Posts Tagged ‘Cancer’

It’s a Friday night, it’s hot like a furnace, and it’s a 4th of July weekend.  I highly doubt many of you are sitting by your computer wondering what Joel is going to write on July’s first day.  And that’s fine, because I’m not wondering, either.  I know what I’m going to write, and I know it’s going to be pretty quick.

Back in May, I visited the dentist…oh, yay, I’m writing about the dentist on a holiday weekend.  You’re probably thrilled if you’re not reading.

Normally the visit involves 45 minutes of torture, where I get to watch TV with my mouth ajar.  The assistant, who came in earlier and put her broom and pointy hat in the corner, is now mumbling things like, “My husband never makes the bed…my kids never pick up their toys…my husband…”.  The worst thing is she has those really sharp things in her hands and she punctuates each “never” and each “always” with a scrape across my teeth.  Nurse Ratchet then finishes with a smile and says, “You should floss more.”  I want to say, “You should take an anger management course”, but that slight smell of sulfur and brimstone in the air tells me it’s probably best to keep my mouth shut.  Besides, it’s not like I’ll be in any condition to speak for at least another hour.

But this time, I got Nurse Relief instead.  She was awesome.  My appointment wasn’t all that bad, though I’ll never say I enjoyed it.  It was tolerable.  Maybe it had something to do with flossing, that new hobby I picked up and began doing religiously in January.  But I think it was also because Ms. Relief didn’t have a devil-spawn above her manipulating the strings.

Going good so far?…yeah, I didn’t think so.

So way back in 1893, President Grover Cleveland went to the dentist.  I’m pretty sure he hated it, too, because they found cancer in his mouth.  Three weeks later, on July 1, 1893, the President “went on vacation”.  CNN and FoxNews (or whoever ran the show back then) probably showed pictures of the yacht right there off Long Island.  Of course, the vacation was just a ploy to keep people from worrying too much.  Even his wife (who was pregnant at the time) didn’t know.

The President was on the boat…but so was a surgeon.  And on this day in history, the surgeon removed the cancer from the President’s mouth.  Of course, the operation (done through his mouth to avoid all the cutting) involved removing some of his jaw and palate, which left his face somewhat disfigured.  So the news folks were fed a line about the President having a couple of rotten teeth removed, which they apparently bought.  Eventually, the President was fitted with an insert-thingy (I’m a computer guy, not a doctor) that made him look normal.

Now had I been a news reporter, I would have been suspicious right away.  Oral surgery is a delicate procedure…at least it better be when it’s done on my mouth.  So who does tricky dentistry-type things on a boat that’s rocking in the water?  I guess Nurse Ratchet was his surgeon, too.

I bet this is the where the phrase “Don’t rock the boat” got it’s start.  And it’s probably why we see the right side of President Cleveland’s face on the $1000 bill.

Recommended Reading:  The President is a Sick Man – Hot off the presses!

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When the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed in Tokyo Bay, General Joe Stilwell stood on the deck of the USS Missouri as the ranking army officer.  We’ve talked about “Vinegar” Joe on several occasions, recounting some of his exploits throughout the Second World War.  Having spent most of his time directing (and often leading) men through the jungles of Burma, he had finished his war experience in the Pacific, commanding the final days of battle on Okinawa.

But as pen was dragged on paper, it was time to go home.

Stilwell was assigned a desk job in Washington on the War Equipment Board, which was tasked with trying to figure out what to do with gobs of Lend-Lease equipment that was scattered all over the planet.  But it wasn’t the type of work for a man of action, and by the January of the following year (1946), he’d been reassigned to the Western Defense Command in San Francisco.

Joe Stilwell wasn’t aging very well, and when he returned home from the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in July, Winifred (his wife) couldn’t help but notice his frail appearance.  He was all skin and bones, and he struggled mightily with extreme exhaustion, dizziness, and the chills.  A visit to the doctor revealed, in Joe’s words, “…something suspicious in my liver.”

On September 28th, Joe was admitted to the hospital.  As he closes out The Burma Road, Donovan Webster writes, “A week later, on October 3, he underwent exploratory abdominal surgery, which uncovered advanced, metastatic cancer in his stomach, liver, and trunk.  He had been fighting his condition for years.  He was in no pain, which confounded the doctors, but the prognosis was grim.  The time had come for Vinegar Joe Stilwell – the ultimate survivor – to get his affairs in order.”

Stilwell had been decorated with nearly every major medal that could be given an officer, but one that he had really wanted was the Combat Infantryman Badge, a pin signifying an infantry soldier’s good work under fire.  For a General, it was a strange request…for Stilwell (ever the foot soldier), it was perfectly understandable.  The request was granted immediately.

Donovan concludes his book.  “On October 11, 1946, in a bedside ceremony, a sleeping Joseph W. Stilwell was awarded his Combat Infantryman Badge.  The following day, October 12, 1946, Stilwell stirred in his own bed, woke briefly, asked his nurse, ‘Say, isn’t it Saturday?’  Then he rolled back onto his side and drifted off to sleep for the last time, his newest medal still on a bedside table.  A little after noon that day, Joseph W. Stilwell was declared dead.”

And it was a Saturday…

Recommended Reading: The Burma Road

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I know I need to go, but I never look forward to it.  In fact, the only thing that gets me there is scheduling the next trip at the end of the current visit.  Twice a year, every year, I make the trip downtown.  I usually go first thing in the morning, and I try to get there 15 or 20 minutes early, just in case I can get started ahead of time.  Know what I’m referring to?

Of course you do…you probably hate it like I do.  A visit to the dentist’s office.

Actually, my dentist is a super-nice guy…which, now that I think about it, probably isn’t a huge compliment.  I think they have to be nice guys, because attitude and demeanor may be the only things most people like about the dentist.  You lay in a chair with your mouth wide open while an assistant (usually named Nurse Ratchet) vents her anger at her husband and children on your gumline.  There are sharp instruments and drills and something called a Water Cavitron (I might have gotten that wrong because Ms. Ratchet’s voice was overwhelmed by the screams from the next room).  Supposedly, it uses water to remove tarter deposits, but it’s real job is to cause mind-numbing pain.

And if you ever have a cavity?!?  There’s another whole plate of torture tools that get used.  A giant needle of novocaine that looks way too large for my mouth.  Then there are more drills.  Some kind of cement-type stuff…ok, it’s enough.  Fortunately, I’ve only had to experience these “special” implements on a couple of occasions.

Let’s be honest, we get checkups at the dentist for one reason only.  The alternative (not going at all) is that much worse.

Imagine if you were visiting the dentist around the turn of the century.  Not the 21st century…the 20th century.  Back when dental technology was in the relative Stone Age.  Novocaine?…probably a double-shot of alcohol or a rock to the head.  Instruments were probably more like chisels.  That’s what President Grover Cleveland faced on June 13, 1893.  It was on this day that the President noticed that the roof of his mouth was sore.  Like you and I, the first six-letter word he thought of was “cavity.”  So he visited the White House doctor, probably dreading an upcoming visit to Nurse Ratchet followed by “the implements”.

What they would end up finding was another six-letter word…a much more sobering word…”cancer.”  Grover Cleveland would eventually be diagosed with a form of carcinoma and, in less than three weeks, would have part of his jaw removed and replaced with an implant.

And the details surrounding the President’s surgery are probably worthy of investigation, so maybe we’ll pry into that in a couple weeks.

Recommended Reading: Presidents – All You Need to Know

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