have no dental insurance.

The dynamic duo had more braces added to their already crowded mouths. I had drastically underestimated both the amount of hardware that was going to be inserted into each mouth and anguish that would result. Each boy needed a mother to himself to provide comfort and solace. I am only one woman.

I found myself stretched across two examining chairs, patting two heaving stomachs and wiping four wet cheeks with the edge of my sweatshirt, wondering whether Dr. H was judging me harshly for trying to cut mothering corners by scheduling two sons for one day rather than giving Drew and Porter each his own afternoon. As we drove home, I felt inadequate for failing to supply each twin with undivided maternal attention, but I felt even worse when I realized that I had no soup in the house and had made pork chops and corn on the cob for dinner.

It was the week for teeth. The next day I had two crowns made. I grind my teeth during times of stress, and have now had four crowns made since my mother died, even though I wear a night guard, exercise regularly, take an anti-anxiety medication, and see both a Christian counselor and a therapist. Again, no dental insurance. I urged the dentist to consider a “frequent-driller” program but he wouldn’t bite.

And speaking of the therapist, I paid him a visit.

Finn’s permanent retainer popped off one tooth and the wire pricked into his cheek until I whacked it with my cuticle scissors. It was an easy orthodontic fix, but I was a bit crotchety that he couldn’t have timed the failure a bit better to coincide with my trip to the orthodontist with the twins earlier in the week.

The next week started off in a spectacular fashion. I was teaching Finn to make Chicken Scalloppini al Fredo when an olive oil tsunami erupted as I placed a cutlet into the pan, burning my hand. The boys looked on in wonder as I writhed and “yelled cusses,” as Drew duly reported to Bill when he got home. After my pain pill took effect, I googled my injury and even the most questionable health care sites agreed that a second degree burn required medical attention, so I reluctantly saw a plastic surgeon the next day. I left $50 poorer with a wrapped left hand and a prescription for Silvadene cream.

At this point I was getting testy. My hand was sore and useless, and although the family had been trained to deal with a one-armed mom they weren’t remembering their lessons as well as I had anticipated. The bank account was suffering from co-pays and whole pays, and I’d spent countless hours both in waiting rooms and conversing with medical professionals, most of whom were perfectly nice, but I was getting way behind on my reading.

Alas and anon, the journey was not done. The next afternoon Drew came inside crying and holding his arm in a way I recognized, for it was the way I had held my arm right after I was pretending to be Anton Apollo Ono on roller blades and wiped out, breaking my wrist. Drew’s elbow was swelling, so I instructed Finn and Porter to get their homework done and took Drew to the emergency room. My attempts to comfort him were complicated by the fact that it was his left arm that was injured and my left hand that was bandaged, and so we could not hold hands at all. I had to settle for guiding him by the neck which didn’t seem so much like a consoling maneuver as a that of a guard taking his prisoner to a cell.

We passed a pleasant enough three hours at the hospital, and since I had my Silvadene with me I used some of the downtime to clean and re-dress my burn. When it was time to settle up and I was writing the $250 check I took some satisfaction from having used some of the hospital’s gauze and first aid tape to rebandage myself. It made the whole experience seem like more of a bargain.

The following day Drew and I saw an orthopedic surgeon, who confirmed his broken elbow and put him in a bright orange cast. I sent him to school with a Sharpie and he came home covered in autographs, much to his delight.

Don’t think Porter and Finn were left out of the medical excitement. Porter has a crazy contraption in his mouth designed to make him look less like a chipmunk and more like a boy, but the large springs burrow into his cheeks and create sores, which can really cause a stench if you don’t practice proper oral hygiene. Porter’s natural state is somewhere between grubby and squalid, so getting him to rinse his mouth with oral peroxide twice a day is a chore, but it is imperative. A major part of the second grade curriculum is reading aloud to the teacher and parent volunteers, and word of halitosis spreads quickly.

Meanwhile, Finn has a lymph node behind his right ear that swells up every once in a while and becomes sore to the touch. If I were the doctor I’d stick something sharp in there and see what was going on, but to date the pediatrician has chosen instead to treat him with antibiotics. I managed to take care of the latest flareup with just a phone call, and the Augmentin was waiting at CVS.

To Finn’s chagrin, it was pills, not liquid, and he began dicing each pill into into minute slivers that would slide effortlessly down his throat and into his stomach. But they didn’t slide effortlessly, and he choked them down with great drama and fake retching. As someone who swallows seven pills at a time with a single swig of tepid water morning and night, I have no patience for this nonsense, and delegated the job of ensuring the antibiotics are administered to Bill, who is the epitome of calm and tolerance, which is part of the reason I married him.

Finally, every female has womanly issues, and must visit the ob/gyn yearly, and February is my month. Because of my advancing age and my mother’s ovarian cancer, I can now look forward to a host of procedures next week: the mammogram! the pap smear! the CA-125! the ovarian ultrasound! and the always exciting and dignified exam!

So I was noting all this in the dentist’s waiting room, and came up with 11 total trips to health care professionals thus far in 2007 (the crowns took two trips) for 14 patient visits, counting my imminent meeting with the dentist and my trip to the orthopedist that afternoon to check on Drew’s elbow but not my appointment next week for my lady problems.

