Wish I’d looked after my teeth

So grateful for upper plate.

One of my first memories is of having five teeth out when I was five years old. Might have been because Mum used to put honey on our dummies. I remember coming out into the waiting room and being given a colouring book and pencils. When I opened my mouth to speak, blood poured out.

Here I am 67 years later still irked by my bad teeth. It’s not Mum’s fault but a combination of factors. Both parents had had all their teeth removed in their teens and were probably not great role models for tooth cleaning and avoiding sweet foods. We didn’t have fluoride in the water and there was no such thing as floss, interdental brushes and tooth mousses … Dental nurses had clinics in each school and cheerfully drilled and filled kids’ teeth with a sense of fatalism you wouldn’t see today.

I had multiple fillings each time I went to the dentist in Milford until I was 16 and free dental care ended. No one told me this was a sign that I needed to look after my teeth better. It was free! Having fillings was normal.

I remember the pain. The injections never worked properly in those days. When involuntary tears poured down my cheeks once, I was reprimanded by both the dentist and the assistant. “Oh Maureen! You have to be brave.” My greatest joy was when the dentist hung his drill up for the last time at the end of the session. There was a sort of motion that signaled to me that the agony was at last over.

University and no money to pay for a dentist. Started work and needed a tooth out. Stabilized teeth during 30s and 40s but then more decay again as I grew older. By the time I hit my 60s, I had lost a fair few teeth and had a number of root fillings. 67 and I had a marginal mandibulectomy of my left lower jaw and radiotherapy. Front teeth were broken in surgery. Trismus or limited mouth opening. Very hard to clean my teeth – gums and teeth in poor condition. However, I concentrated on getting through the treatment and getting over it. Getting dentures to fill the front gap. I did try to clean my teeth well, but let’s face it, I should have tried harder.

What am I left with now? A pretty appalling situation. A nice upper denture,  partial metal, gives me an okay smile and you can’t really see my lower teeth which are gradually breaking up. The lower two front teeth are stuck together like two tall trees swaying in the wind roped to each other or two close-knit tombstones. The others are stumps or half teeth. There’s nothing on the left side to hold a denture properly because of the flap over the gum. Strangely I’ve got some strong molars at the back but they are causing me to bite my tongue and cheek because of changes to the architecture of my mouth after a couple of big reconstructive surgeries.

I’m trucking on okay though. As long as I can keep the bottom teeth for a little bit longer my lower lip, palsied on the left by a cut nerve, won’t get sucked in too much more. I mean, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Can’t have the lower teeth removed unnecessarily anyway because of the threat of osteoradionecrosis.

A lot of this sad story is because of the oral cancer and treatment but I do believe I could have lessened the damage if I had looked after my teeth more religiously. That’s what I’d advise other head and neck cancer patients to do. Don’t do a half pie job. You need to go above and beyond to look after your teeth after radiotherapy.

I’m very comfortable sitting here at my computer and I don’t want to get up but heck, I think I’d better go and … clean my teeth.

All new Weiti Bay walk

Real estate company’s photo of the development

I tend to take East Coast Road from Silverdale to Browns Bay to see my family rather than the motorway.  Since moving here in 2012, I’ve noticed a new road being formed to the left towards Okura. Eventually I discovered that it was the route into a new subdivision behind the previously unspoilt Karepiro Bay which is well known for the historic Dacre Cottage and its distinctive red barn.

View of Weiti or Karepiro Bay from southern end

Last week we christened the road, got as far as a security gate and were directed to a small car park up the road where a new graveled path winds its way to the beach. The present subdivision consists of huge houses and lifestyle blocks but apparently two villages of about 200 houses each will be built by the car park. It’s all scrappy, hilly country so far, some paddocks, stands of pines but by the car park a nice area of native bush and gum trees. The path would have taken us about 15 minutes. The rewarewa were in glorious bee-filled flower.

This is what we saw when we got to the beach (had to take shoes off and wade across stream). Godwits! They looked much more interesting in real life. Elegant but soft and quite delicate although not as delicate as the fussy little dotterels who ran in ones or twos in front of us as we walked along. I don’t blame them for being skittish, of course, because they were nesting on the beach and they’re mighty endangered. All the nesting sites on the top of the sand were roped off but they didn’t know that, did they? No pictures of them because they are so well camouflaged and my skills and patience are not good enough for a good shot.


