This guest post was written by my very favorite Dental Oncologist Dr. Dennis Abbott of Dental Oncology Professionals of North Texas. Thank you Dr. Abbott for all you do. YOU are a rockstar Dr. Abbott! xox***
Yesterday marked the end of Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. It was, perhaps, one of the most active awareness months I have been a part of thus far in my career. There were walks, recipe tastings, free oral cancer screenings, and national media attention for great national and local organizations to raise awareness about the sixth most common cancer. But for those with oral or head and neck cancer, every month is April.
People touched by oral or head and neck cancer must learn to live life with a “new normal.” Things that most of us take for granted like eating, speaking, brushing our teeth, or even smiling become challenging and serve as daily reminders of a disease that forever changes normalcy. A new face or a new voice may greet family, friends, and strangers. Eating out at a favorite restaurant may be embarrassing or even worse, impossible. When once upon a time, leaving home without a watch or a cell phone may have prompted a quick return to the house, now that return visit is necessitated to retrieve the water bottle that sits on the kitchen counter.
Those affected by oral and head & neck cancer do not need stares because surgery has changed their outward appearance. They do not need need prejudice from those who try to deduce why they “got cancer.” And trust me when I tell you, those affected by oral and head & neck cancer do not need sympathy. They are survivors! They are adapters! They are inspirations!
What oral and head and neck cancer survivors need is understanding… understanding from those around them how their world has been forever changed by disease; understanding how we can increase health and quality of life for those who met cancer head on, literally, and won; and understanding how all of us can prevent oral and head and neck cancer from happening to others. This is what April was all about…raising awareness, increasing understanding, and coming together to make a difference!
So, although the calendar may say May…it is always April in my heart…because I choose to make a difference in the lives of those who have been touched by oral and head and neck cancer!
Dennis M. Abbott, D.D.S. is the founder and CEO of Dental Oncology Professionals of North Texas, an oral medicine practice dedicated to meeting the unique dental and oral health needs of patients battling cancer. In addition to private practice, he is a member of the dental oncology medical staff at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Dr. Abbott is a nationally recognized leader in oral health care associated with cancer care. He regularly publishes articles on the subjects of dental oncology and oral medicine and presents lectures to professionals and patients throughout the North America.