Smoldering Yens  Blog » medical


    January 26th, 2010

So I had my appointment this morning with the oral surgeon. Honestly, I wasn’t in the least nervous, ’cause I didn’t think there was any problem. I examined myself several times over the weekend and didn’t see anything to be concerned about.

When the doctor checked me out I could tell she wasn’t finding it. She had me hold a mirror, and asked me to point to the area my dentist was concerned about, ’cause she wasn’t seeing anything.

It’s pretty much as I suspected: the hygienist, upon learning that I smoked a pipe, was put on hyper-alert mode, and felt obligated — nay, duty-bound, I expect — to discover something, anything, amiss. (After all, as NLP proves, you find what you’re looking for.) This vigilance was carried over to the dentist. I don’t have much first-hand experience with -isms (racism, sexism, etc.), thank the gods, but I felt a bit of pipism going on here.

Yes, they had found a little white patch that morning, but it was gone by that evening. The oral surgeon did find a few tiny little white spots here and there, but she expressed no concern other than wanting to check them again in three months, just to monitor. I’ve had these things all my life (I bite my cheek in my sleep sometimes), so, like I said, I really wasn’t concerned — especially after what the dentist saw was completely gone a day later.

Of course she said the best course of action is not to smoke at all. But the pipe has become a real passion in my life. I said any rational pipe smoker is aware of the risks, and, like anything else in life, one makes a choice, hopefully with one’s eyes open. In the final analysis, the immense pleasure I derive from the pipe contributes greatly to my enjoyment of this one life I have, and, in the balance of things, is worth the risk. (Actually, if it were a clearcut question (which it is not), which is preferable? A shorter life with pipe smoking, or a longer life without? Not such an easy question to answer…)

In researching this condition the past few days I came across this excellent article that offers some suggestions for how pipe smokers can try to minimize the inherent dangers in the pursuit of our passion. As in most things, moderation and common-sense are key.

I cannot wait to light up that bowl of Escudo when I get home…

Damn! Damn Damn Damn!

    January 24th, 2010

Friday morning I had a medical double-header: dentist, followed immediately by doctor.

The hygienist, during her scraping ministrations to my crooked ivories, saw something that made her want to call over the dentist for his appraisal, something about white areas on my cheeks & tongue that she said were probably no big deal, though her attempt at masking her concern were overdone, which only made it worse. I figured she was being silly and hysterical — I’ve had such things off and on all my life, so I wasn’t too worried.

Then the dentist appeared, fairly quickly after being summoned too, which was unusual. He grabbed the tip of my tongue with some gauze and moved it this way and that as he examined my mouth through microsopes attached to his glasses. After a minute of this he told me I have these smooth white patches that he suspects are hyperkeratosis, a hardening of the skin that’s usually benign, but could indicate something more serious. He arranged an appointment with an oral surgeon for next tuesday to have a look at them. Then the hygienist returned. Maybe it’s me, but she seemed way more friendly and chipper than before, which led me to believe she assumed I was heading for the last roundup and wanted to make my remaining days as pleasant as possible. I asked to look at it myself, and in the mirror I saw a few white streaks on the sides of my tongue. It occurs to me how it’s funny they found these things after they discovered that I was a pipe smoker. They both made a big deal of it, making me feel (or trying to make me feel) like a teenager asking the pharmacist for condoms.

So from there I went right to my doctor, where we chatted amiably about stuff. I consider myself lucky to have such an excellent doctor, to be honest. I told her what the dentist found. She took a look and said it wasn’t hyperkeratosis, but probably leukoplakia. Of course her initial reaction was that I had to quit smoking my pipe. Well, that’s easier said than done, not because I’m addicted, I told her, but because it’s a hobby that I’ve developed quite a passion for. She did a quick internet search and found this article on leukoplakia which she printed for me, but not without first making sure that I didn’t neglect to notice a quick image search that I expect was supposed to shock me into quitting my pipe, like the way Red Asphalt is supposed to shock driving students to become safe drivers. (Like I said, she’s a great doctor.)

I’ve been through cancer — non-hodgkins lymphoma, in fact. Had it for eight years, and went through two years of intensive chemo & radiation. I’ve endured days of mucositis at a time (a painful ulceration of mucus membranes in response to chemo), and it is not pleasant. So I do not take the prospect of mouth or tongue cancer lightly, especially because I know they are not at all pleasant — I expect both its symptoms & cures are extremely unpleasant, right up there with bone marrow biopsies, but far, far more unsightly.

You know, I had intended this weekend to compose a post about my feelings when I discovered that latakia affected my tastebuds, how smoking nothing but a single VaPer cleansed my palate, and the magnificent masterpiece that is Escudo. Instead I find myself writing this thing. My apologies to everybody for that. But I can’t help share my displeasure and disappointment about all this. I picked the pipe up again just over a year ago and it’s become a real passion for me, and the prospect of giving it up now strikes me as just plain unfair.

But, like I’ve said, I’ve had these patches come and go over the course of my life, even before smoking. I’ll find out tuesday what the story is. I’m encouraged that when I looked in the mirror friday night I didn’t see them anymore. I haven’t smoked all weekend, and I’ve been taking beta-carotene, which is, according to the literature, supposed to help. Today is sunday, and I still don’t see them. I can’t help but think these medical professionals are using the occasion to scare me into abandoning this passion of mine — Toronto is, after all, filled with anti-smoking zealots (my wonderful doctor included).

I feel bad posting this downer on this wonderful, generally upbeat site. I almost feel like discussing it at all is kind of taboo here. But this is my blog, and a blog dedicated to pipe smoking is a perfect venue to discuss this. And I am heartened that that other pipe forum had two discussions about it: here and here. I’m also heartened by the fact that whatever the dentist saw in my mouth on friday already appears gone, and that leukoplakia, though potentially serious, is, statistically, not necessarily indicative of anything more serious.

I have no intention of quitting my pipe at this point: I’m pretty good at telling the difference between propaganda and facts. When you come right down to it, everything in life is dangerous, including taking a shower, driving a car, taking a plane, eating french fries, having sex, living on a faultline or even staying out in the sun too long. I might cut down my usage, but the only way I’ll quit now is if it’s clear — and I mean absolutely crystal clear — that I must. And that is not clear to me at present, not by a long shot. Pipe smoking has become a major passion in my life, one of my greatest pleasures, and I’m not going to give it up lightly.