A walk along the beach taking care not to disturb the dotterels, godwits, oystercatchers and terns doesn’t take long and at the end of the beach you can walk out onto some rocks for a better view of the area.

Grannies on rocks

The track to Okura is closed at the moment but after carefully picking our way back along the beach we climbed the track at the other end which goes over the headland to Stillwater. There and back, just to the top and along a bit to enjoy the spectacular puriri and nikau forest. Here is one of the giant, gnarled old puriri.

Classic puriri

I didn’t time the walk but it is a good one for bush, beach and bird lovers.

And just to make this more of a visual record of the walk, here is a video Photo Gallery made for me without my asking.

A 90 minute walk with variety

A walk with long tail but no backtracking.

This Orewa/Eaves Bush/Hatfield’s Beach walk is a classic for walking groups on Hibiscus Coast but this post celebrates the fact that it is exactly 90 minutes if you walk from McDonald’s, halfway down Orewa Beach. You can walk to Eaves Bush on the footpath and come back along the beach so no retracing of steps is needed.

Eaves Bush off Old North Road is a real gem. A local group looks after it and stands of quite mature kauri as well as young rickers line lots of the paths. There is no kauri dieback but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closed any time soon – to protect the trees – so it’s now time to enjoy this loveliness. There is some delightful undergrowth with many quite rare native plants.

You go in a bit of a loop through the bush and then up to Hillcrest road where a steep walkway takes you down to the old Hatfield’s subdivision which look 60s ish – maybe 70s/80s in parts. Remember when PM Rob Muldoon was interviewed here every Christmas? He had a bach nearby. Anyway, it is a modest suburb with mature trees and gardens. Then it’s down another walkway to a little creek that winds to the other end of the beach. Then over the main road to beach itself.

Hatfield’s beach is great! It’s on a busy road and it’s a boaties’ beach but it’s usually quiet and there’s no housing, just grass and trees and wetland in this particular bay. It’s almost unspoilt with a bit of an estuary on one end and cliffs and rocks leading to Orewa on other, the south end, where a short walk takes you to some steps up the cliff. Great views from these steps and then a walk through a luxuriant, luxurious suburb to the main road again, Hibiscus Coast Highway. You don’t have to walk on the road though because there’s a path through some pines and then beside the road to the Orewa Beach lookout.

Fabulous views from roadside. Orewa and beyond. Sea galore. From the lookout even better. There is a short bit down to the bridge near Old North Road again and then you can walk through the Arundel Reserve to the beach and join the people and their dogs walking along it back to McDonald’s. A good 90 minute walk for average walkers on a Sunday morning.

A small flat white at the McCafe is only $2.50 so it’s a cheap date.

It’s the little things?


The minutiae of life or little things you notice. Life’s trivia or just things like a gerbera in flower or a rose bud. A gadget in the cellphone shop. God, if I hadn’t had an eye for these things in the last ten years or so of head and neck cancer issues, I would have been lost.

It ties in with the fashionable concept of mindfulness too. I was between appointments and feeling restless. Went for a walk ten minutes up the road to patchy patch of pine forest and native bush. I heard a shining cuckoo, a tui and saw a fantail and wax eye.  The aural and visual senses. Little things that calmed me down.

Past the patch of untidy bush was a view of the horizon with one of my favourite sights – all the distant craggy islands and peninsulas written clearly against the sky. You can count clear days like that on the fingers of one hand every couple of months. There was Little Barrier, Great Barrier and Coromandel all blue and mysterious behind the nearer, lower, greener islands.

Then a walk down what was an ugly new subdivision sloping down to Whangaparaoa Road. Now softened with banks of flax and flowering manuka. One particular bank had such a swathe of soft white manuka flowers that it hit my eye with joy. I wondered if anyone else ever noticed things like this. It’s much more of a little thing than the spectacular ocean view.

The Sunday Star Times had a great feature in its recent Sunday mag. “Don’t worry, be happy.” What were the little things people recommended to put you in a good mood? Say thank you, said one journalist. When you’ve been through a tough time write down the things that you are grateful for. Sounds cheesy she said, but it worked for her. Say no to things you don’t want to do said someone else. Rescue a dog, go outside and my particular favourite: clean something meticulously. The other night I cleaned in and around the kitchen sink and polished the stainless steel. Sometimes just one shelf in the fridge or one drawer will do it.

Do a little thing and do it perfectly.