By Jill Meyer-Lippert, RDH - January 11, 2023
Women in Dentistry - Jill Meyer-Lippert, RDH
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it brings a level of fear and helplessness that is difficult to describe. When both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer, I experienced this firsthand. The entire family is thrust into a world of unknowns with the harsh reality of the importance of each decision that you make. Choosing your care team and trusting that the information and treatment recommendations will provide a positive outcome are some of the most important decisions you will make. It’s easy to feel a loss of control through the process. Both patients had amazing oncology teams who were kind and caring, but it was obvious that our decisions were completely dependent on their advice. It was a hard pill to swallow when they didn’t have answers to our questions or solutions for our concerns.
My mom’s breast cancer diagnosis came 30 years ago at nearly the same time that I began my first job in the dental field. When her chemotherapy brought painful side effects in her mouth, I was eager to hear what her nurses would recommend. I was confident that their solutions would help my mom and be something I could carry along with me to benefit others throughout my future career in dentistry. It felt confusing, disappointing, and frustrating when, instead of being provided with relief, she was told that the pain that she was experiencing was “part of treatments” and that she would “just need to deal with it.”
My initial shock and anger at the lack of direction for her oral side effects quickly turned to dismay when I realized that my more experienced dental colleagues also had little guidance to provide for their patients. Far from being an outlier, my mom’s experience was all too common. I became aware that this was an area where cancer patients needed and deserved more from their healthcare providers. Despite countless internet articles, it was difficult to find information on the oral side effects of cancer treatments and weeding through the bit that did exist was a daunting task. Cancer patients and family caregivers are typically overwhelmed and often don’t know oral side effects are a concern until they occur. Because of this, they miss out on the opportunity to be proactive and delay the onset of the effects, minimize their severity, or possibly prevent problems.
From a practitioner’s standpoint, it’s unrealistic that healthcare providers will have the time or energy to research solutions for all side effects that result from therapies that are administered to save a life. But the reality is that oral side effects are far more than a comfort issue, and they can increase infection risks and affect treatment outcomes. Oral side effects can impact nutrition, speaking, and swallowing abilities. They can also negatively affect psychosocial and financial wellbeing. For some, these problems can last a lifetime and should not be dismissed.
As years passed, I often wished there was an easy-to-use resource for my patients and family caregivers that provided solutions. I dreamed of something that could empower medical teams and dental teams to provide collaborative care. This resource would be a central hub for information, products, and services to offer knowledge, options, convenience, and hope. My passion drove me to act.
I created Side Effect Support LLC (https://sideeffectsupport.com/) to fulfill this vision. Side Effect Support LLC serves patients, loved ones, and healthcare providers with free, easy-to-access information available in our BLOGS sections with a “Filter By” bar to search for subject matter. Free informational brochures for adults and children patients can be printed under RESOURCES. A SHOP tab offers affordable over-the-counter oral care products available for home delivery. Expanded products and services with discounts from partner companies that offer “thinking outside of the box” solutions are available in our growing PARTNER’S MARKETPLACE. Virtual dental care is also available 24/7, 365 days a year within 10 minutes or less provided by The TeleDentists.
Side Effect Support is designed to provide knowledge and tangible items, but it also offers hope during a time that can often feel hopeless and helpless. It helps patients to take more control over their own comfort and quality of life during the treatment process and throughout survivorship. It also allows us, as healthcare providers, to honor the trust that our patients put into us and provide them with the exceptional care that they deserve.