"Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it."
—Michelle K.
The Fire Within Blog
The Good Doctor

I was recently reminded that there are some great healthcare professionals out there. By digging deep and accepting help from friends, this healthcare skeptic unearthed one of those diamonds in the rough. And what a find!

After 35 years with John, I finally joined his enthusiasm for baseball and his – er, now our – love for the Oakland A’s. Last month we took a break from the workday to watch part of a game they were actually winning. When you’re a last place club, these triumphs are rare and we seized the moment.

Between hoots and hollers, I chugged a healthy handful of my favorite trail mix to celebrate. But suddenly it felt as though I was chewing a rock. Not wanting to spoil the vibe, I didn’t say anything to John. That is, till I realized the “rock” was a chunk of my molar… and I’d swallowed it.

I was terrified because, other than having one filling when I was 18, my mouth is the one part of my body that has remained healthy. Trying to stay calm while waiting for the tooth pain to hit, John jumped on the internet to get a list of dentists that accept my Denti-Cal insurance. I knew this was going to be a pricey emergency and my regular dentist was out as she only accepts cash. A dentist I’d lost faith in anyway due to her constant over-care push.

I frantically called my friend Erin because I knew she also has Denti-Cal. Erin advised that USC has a great, inexpensive dental program, but it takes weeks to get in. She advised I go to someone USC trained pronto.

Just after Erin and I hung up, a good friend, Frankie, called as we hadn’t had a long chat in awhile. Man oh man, was she the right person to chime in. Frankie’s a wonderful mother of a 21-year-old dynamo – and she’s got just the right touch in a panicky moment.

Frankie had a name right off the bat, a name that matched one on John’s list. I called Dr. Narine Danelian’s office after hours and left an emergency message. Mercifully, no pain had kicked in despite the fact I could see a third of my tooth was gone where that single filling once camped.

First thing next morning, I got a call from Eve, Dr. Danelian’s assistant. She was friendly and concerned. Eve bent over backward to accommodate my schedule, getting me in that afternoon.

I immediately liked Dr. Danelian, a USC alumni. Her warm, caring demeanor was a relief to this woman in pain who’s had three decades of mostly harmful doctor experiences. No God complex here, no “my way or the highway.” Perhaps most important she told me everything she was going to do and what I’d feel before she did it. Danelian also put me in control by letting me know that one raise of my hand would stop any procedure.

After learning I’d need a crown (thank goodness, no root canal!), we talked about my CRPS and the possibility of it spreading and/or the local anesthesia not working. Danelian knew some about chronic pain and was eager to learn more. She was delighted when I gave her a copy of Pain Matters.

A few days later when I came in for the procedure, Danelian asked me how I felt. “Scared.” She shared, “I’m scared too.” I’d never heard that from a doctor. It made her human and vulnerable. And I immediately became a great patient – attentive, responsive and, best of all, brave – because I was worried about her. In fact, by the end of the procedure, she’d pulled her neck out over her concern for me.

Happy to report, everything went great and my new crown looks like nothing ever happened. But now that I think of it, something did. I found a great dentist. And reflecting further, I’ve got a couple of other gems on my care team.

We women in pain often get the fuzzy end of the healthcare lollypop, so much so that we sometimes forget about the ones in our corner. The ones who care, who go the extra mile, who honor us as the resilience goddesses we are.

Pain psychologist Dr. Afton Hassett, who will be presenting at our 8th annual Women In Pain conference, has turned me on to practicing gratitude every night. Tonight, I’m going to meditate and thank those rare healthcare professionals who over the years have helped me find my comeback…

XO Cynthia