I was dreading going to my dental cleaning appointment for multiple reasons. I always dread these appointments because I’m not fond of the forced chatter, especially when there are instruments in my mouth!
The main reason I was dreaded the visit was because the last time I was there, my mother was headed to the emergency room for the last time. I was already on my way to the dentist when I received my mom’s call, saying she couldn’t stand the pain anymore. I remember texting my mom’s personal caregiver from the dentist’s chair. I didn’t tell the staff about the caregiving crisis I was dealing with at the time because frankly, it was none of their business.
I remember sitting in that dentist’s chair over the next hour, my heart pounding, but not for fear of the tools buzzing in my mouth. After all of the ups and downs with my mom’s health over the last couple of years, was this finally it? The real beginning of the end?
In my heart, I knew it was, and it terrified me.
The very next day, I left for New Mexico to be with my mother.
I always have the same dental technician who does my cleaning. She asked the obligatory “how my summer was” question, and instead of just glossing over the question and telling a little white like like I would normally do, I told her the truth. My mother had died, and I had spent the summer dealing with post-death tasks.
She offered her condolences and asked what caused my mother’s death. When I told her colon cancer, she began telling me about her own caregiving experience that she is going through with her father-in-law.
Some of her experiences were similar to mine, in that her father-in-law’s tests came back fine, until he was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. (My mom was diagnosed with Stage III.) He actually collapsed in the emergency room, and that’s what finally forced doctors to figure out a diagnosis.
She said they chose to move him into their home, so they could help take care of him and so that her husband would get to spend extra time with his father. She talked about the guilt her husband felt for not being able to help his dad more, and sooner, something I can totally relate to from my caregiving experience.
The conversation made me think about how many people we come in contact with in our daily lives that are also in a caregiving situation. It’s probably more than we imagine. If I hadn’t opened up, I would never had known that my dental technician was also a caregiver.
Don’t hesitate to share your caregiving story with strangers, if the opportunity arises. You never know what tips or support you may be able to offer each other.