Last night I had dinner with a friend. Let’s call him John.
John is a survivor. He was diagnosed with cancer of the throat last year. After a series of chemo and radiation treatments, he’s finally cancer-free. As with most cancer patients, he lost a lot of hair and muscle. Other than that, you can see from the smile on his face and the spring on his step that he’s fully recovered. Not quite.
Over dinner, he told me that the radiation treatment for his throat killed not only the cancer cells, but also the roots of his teeth, his taste buds, and his salivary glands. Eating is now a horrendous ordeal.
Without saliva, the whole mouth would be dry, and everything you eat will be dry. Food particles will stick to your gums, teeth, tongue, and all over the mouth. And try bringing all that into your throat to swallow. Without saliva, the food will have a tough time going down. You’ll have to push every mouthful with a gulp of liquid.
John said he now knows how awful it feels to eat toast, chips, and nuts without the slimy natural fluids in his mouth. His doctor says he can eat anything so that he can regain his strength, but without saliva, even sweets and desserts stick to his mouth like glue. Eating is such a chore that he would often just forget about it altogether.
The doctors aren’t sure if or when John’s salivary glands will come back to life. In the meantime, he will have to come to terms with something that’s certainly much better than the alternative.
I congratulated John on his recovery and overwhelming strength of spirit. I was really happy to see him again. After we hugged and parted ways, I said to myself, “Next time I feel rock bottom and depressed about my state in life, I’ll count my blessings by starting with my fingers, and add: ‘My salivary glands work!’”