After an x-ray, my dentist told me I needed a root canal, which we scheduled for Tuesday, because if Finn’s ear has not responded to the antibiotics by Monday he has to see the pediatrician that day.

Barring further disasters and assuming the worst on Finn’s ear, I’ll have 14 total trips for 17 patient visits under my belt by Valentine’s Day, which averages out to a doctor visit every three days in 2007. I don’t want to tell you what the medical expenses have been. You would start sobbing if you are not already.

It’s times like these that I really miss my mom, because she would have listened to me relate all of this in excruciating detail, and then she would have told me how sorry she was, and what a great mom I am, and how I deserve stars in my crown. Later she would have shown up with some flowers from her garden.

Perhaps we’re having a run of bad luck, and the rest of the year will be healthy. Just in case, I’m writing the national Jazzercisers and asking them to ban “Freeze Frame” forever. It’s a tiny step to make life more pleasant, but at this point, every bit helps.


  • Goslyn

    Oh. My. I, too, am without dental insurance, and just reading this blog made me wince in pain for the bills you have been paying. All three of your kids don’t need to go to college, right? I mean braces/college degree — both give you a headstart in life. The pizza places like you better if you have nice, straight teeth when you smile.

  • bl

    oh canada, dental is the only one we need insurance to pay for,othe rmedical things are covered, Id be lost without my dental plan!

  • Leeny

    Oh my gosh! It’s not even the middle of the second month of this year! I had a root canal about three years ago and it was a breeze. My dentist had told me prior to forget whatever I had heard about them because these days they are quicker to perform and virtually painless. And he was right! In that same year I did have to have two crowns, also. I don’t have dental insurance, either. His staff gave me some paperwork for a medical/dental line of credit and that’s how I paid for my dental work.

  • alala

    Wow. Bad enough to suffer through all that mouthwork, but to have to pay for it too? That’s horrible. I think we’ll stay in Germany a bit longer. Yeah.

  • Antique Mommy

    Same here. I knew that cutting back on our insurance would guarantee a record breaking year of profits for the medical industry and so far, it has.

    Clearly, I think the thing you should do is have an affair with a dentist and see if you can get some sort of discount.

  • Blaine

    Ugh!!! I have physicals and dentist appointments to schedule for 4 kids. Orthodontist appointments to scedule for 2. A “well baby” visit for the youngest at the end of the month. My own physical/womanly visit, and a physical for my husband, all in the next month or so. I almost forgot, med checks for 2 kids and me with the psychiatrist as well. So help me, if anyone needs to go to the emergency room, it is coming out of their allowance!!!

  • Laura

    I’m not your mom, but I’m terribly sorry that you’ve gone through this, you *are* a great mom and you *do* deserve stars in your crown- not to mention a serious pile of treasures in heaven.

  • Kelly

    Yikes! I don’t know how you keep up with all that. You are my hero. And I’m now even more thankful that I have dental insurance! I guess I’ll stop complaining about how my orthopedic surgeon had me sitting in his waiting room for two hours earlier this week. I can deal with the occasional inconsiderate doctor.

  • KK


    Quite frankly, the whole dental situation sucks.
    Anyhow, coming from a family whose Mother/Daughter relationships are an unbelieveable mess, I think you are blessed to have had such a wonderful mother. Though you miss her terribly, may you find comfort in knowing what she would do for you if she was here.. I havent ever had that kind of peace. Not trying to make this a “poor me” thing, just trying to help you feel better.

  • Beth Brown

    Sorry that things have been so crazy. You take good care of your boys. Hang in there. I feel blessed to live in Birmingham where we can get wonderful medical care just minutes from home. I work at a hospital and we see patients from all over the country. Thanks for sharing your family.

  • tiff

    I have not had dental insurance since I quit work a year and a half ago- until this year! My husband’s work just added it to their plan! Because of the numerous trips to the pediatrician and accompanying co-pays each month, I have not been to the dentist since the week before I quit work. Luckily, I have not had any problems, but I REALLY need a good cleaning. I called and made an appointment but it takes about 3 months to get a non-emergency appointment at my dentist! Does insurance pay for bleaching? (as I stain my teeth by drinking my 3rd cup of coffee this morning.)

  • Lauren

    Your stories are funny, but I know it’s frustrating all the same. Glad you can rant here and find some sympathy! I have dental ins. through my job, but my husband’s job doesn’t offer it, so one day, we’ll most likely be without dental ins. and I’m already not looking forward to it, and we don’t even have kids yet!

  • Shayna

    Aww, hang in there Anne! Think of it as *hopefully* knocking all the patient visits for 2007 out in the first quarter! For the boys, McDonald’s shakes on the way home from the orthodontist are always perfectly acceptable substitutions for soup 😀 I know, I know, I watched Super Size Me too, but they’re young enough to handle the calories! And, they’ll think you’re the coolest mom ever (which you are)! Hugs!

