New Cancer Diagnosis? Stockpile Dental Floss

“I’ll stop flossing.”

That was my first thought after I got a new breast cancer diagnosis.

I seriously thought I might not live long enough to need to worry about my teeth.

Dental flss treatment for cancer

How Does Dental Floss Help When You Have Cancer?

Four years later, I am super glad I kept flossing. I still have cancer, but my body is strong, my spirit is strong, and my teeth are strong.

Last weekend, I heard This American Life interviewer Nancy Updike say that upon her diagnosis, she made trip after trip to the drugstore to buy dental floss, without knowing why. Her interviewee, Michael Kinsey, thought that maybe she was “stockpiling a message…You will live to floss long into the future.” The interview.

I think Nancy’s approach was spot on.

Not everyone is as lucky as me and Nancy, but cure rates are up for many cancers, survival rates are up, and new treatments offer many patients the chance of a high quality of life even during treatment.

In the past year, for example, I have been in a clinical trial and on chemo, but I still was able to travel to Iceland, stand up paddle all summer, and ride my bike to work.

I know how devastating it is to learn that you or a loved one has cancer. I know the pain of treatments, and the mental and emotional side effects.

But I also know there are silver linings. Possibilities for beauty and happiness, even in treatment.

If you learn you have cancer, I suggest you find a friend to go with you to your doctor’s appointments. Ask people for the kind of help that you need.

And stockpile a message to yourself that you just might have fabulous future. Buy some dental floss.

 

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About Zahara Heckscher

Writer, educator, social justice advocate. Co-author of How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas (Penguin, 2002) and forthcoming Volunteer Travel Reimagined: The Learning Service Guide. Instructor at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD and co-inventor of The Poetry Game. Mom, wife, cancer thriver, advocate for a world of justice.
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