  • Karin Blue

    Since we had dental insurance about a year ago I scheduled for two crowns. The receptionist quoted we had 50% coverage/tooth. I gave them a check for half of the cost at the time of service as requested. I thought that was that. About two months later we got a bill for several hundred dollars,and we were told that ooops, the insurance only payed 30% after all. This insurance did not pay for my son’s braces. I was told he needed braces when he was about 8 for about six months to a year,so that he would not need them later or at least not for long. That cost almost $3000. Actualy, he needed them again.. My son has now had what they call “II Phase treatment” braces for two years.I saw a mom who is a friend at the ortho’s waiting room. She told me that she was in a bad mood and almost had convulsions for two days after finding out the cost of braces for her son. The cost this time was 4000, but I don’t mind. He will still go to college. My friend and I only have one child to worry about, I can’t imagine paying for three or four sets of teeth. By the way, dental insurance does not pay for bleaching treatments.

  • Mandy

    I am sorry you are feeling bad. Sounds like you have had a run of bad luck lately. That means that things can only get better from here. I think you are a great mother and a great writer. I read all of your posts and think you are so funny! Hoping things get better 🙂
    P.S. We don’t have dental insurance either. They offer it for the office people at my husbands work but not everyone else. He is a manager over the shipping department so they don’t consider that “office work”. I think it is so unfair.

  • jenevieve

    Oh Anne, that sounds wretched. If I lived near you, you can bet I’d show up on your doorstep with a movie for the boys and a couple of bottles of wine!
    Instead, just know that I feel you on the medical woes- health care here is free, but lame (they won’t prescribe you with anti-nausea drugs!), and a private doctor will, but he says it’ll be about £200 ($400). Ack!

  • Barbara

    I just love reading your stories and enjoy knowing that someone else’s life is like mine, crazy, hectic and also (dental) insurance free (ugh)!

    If it helps at all, I am very sorry, you are a great mom, and you deserve stars all over your crown. I can’t work out the flowers from the garden thing, but I do hope you have a better next week, starting . . . (wait for it) . . . NOW!

  • Joi


    My sentinments exactly on which Dr. chair I choose as well. As I quite simply tell my dentist, I don’t do teeth. Unfortunately, I had a crown last year that is now going to drive me to get some anxiety meds. Considering I don’t do teeth, do you think I’ve made an appt to go complain about it?

    Here’s to hoping that you will have cleared out all the medical needs for your family for March – 2008!

  • Susu

    We have dental ins. thanks to Al. Power. Even so, I had to visit a wonderful Dr. Sims last year and have surgery on my recessed gums – due to my mother’s constant “hurry up and brush” all of those years!! I was put to sleep and cadaver tissue (from who knows where on that donor’s body) was placed over my gums and stitched in place. After the insurance paid, I still owed $2300!! So, to all quick brushers, slow down, Baby.

    I have an idea – you can become a certified bus driver for the kingdom schools and receive benefits!! I know Shelby Co. has retirement, etc. I just don’t know how you would get your three boys up and on a bus by 5 a.m. in their pjs to drive with you!!

  • Leslie

    You are a great mom and do deserve stars in your crown and I know your Mom is smiling down on you and she is very proud!

  • liz

    I’m with you on which chair I prefer too. At least the GYN is over quickly, at the dentist you’re sitting there painfully for over an hour.

  • Mocha

    Nothing is coming easily to you, is it? I”m so sorry. Mostly I wish for the comfort your mother would offer you with something special from her garden. You’ve successfully equated that horrid song to pain for me now. But don’t mess with Beyonce, ok? I really like her. She, for me, is equated with doing lots of planks and sit-ups for her great tummy so I must love her with all I’ve got.

    Feel better.

  • Fiona

    I’ve always been told that it’s not nice to laugh at the misfortune of others, but Anne, when you write them down like that! I’m so sorry for all the issues that keep cropping up, and hope that things will simmer down soon. And that you will keep your fabulous sense of humor and outlook, because it makes the rough spots easier to bear. *E-hug*

  • Karyn

    Girl……… okay, you are a good mother and you do deserve stars in your crown. I have no flowers, but I could fedex you some pie if you think it would be helpful.

    As to the avalanche of medical crap – I can empathize. We are going to get our own parking space if we show up at the hospital / pediatrician’s / primary’s / dentist’s / obgyns/ shrink’s/ One. More. Time.

    Seriously. I should have just gone to med school.

  • Heatherw

    Girl – I feel your pain. Fur real. I too grind my teeth in times of stress and I chew through the bite guards. Since my hubby abandoned me with a new baby and a toddler for his Russian personal trainer (I wish I were joking) I think I have had 3 root canals and 6 crowns. I have blocked the actual number out because the dental work has cost more than my divorce. I have cracked 3 of those teeth just since August. I probably would be that lady in the Dust Bowl pictures with one toof and sunken cheeks if it weren’t for my mom and dad. And as much as I hate going to the dentist (I get novocaine when I get a cleaning, plus cry and shake the whole time- FUN!) I am grateful for modern dentistry. Otherwise I would have to live on smoothies. It’s important to look on the bright side of things. Blegh.